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Donations from Government, the private sector and members of the public, have raised $3.9M to help the children left behind after the Portland truck tragedy of December 19, 2008. Money from the NCB account will reach the hands of caregivers during the first week in March through the Portland Parish Council.
This commitment was made by Minister of State for Project Implementation and Service Delivery in the Office of the Prime Minister, Daryl Vaz, after being appraised of the recommendations arising from the Social Enquiry Report on the living conditions, economic situation and impact of the accident on each of the 47 affected children.
The Minister said, “The funds will be disbursed through the Parish Council’s Poor Relief Department as it has an established procedure and the integrity to manage the disbursement and accountability for the funds.”
The Minister has assembled a six-member management committee to oversee the disbursement of the funds. A portion will be handed over to the Administrator General’s Department, where an agreed schedule will be established for withdrawals while maintaining a 50% balance to be invested and retained so that each child will have a benefit when they achieve majority.
Committee members are from the Ministries of Education, Health and Labour; Child Development Agency, (CDA) the Office of the Children’s Advocate and the Portland Parish Development Committee (PPDC).
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the CDA, Alison Anderson, who steers the on-the-ground working committee on behalf of the Office of the Prime Minister, said that the report showed that the community is getting back on its feet, but immediate help is still needed in the short term.
“The children will need financial and material stability over the next six months and the community can renew itself thereafter. This funding will address immediate housing needs and money for transportation, school and food.”
Ms Anderson further reported that other forms of support were being well received by the community for their children and that donations continue to come in from Church groups, the Portland Lay Magistrates Association and individuals.
“The children are responding well to counselling and a team from the Victim Support Unit of the CDA and guidance counsellors from the Ministry of Education will continue working with them. People and organisations have come forward for individual cases. There is one child with an eye condition and that case is being treated. Also there is one student at the College of Agriculture Science and Education (CASE), whose tuition has been waived by the school Board. The Board has agreed to waive the tuition fee to allow the student to continue without disruption,” Ms. Anderson said.
The working committee has also made representation through the Parish Development Committee to the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), HEART Trust NTA and the Jamaica Business Development Centre (JBDC), to help the residents organise themselves for farming and craft projects. The residents have identified apiculture (bee keeping), poultry, pig rearing, dasheen chip processing and wicker craft as viable areas for employment.
The Fund is, A Helping Hand for the Children of Portland’s Rio Grande Valley: NCB Current Account 351 077 328.
Fourteen people, mainly family breadwinners died in the crash of December 19, 2008.