JIS News

The Mona Baptist Church, in Kingston, is making its contribution to national development, not only by being good Samaritans, but by empowering those whose lives are touched, so that they will be able to help themselves in the long term.
‘Healing and Empowerment with Love and Prayer’, is the mantra that drives the Church’s Help Ministry, which is serving the spiritual, physical, emotional, educational and economic needs of many communities.
The outreach gives particular support to those who are weak, sick, poor, and disenfranchised.
Director of the Help Ministry, Dr. Barry Wade, tells JIS News how the church is helping to uplift and heal some 15 communities.
The men’s programme is of particular interest, as it targets that most at risk group in the communities.
“The men’s programme comes out of the fact that the Papine Park is located just across from the church, and over time, we realised that this was a major drug dealing and drug smoking centre, and we started to reach out to these men, and what we found was that on any one night, over 100 men are buying crack cocaine in that area, and many of them spend the night out in the park, or started to come into the church yard. So, we started to reach out to them and to counsel them and to help to get them into rehab programmes,” Dr. Wade explains.
It turns out that often these men are deportees, ex-inmates, or infected with HIV/ AIDS, and separated from their families.
Basically, they are lost in the system. Dr. Wade says a counselling progamme was developed for this group, as well as detoxification and post rehabilitation. This means the Ministry has had to work closely with organisations, such as Teen Challenge, Patricia House, and the Salvation Army.
“Those who come to us are very grateful for the service that we offer. It doesn’t mean that all of them are successfully rehabilitated. Many of them relapse, the drug users for example. Families are often very grateful for what we do when they are re-united with their loved ones.but I must say too, that many people find what we are doing rather irksome, and some even objectionable, because we deal with persons who often are abusive, or offensive,” he says.
There is wide collaboration with government agencies, non-governmental organisations, and other churches.
Dr. Wade informs that for a while, the men’s programme was partly financed by the Ministry of Health, but this funding has now come to an end.
The outreach Ministry collaborates with a number of agencies, including the police, the correctional services and educational institutions, such as the University of the West Indies, the University of Technology, the Vocational Training Institute, St. Michael’s Theological Centre, the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) medical school, as well as several primary and secondary schools.
The original intent was to work with the Mona community, but the Ministry has spread its wings to include: Hope Pastures, Tavern, Riverview, Kintyre, Hope Flats, Quarry Heights, Mammee River, Highlight View, Land Lease, Elletson Flats, Mona Commons, August Town, Goldsmith Villa, and Hermitage. People are even now coming from as far as St. Catherine. The Ministry sees as many as 50 to 100 persons in a day, particularly a Tuesday.
“What we have is a system where one group comes this week and another comes next week, so if you multiply that number by two, you have 200 persons who we’ll see in a two-week period, and then over a year, because some will fall out, maybe 300 persons. The amount of grocery packs that we give out is in the region of 50 to 70 in the day.30 persons will access our clothing, about 10-15 will receive counselling, our men’s programme will have up to 25, sometimes even 30 men, attending in a group session,” Dr. Wade points out.
Some 10 teenage mothers are now benefiting from the ‘mother and baby’ programme, and up to 70 students are participating in the CXC homework initiative.
“The CXC programme is primarily in Math and English…but in addition to that, we also have a programme in personal development, so persons who come to us for training, persons who pass through school and didn’t get their CXC subjects, sometimes we have adults who want to go on to something else and need their Math and English. With that will come things like how to write an application letter, how to conduct an interview, and how to dress,” he says. This programme has turned out to be quite popular, and lasts for two semesters to coincide with the school term.
Some 40 persons volunteer their time and service to see to the needs of those who need assistance. The volunteers include members of the congregation, visitors to the church, and even those who have no connection to the church.
Meanwhile, the Ministry’s legal aid clinic, which is located on the university campus, has also been providing much-needed assistance to the communities.
“The legal aid clinic is one of our most recent… it was set up to help persons with civil matters and human rights matters, not criminal matters. We are open every other Saturday. One of the things we have been trying to do, is to encourage persons to write wills because that’s one of the frequent problems in legal aid counsel. Also, matters having to do with housing, purchase of houses, rentals, lots of disputes in that area, and then there are human rights issues of abuse, and so on,” Dr. Wade says.
Unfortunately, this is a programme that is not heavily funded. Dr. Wade attributes this to a reluctance of persons generally to get involved in legal matters. He notes that many criminal cases are brought to the clinic, which are then referred to one of the larger legal aid clinics.
However, the recently introduced literacy initiative has caught on like wildfire, he says. “One of the biggest frustrations that we have is helping people to find jobs, and one of the biggest impediments is not only that jobs are scarce, but that persons can’t read and write and are not functionally literate…and so we have struggled with this for some time and last year we started the classes with assistance from the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning. We presently have about 25 students on role, and they are doing quite well. It takes a lot of personal attention and it’s almost on a one-on-one basis, rather than just large classes, and so, there has to be a rather large pool of teachers for that, and we are doing that now, we are very encouraged by it,” Dr. Wade tells JIS News.
Then there is the health clinic, which provides a range of services, including screening for blood pressure, diabetes, respiratory ailments and other chronic diseases.
Those who suffer from any one of these illnesses are monitored over time to ensure they are eating properly, and taking their mediation. The Church’s small pharmacy provides the medication, or the patients are assisted with filling their prescriptions elsewhere.
Although there have been some disappointments over the years, it is the successes that keep the Ministry going. Dr. Wade explains that satisfaction comes particularly from seeing the men who have been on drugs or deported, successfully rehabilitated or reunited with their families.
“There was one man who had not seen or heard from his children in 20 years, and is now in regular contact with them and is off drugs. We have helped persons with housing, particularly after the hurricane season.we have also had some successes with our young women, helping them to go through the period of their pregnancy. So, we have seen some of the young girls mature and begin to raise their families, which is very encouraging,” he says.

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