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'Saving Jamaica one family at a time'

Published:Sunday | December 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Jamaicans participating in prayer. - File

Family Life Ministries committed to encouraging and promoting healthy life in accordance with the principles of the Bible

Barrington Davidson, Contributor

Almost on a daily basis we are bombarded with negative stories about the state of the family in Jamaica. We hear of neglect, violence, and pain in families; brothers killing brothers, runaway children, unfaithful spouses. Domestic violence accounts for nearly a third of murders in this country. Overall, it seems to be a very gloomy, some would even say dark, picture.

We have all heard the common adage: "It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness." Well, one organisation has been doing just that for the past 30 years and continued with this mandate in 2014.

Against the background of concern about the poor state of family relationships in Jamaica, Family Life Ministries (FLM) continued its focus on saving Jamaica one family at a time by developing and providing a range of services related to all aspects of family life throughout the year.

The watchword of the organisation, 'the roots of a stable family go deep into the Word of God,' serves as an indication of the world view of those associated with it. The organisation's values are embodied in its mission statement which reads: 'To encourage and actively promote healthy family life in accordance with the principles of the Bible, God's Word, in Jamaica, the wider Caribbean and elsewhere'.

FLM continued its offerings of counselling to individuals, couples, and families, and also its counselling package for companies called the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which allows private and public sector companies, community organisations and non-governmental institutions to provide counselling to their employees at no cost to them. Through these avenues, FLM provided counselling to more than 5,000 clients during 2014. FLM also offered seminars and workshops focusing on a wide range of workplace and family issues, as well as group and crisis counselling, and has counsellors available to speak on a wide range of subjects for church, school or work conferences.

There is also a divorce recovery support group called Fresh Start, which will celebrate 15 years of existence next year, as well as two radio programmes - Family Time (LOVE FM Mondays at 5:30 p.m.) and Let's Talk Family (TBC Radio Tuesdays at 9 p.m.)

WEAK PARENTING

In March of this year, Sir Patrick Allen, governor general, launched 'Parenting Jamaica' as part of his 'I Believe Initiative'. This a multimedia campaign aimed at transmitting positive, values-based parenting messages in an effort to improve the skills of the nation's parents and caregivers in recognition of the fact that many of the problems we face in our nation have their roots in weak parenting.

The initiative works closely with the National Parenting Support Commission to reach parents and is being undertaken with the collaboration of FLM.

The campaign uses as its primary resource, the book Answers to Questions Parents Ask, authored by Dr Barry Davidson and Dr Faith Linton, as a guide to address the issue of faulty parenting, and features the transmission of daily parenting nuggets and messages on several radio stations as well as monthly 30-minute segments on two radio stations. The response to this has been very positive.

While all FLM's programmes and services are driven by sound psychological practice, the organisation is deeply rooted and grounded in scriptural principles. It is this balance between sound psychology and solid Christian principles that has enabled FLM to have attained the level of success and achievements which were highlighted in its recently held 30th anniversary celebrations.

The 30th anniversary celebrations began on October 23, 2014 with a launch at its head offices, with stakeholders from the private sector, NGOs, religious organisations, government agencies and the general public in attendance.

The event was made even more memorable with the announcement of plans to launch a foster-care programme in Jamaica in collaboration with Jamaican-born Dr Phillip Bruce, executive director of Nairn Family Homes in Canada, who was the special guest.

The need for this foster-care programme is evident, given a recent statement by an official of the Child Development Agency (CDA) that it is not uncommon for parents to ask the agency to take their children because they cannot manage them.

BEST REARED IN FAMILIES

It is FLM's considered position that state-run homes are not the solution, as children are best reared in families. The programme, slated to begin implementation in April of 2015, follows the model utilised by Nairn Family Homes. It is envisaged that FLM under the supervision of the CDA will recruit suitable willing persons from the church community, carefully screen them, give them extensive training, and then match them with the children who need fostering. They will subsequently be supervised, monitored and supported on an ongoing basis in collaboration with the CDA, with continued training as needed.

The next event on the 2014 calendar was the Healing the Family Conference held on October 25 at Portmore Power of Faith Ministries. The first speaker was Dr Hyacinth Peart, coordinator of FLM's Portmore office, who addressed the topic: 'Can my mother father me?' in which she outlined how fathers relate to children differently from how mothers do.

Dr Barry Davidson and Georgina Boland discussed problems parents experience in raising boys in a presentation titled: 'HELP! My son is killing me' in which they emphasised the importance of gaining a proper understanding of the psychological make-up and needs of boys in order to bring them up successfully.

Two church services were held on Sunday, October 26 at Swallowfield Chapel. The occasions were celebratory of God's goodness and provision over 30 years. The mood was one of gratitude, praise and thanksgiving. Indeed, the recurring theme was that of thanksgiving as both preachers, the Reverend Dr Burchell Taylor and Dr Wayne Henry, exhorted the congregation on various aspects of thanksgiving. Several persons who have served the organisation in various capacities were specially recognised and honoured.

KING'S HOUSE GALA

What could be regarded as the highlight of the 30th anniversary week was the King's House Gala held on November 1, 2014. Hosted by the governor general, the event brought together board members and founding directors with corporate sponsors for the first time.

All of the founding directors were present and received awards. It is noteworthy that all seven couples are still happily married, which is no mean feat, given the woeful state of so many marriages in the general society.

Also impressive was the rousing vote of confidence in FLM's work, given by a representative of Scotiabank, one of the premier Jamaican companies, whose staff members receive counselling at FLM under the EAP.

Tangible proof of the positive impact of FLM's work was provided as the company's representative addressed the banquet, giving practical examples of the support provided to employees and their families, above and beyond the call of duty.

Rounding out the anniversary celebrations was an appreciation event for FLM counsellors, staff, board members and volunteers.

As we look to the future, FLM will continue to seek to fulfil its mandate as it has sought to do over the past 30 years. One initiative started in 2014 which it plans to continue on an annual basis is its Valentine's Day Banquet. This event invites cohabiting couples from inner-city communities to an evening of elegance, entertainment and fellowship.

Sponsorship is sought for the event, which has as its objective not only to fête these couples, but to help them to embrace the desirability of marriage. Free premarital counselling is offered for those couples who opt to get married.

After 30 years of not merely cursing the darkness, FLM continues, in the words of a familiar song, to carry its candle, and run to the darkness, seeking out the helpless, confused and torn. It is our prayer that with God's help FLM will always be a beacon in the darkest times and as it continues to take its candle, and go light the world.

Dr Barrington Samuel Davidson is the CEO of Family Life Ministries and was awarded the Order of Distinction, Commander Class, this year. Feedback to editorial@gleanerjm.com