The Jamaica Information Service (JIS) is committing to a fourth year of support to the Mount Olivet Boys Home in Manchester in 2013.
“We want to commit ourselves once again for another year. We know that these boys will do well and we will be supporting them to the best of our ability,” said the agency’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Donna-Marie Rowe.
The home, located in the hills of Walderston, is home to 28 boys, ages six to 18 years. The JIS adopted the home in December 2009, and since then, has been making quarterly visits, to spend quality time with the boys and mentor them, provide school supplies and items for the home, and carry out refurbishing work.
The agency’s outreach activity is bolstered by a number of organisations, which have continued to positively impact the lives of the boys. These include long standing supporters Josephs, Lasco Food Distributors, Continental Baking Company Limited, AzMart, Jamaica Broilers, and Wisynco, with Yohan Blake’s YB Afraid Foundation joining the list of sponsors last year, and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and Sandals Foundation coming on board this year.
Last weekend (December 15), the JIS staff journeyed to the home for the annual Christmas luncheon and awards ceremony. They were joined by well-wishers and sponsors, including triple Olympic medallist Blake, who brought Christmas cheer and well-needed items for the home.
The day’s activities included the presentation of certificates to high-achieving boys, the planting of a vegetable garden through partnership with RADA, and the handing over of items by the sponsors.
Mrs. Rowe said she was pleased with the development of the boys over the four years. “We are touched every time we come here. It is a very moving experience for us to see the boys grow right before our eyes. Every boy here is very precious to us and we have purposed it in our hearts to mentor them,” she said.
She stated that the JIS will keep its word on mentoring and visiting the boys in the coming year.
Rev. Norbert Stephens, General Secretary of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, which operates the Mount Olivet and Pringle Home in St. Mary, lauded the work being done by JIS and other civic-minded organisations at the facility, and expressed pleasure with the day’s activities.
“I really do appreciate the partnership the church has with the wider community, and moreso those who, like JIS, are good corporate citizens,” Rev. Stevens said.
Director of the Home, Sonia Lowe, also expressed gratitude for the assistance being given and spoke of the progress being made by the boys.
Mrs. Lowe pointed out that the boys have faced many challenges in their lives and some continue to struggle, but noted that “today is a day to focus on their accomplishments.”
Most of the boys, she informed, are attending “structured counselling sessions”, which have proven to be worthwhile. “I see that as an accomplishment. They come and ask about these sessions and I see it as an achievement for us and for them,” she told JIS News.
Lauding the mentorship programme through which JIS staff members ‘adopt’ a child and maintains contact throughout the year, Mrs. Lowe said: “we appreciate the fact that you call them on a regular basis and send letters. We are thankful for those who are on this journey with them.”
Mr. Blake, for his part, informed that his foundation has installed water storage tanks to provide steady water supply to the facility, which previously had to purchase water.
“When we started, we realized that they had a water problem, so we decided to do a water project for them,” he said.
YB Afraid is also responding to the need for recreation by donating a flat screen television and Nintendo systems for a games room. Mr. Blake also informed of plans to create a library at the home.
He also had a word of encouragement for the boys. “This is not the end of the world. Many have gone through it. Just keep your head up high and never say never,” he told them.
RADA Extension Officer at the Mandeville Region, Hopeton Panton, whose team was on hand to assist with the planting of broccoli, lettuce, sweet peppers, and cabbage seedlings and will oversee the progress of the vegetable garden, told JIS News that RADA will be providing “day-to-day management of the crops”.
Lay pastor and member of the board of the home, Jeffect Watson, expressed gratitude for the vegetable garden and told JIS News how beneficial it will be for the facility.
“We are trying to see if we can be self-sufficient with vegetables and animals. It will also cut off some of our expenses. When we reap, we sell some to the market and I think that it is something worthwhile. We were looking forward to this for a very long time. We are very happy for the JIS and RADA coming in and helping us with this,” he stated.
Mr. Watson also thanked the YB Afraid Foundation for the water tanks. “When we heard of Yohan Blake coming to help us with our water we were very grateful. We had owed a lot of money for water and so we were very thankful,” he said.
Fourteen boys received awards for outstanding performance in various categories including most improved behaviour, most helpful, most outstanding student and Boy of the Year.
A variety of items were given to the boys and staff at the home including blankets, sheets, toiletries, toys, food items, snacks, juices.