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'The needs are greater than the help we can give'

Published:Wednesday | December 30, 2015 | 12:00 AMTamara Bailey

With a United Nations report revealing that 200,000 individuals in the country are without food, many are left in disbelief while charity organisations are acknowledging the possible truth to this finding.

Owner and operator of the Friends in Need charity organisation, Yvonne Townsend, told The Gleaner that, on average, more than 100 persons visit the establishment seeking food daily. However, with no external funding, the feeding programme is now unstable.

"We cater to several groups of people, including HIV-positive patients, members in the community, fire victims, and indigent children, and we have persons coming in from all over the island daily and we can't turn them back. Whatever we find to give them at the time they come, we give. However, it is a challenge, as we are not funded by any sponsors. The sales from the thrift shop (items of clothing donated by people) are used to cover these expenses, and most days, it is not enough."

MORE THAN FOOD

She added that the needs of the individuals go beyond food.

"We find that sometimes when people come here hungry, they are also without a place to live, clothes, and other basic necessities. We don't have the space to act as a refugee camp, per se, and so in some instances, we have to open up our homes. We get referrals from all over, but the needs are greater than the help we are able to give at times."

Having been in the business for 22 years part time, and seven years officially, Townsend, who began this initiative while in the police force, says she has developed a discerning spirit, which has made it easier to find those truly in need.

"Several times we find the persons we help, and other times, they come to us, but we can tell who truly has a great need based on the number of years we have been doing this. I have an excellent team, and we know who comes out of greed and those who come out of a need and, of course, needs are our priorities."

She said: "We manage to keep afloat daily, but we could do so much more if we had the assistance of corporate Jamaica. Donation of food items and other necessities would greatly assist in furthering the lives we touch."