Fri | Oct 20, 2017

Jamaica Bolsters Missing Children Efforts

Published:Thursday | November 12, 2015 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Caroline Humer (second left), senior executive with the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, speaks with Ayanna Kirton (second right), marketing manager, Jamaica Yellow Pages; Betty Ann Blaine (left), child advocate and founder of Hear The Children's Cry; and former missing child Andrea Harrisingh, during a press conference yesterday at the offices of Jamaica Yellow Pages on Constant Spring Road in St Andrew.

Having been abducted at 18 months old, some 30 years later, Andrea Harrisingh has teamed up with Hear The Children's Cry, through the Jamaica Yellow Pages, to create a new website which is expected to enhance recovery efforts for missing children.

This also comes on the heels of Jamaica, through Hear The Children's Cry's Jamaica Yellow Pages-sponsored Missing Children's Support Programme, becoming the first country in the Caribbean, to be granted membership in the Global Missing Children's Network. The network is hosted by the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.

This means the photograph and data for every child reported missing in Jamaica can be posted on the international website interface and data base - a potentially life-saving move for missing children who may have been trafficked to other countries.

Harrisingh, who is digital fulfilment supervisor at Jamaica Yellow Pages, indicated that though the event presented a lot of emotional hurdles for her, she was happy to be a part of the initiative.

"I went missing when I was 18 months old and I was found 18 days later, so my family knows the trauma that many parents are currently facing in Jamaica," she told The Gleaner, following a press conference that was held yesterday at the Yellow Pages's offices in St Andrew.

"My parents left me with the helper and when they returned, the house was empty. She also robbed the house. It was a big thing at the time, and even to this day people still call me the 'missing baby'," she said with a chuckle.

"As a result, I grew up very sheltered. I don't know what it's like to visit a friend's house, everybody came to my home. To this day, I am very emotional because when I see them (missing children) on the television or when I have to update the website I break down."

She indicated that the website would complement programmes that currently exist, such as the Ananda Alert and other mechanisms implemented by the Office of the Children's Registry.

"We have to advance ourselves, and this website was created to make it easy for the wider public to have access to information on these missing children," Harrisingh said.

"It will be accessible on any mobile device and there is Google analytics also, which means we are able to see who is visiting the site. Most importantly, we did make sure that access was provided to the Hear the Children's Cry team, so they will be able to update the website as they go along," she told The Gleaner.

Figures from the Office of the Children's Registry indicate that 1,077 children went missing between January and June of this year.

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com