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    The Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport and the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF), have provided food, toiletries and other essential items, valued at $3.3 million, to beneficiaries of the Foundation who are facing challenges due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
    Photo: Ainsworth Morris

    Story Highlights

    • Expectant teen Ann Buckley* is grateful for the care packages provided to beneficiaries of the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF), who are facing challenges due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
    • The 15-year-old tells JIS News that she was made aware of the distribution by one of her classmates, and on Thursday (April 2), even though she had a maternity clinic appointment, she hurried to the Foundation offices on Trafalgar Road, St. Andrew, to partake in the offerings.
    • “I got five pounds of flour, five pounds of rice, five pounds of sugar, one pound of peas, one litre of cooking oil, three cans with baked beans, three cans of sausages, three cans of mackerel, three packs of milk powder, three toilet tissues, one toothpaste, one pack of napkins, a case of wipes, baby pampers, three packs of washing soap, three bathing soaps, bathing rags, sanitary napkins and $2,000,” she says.

    Expectant teen Ann Buckley* is grateful for the care packages provided to beneficiaries of the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF), who are facing challenges due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

    The 15-year-old tells JIS News that she was made aware of the distribution by one of her classmates, and on Thursday (April 2), even though she had a maternity clinic appointment, she hurried to the Foundation offices on Trafalgar Road, St. Andrew, to partake in the offerings.

    “I got five pounds of flour, five pounds of rice, five pounds of sugar, one pound of peas, one litre of cooking oil, three cans with baked beans, three cans of sausages, three cans of mackerel, three packs of milk powder, three toilet tissues, one toothpaste, one pack of napkins, a case of wipes, baby pampers, three packs of washing soap, three bathing soaps, bathing rags, sanitary napkins and $2,000,” she says.

    “I am beyond grateful. This has really helped me out a lot,” she adds.

    The teen tells JIS News that she “made a mistake” and got pregnant while living with her grandmother in a rural parish, and had to move to Kingston in December to live with her mother, who is unemployed.

    Life has not been easy and meeting her basic needs has been a struggle.

    Earlier this year, Ann enrolled at the WCJF’s Trafalgar Road facility in St. Andrew, where she depended on the daily meals provided to ensure that she was receiving the required nourishment for a healthy pregnancy.

    However, with the closure of the facility as part of measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, she has faced challenges to meet her nutritional needs.

    With numerous other girls with similar stories, the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport decided to partner with the WCJF to provide “dignity packages” for the teen parents and expectant mothers, at a cost of $3.3 million, which were distributed at the Foundation’s 10 locations across the island between Wednesday (April 1) and Friday (April 3).

    Portfolio Minister, Hon. Olivia Grange, visited the Trafalger Road location on Wednesday to hand out some of the packages.

    “We provided them with food stuff, toiletries, pampers for the babies, and nutrition for those who are still pregnant, because we need to ensure that they get the proper nutrition while they are away from the Centre,” the Minister said in a statement.

    In addition to the dignity packages, the teens received some funds, which they can use in the event of an emergency.

    Ann tells JIS News that since her enrolment at the Foundation she “feels more at peace”.

    “They are helping me on this new journey that I never expected to be on at this stage in my life. I never planned for a baby. I thought I would still be in my old school, going to do my Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and then graduate there.

    Now, this is a whole new picture and chapter in my life, which I never expected, and they are helping me through it,” she notes.

    Ann says she also benefits from one-on-one time with a counsellor and teachers. “I am less distracted in my schooling. I have more space to think for myself than when I was in a packed classroom,” she adds.

    Ann’s mother, who also got pregnant with her at age 15, says she is happy for the support being provided to her daughter.

    “I am happy that she has found somewhere new to start again. I am going through my issues as an unemployed person as well. I am not a counsellor, so there are some things that she cannot talk to me about. They have trained people who she can talk with, and that takes a burden off my shoulders,” she says.

    Both Ann and her mother are looking towards welcoming their new child and grandchild in the summer.

    As to her career goals, Ann tells JIS News that she wants to become a cosmetologist. “I like doing people’s hair, so I think I will stick to that passion,” she tells JIS News.

    The WCJF was established in 1978 in response to the high level of teenage pregnancy in the country.

    The Foundation is mandated to assist girls 17 years and under, who have dropped out of school due to a pregnancy.

    They are allowed to continue their education at the nearest Women’s Centre location for at least one term, and are subsequently returned to the formal school system after the birth of their babies.

    * Name changed upon request and for the protection of a minor.

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