Mustard Seed Opens New Facility for Children in the West


A new Mustard Seed facility for children with severe disabilities and HIV/AIDS, and of teen-age mothers, was officially opened and dedicated on January 18 in St. James. The home, ‘Blessed Assurance’, is located on a five-acre property in the Windsor Lodge area, and will serve communities in north western Jamaica.
It currently houses and supports some 32 children, and when expansion work is fully completed, the facility will be able to accommodate 75 children.
In his address at the ceremony, Executive Director of the Mustard Seed Communities, Father Gregory Ramkissoon, called for more volunteers to assist in the mustard seed facilities, pointing out that there was a great shortage of qualified persons to work with the children.
“We are suffering badly from a shortage of qualified people,” he said, adding that efforts are being made to correct this shortage through collaborations with the University of Technology (UTech) and an overseas university.
He also appealed for more intensified government focus in this area, and pointed out that there is a need to revisit the whole national approach as to how children with mental and physical disabilities are treated. Father Ramkissoon emphasised that there should be a facility to deal with these mentally and physically challenged children when they reach the age of 18 years.
“When these children reach 18, when they cross that line, there is almost no place that these children can continue their training. Chronologically, they are over 18, but as we know sensibly and developmentally, they are still at the age of 12 to 15 years,” he said.
Meanwhile, Roman Catholic Bishop of Montego Bay, Right Reverend Charles Defour, quoting from a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report, pointed out that there are more than 37,000 Jamaican children living with some form of disability. He said that according to the report, the majority of them are in the five to 14 age group, which makes them of school age, yet only 10 per cent of them are enrolled in the formal education system or other programmes.
Rev. Defour said this situation is contrary to the Convention of the Rights of the Child. He also called for a national change in approach to these children, pointing out that the level of stigma attached to them continues to be a major contributor to their exclusion.
Mustard Seed is a non-profit, non-governmental organization which has been in operation since 1978. It operates a total of 11 homes in Jamaica.
The land to establish the ‘Blessed Assurance’ home was donated by Montego Bay businessman, Winston Dear.

JIS Social