Angel of Hope touching lives of the needy
As Director of Recipient Services at Food for the Poor, Susan Moore gets to interact directly with many of the charity organisation's beneficiaries. In spite of this, she still looks forward, with anticipation, to the annual Christmas treat for wards of the 25 children's homes, on the lawns of King's House, through its Angel of Hope arm.
Angel of Hope, Moore explained, was born out of the recognition for the need to address, in a targeted way, the concerns and issues of abandoned children or those left in State care.
Each year, the treat brings together an estimated 600 children from all across Jamaica in what amounts to a family reunion of sorts, as siblings and friends make the best of the daylong activity to catch up with each other, take pictures and, of course, enjoy all the treats, toys and fun activities on offer. But it is the memories they take away that matter most.
"A trip like this does a lot for the boys - both educationally and the fellowship they share. It's great, and when they get back home, hearing the conversation that they have and when we all sit down and we chat and they write and they draw. So it does a lot for them, and they always look forward for this trip," Irene McDonald, manager of the Clifton Boys' Home in Darliston, Westmoreland, shared with The Gleaner on the day.
In fact, when it was time to leave, she had to engage one of the older boys to gather the others and blow the whistle, which was the pre-arranged signal.
"They didn't want to leave, and even when we were driving, some of them were asking if they could stay a little longer. So I had to remind them that we were going far," she said via telephone.
This was after spending more than eight hours engaged in fun-filled activities.
Moore identified the reconnection and bonding among children from different homes as one of the most satisfying take-aways from the annual event - as evidenced by the hugs and greetings upon arrival and the tears and sadness of the goodbyes. "Those heartfelt intangibles - things that never make it onto the account ledgers - are among the most rewarding aspects of the day," she explained.
CORPORATE JA GENEROUS
And each year, the annual fun day grows, with corporate Jamaica's generosity in helping to provide food, drink, toys, and other support services.
However, to participate, the homes - whether State-run or privately operated - must be registered with the Child Development Agency and sanctioned by Angel of Hope, subject to a comprehensive inspection/evaluation of their operations.
"We want to make sure that whoever we are working with is reputable," the director of recipient services pointed out. "We go in and do our assessment of the children - what kind of support the home needs to be able to meet their objectives/obligations - then we see how we can supplement that. Every home receives a food donation from us regularly because that's usually one of their major overheads."
The intervention by Angel of Hope, however, goes much further, according to Moore.
"Of course, there is usually a need for beds and clothing, but then some of them have specific and unique areas of need. For example, several of the homes will say, 'Listen, we have enough property and enough persons to do an income-generating project, whether gardening or animal husbandry. This would allow us to supplement our income and not (have) to beg; and also we can earn from it.' So we would go in and do an agricultural component in there that would allow them to be more sustainable," she shared.
The Clifton Boys' Home, which is operated by the Anglican Diocese of Jamaica and Grand Cayman, has benefited from this agricultural component and now has seven mother goats with four kids, but that's not the whole story.
"We rear our own goats, pigs and chickens, and we do a little farming like cash crops because we want to know that the boys are really fed properly and have a balanced diet," boasted McDonald.
She went on to explain that ram goats, pigs and chickens slaughtered for consumption at the home make a big difference.
"The maintenance (subvention) that we get, that alone cannot run the home; and when we have our own things on the farm, when we can take it and put it in the kitchen, it goes a long way."
Helping these homes to achieve some level of self-sufficiency in a number of areas is consistent with the philosophy of the charity organisation, according to Moore.
"We look at what we as a company have as resources to see how that can help the home to be more viable and sustainable. We have a profile of the homes, and because we visit and keep in constant communication, we do have an idea of what their needs are," she stated.
Heartened by the impact of Angel of Hope's ongoing generosity, the manager of the Clifton Boys' Home admitted that residents in Darliston have been very supportive of its wards.
"The fellowship with the community and how the community really reacts with them is great. They look out for those boys," she told The Gleaner, but also has a special appeal for the public.
"I would love for more people to know about this home. Come in, make a connection and really see what we are doing there - the impact that we have been making on the boys' lives. We don't have boys absconding, because of the love and care that they get; they want to stay," shared McDonald.