Entertaining treat for Mona Rehab
Curtis Campbell, Gleaner Writer
Double amputee and former patient at the Mona Rehab, Faith Russell, recently joined forces with reggae artistes Duane Stephenson and Alozade to host an empowerment dinner and fun day at the Mona Rehab Centre in St Andrew.
Russell, who spent more than 10 years of her life at the facility, says the Mona Rehab is often forgotten and she felt the need to share Christmas with people whom she was sure needed to feel loved. The mother of seven also gave away US$4,000 worth of toys to the hundreds of children in attendance.
"I stayed here from I was a year and six months to 13 years old. Recently, one of my co-residents died. He was abandoned here and he never left the facility and I didn't want that to happen to anybody else, because I think that I can make a difference," she said.
Russell has formed a non-profit organisation called COPLAT, an acronym which means Changing One Person's Life At a Time. She hopes, by using entertainment and motivational speeches, the organisation will be able to uplift persons living with disabilities.
Since leaving Mona Rehab at age 13, Russell migrated to the United States where she completed degrees in computer science and business management at Long Island University. She is currently pursuing a minor in psychology and wants to sell the message that every disabled individual can become a functional part of society.
"This is just a stepping stone. What I want is to set up schools across Jamaica so that all disabled children can learn how to become self-sufficient and contribute to society. There are going to be many more events like this using entertainment, because, as a child growing up here, I used to cry a lot because I felt hopeless behind the walls. So I know what it feels like to be institutionalised, and in Christmas time, you want to be loved," she said.
Russell recently registered COPLAT and is now looking to collaborate with potential investors to make her dreams a reality.
"There is always hope, because the man upstairs gave you that hope. I wish I could make all challenged persons know that life does not stop with your situation ... if I can get the help to make even one school, I'm quite sure it will make a difference. Disabled people are not looking for handouts, yu nuh? They just want an opportunity," she said.
Duane Stephenson, one of the artistes to bring cheer to those in attendance, also commented on the event, saying he felt the need to contribute his talent to the cause because the disabled are oftentimes overlooked. The August Town singer also had words of encouragement.
"Reggae music stands for self-empowerment and I am a reggae artiste. We have a responsibility to be a part of events like this, taking time out from other things we usually use to occupy our time. I also want disabled persons to know that the self must not be marginalised. Don't give yourself such a hard time. Look at your situation, be committed and improve on it each time. It may seem greener on a next man's grass, but it's not always like that. Sometimes, it's an illusion," the artiste said.
Persons interested in contributing to COPLAT may contact 876-877-1146. Faith Russell is also the mother of overseas-based recording artiste Keda Fire.
Jamaica's paralympian star Alphanso Cunningham was also in attendance at the event. However, he acted in the capacity as a DJ instead of his usual athlete role. Six-time paralympian Sylvia Grant was also present. Both athletes are former residents of the Mona Rehab.