The Muirton Boys’ Home, located in the hills of Manchioneal, Portland, has been making a difference in the lives of many Jamaican youth for over 30 years.
The institution, which occupies about 29 acres of the Muirton Estate, a slave plantation up to 1838,is currently home to 26 boys, three of whom are in transitional housing, as they have aged out of the system.
It is operated by the Child Development Agency (CDA), under the ambit of the Ministry of Youth and Culture, and caters to boys who are found to be in need of care and protection.
Manager at the home, Kevin Bryan, says Muirton’s mission is to create a stable, supportive and nurturing environment for boys who have experienced trauma, by providing intervention and rehabilitation that will ultimately build resilience, and aid in their re-socialisation.
“The objective is to create a space that is as close to the home environment as possible. That is what we strive to do on a daily basis. We understand that most of our children would have been uprooted, for one reason or the other, from their families, and therefore we strive to give them an environment that is as close as possible to the ideal home,” he tells JIS News.
Mr. Bryansaid that in 2007, a new feature was added to the home, which saw the establishment of a transitional house and programme for young men who have aged out of the traditional system.
The transitional facility, which is known as Hope House, caters to young men who are too old for the Muirton Home, but are not sufficiently independent to be on their own.
The setting up of Hope House was spearheaded by missionaries from New Creation and Crenshaw United Methodist Churches in Virginia, as well as missionaries from Missouri in the United States, who at that time lived in Jamaica.
“The transitional home serves to foster independent living. We would have been caring for these boys, some of them from as early as age 12, and so upon reaching ages 16 and 17, we try to give them a feel of what it is like to be on (their) own. This is because some of our children, when they leave, don’t have family members who are readily willing or able to care for them further, so they have to be prepared to live on their own. And, that’s where the transition home comes in,” he explains.
Mr. Bryan further notes that the transitional home provides a place for boys who have reached the age of 18, but have nowhere to go.
“These boys would have reached the age of 18, and their ‘fit person’ order has expired, but there is no family or fit person for them to go to, and they have no means to survive on their own. These boys, once they are enrolled in a programme, such as Heart Trust/NTA or university, we would try to give them an additional two years, with a possible extension to three, to get themselves grounded and become self-sufficient,” he says.
The Manager points out that the wards at Muirton are fully integrated into the community, as those with the appropriate mental ability attend schools in the parish and have recorded success at all levels. Over the years, wards have gained entry to various universities, colleges and skills training institutionsin the island.
The Manchioneal community continues to embrace Muirton and up to 2010 offered voluntary services to enhance skills training in barbering, upholstering and craft. The boys also participate in church activities and community competitive sporting events which resulted in one gaining selection on the Jamaica under-19 football team in 2008 and the Parish Special Olympics walk race.
Historically, Muirton has been seen as a producer of fine agricultural produce. The facility has developed this activity over the years to form a part of the Independent Living Programme through agricultural and livestock rearing for all wards, exposing them to life coping skills opportunities for sustainability and self-reliance.
The Home operates a farm that produces various fruits, including bananas and plantains, which were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, along with other cash crops. The boys are also currently engaged in eggproduction, with 185 layers; a broiler chicken project; pig rearing (8 pigs, 30 piglets) and beekeeping (15 boxes).
The programme is guided through voluntary services based on the technical expertise from the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE), the Parish 4-H Club, Food for the Poor and the Australian Special project.
Unfortunately, the home was also severely damaged, following the passage of Hurricane Sandy. The roof and windows of the main dormitory, the house mother’s quarters, the outdoor bathrooms and the living room ceiling were all damaged during the storm.
While the home has received assistance from various organisations, such as the National Prayer Breakfast Committee and the French government, further help is needed to repair sections of the facility. The cost to repair the roof, the ceiling, windows and the electrical system is estimated at some $3.3 million.
Mr. Bryan says the facility is hoping to receive assistance in the renovation of the living room into a well-equipped recreational area.
“One of our major projects for this year is to convert their living room into a fully functional recreational area, where they will have choices in terms of the recreational activities that are available to them,” he tells JIS News.