Ghetto mission - Missionary leaves upper St Andrew comfort to help inner-city residents
As a missionary living above the area dubbed 'The Golden Triangle' in St Andrew, Nicola Carara finds that several of her relatives and neighbours are concerned about her mingling with the residents in the inner city who have been the focus of her ministry for the last four years.
"I grew up this way, where it's like, you don't want to go into the inner city; the people there are going to hurt you. So there is this perception that the people are just going to shoot you when you go down there, and you never know what is going to happen, and there is this danger," said Carara as she explained her ministry, which has been focused in the Parade Gardens, Southside and Tel-Aviv communities in Central Kingston.
She has also worked in other inner-city communities, including Jones Town and Riverton City.
Carara decided to become a missionary while living and studying in the United States and would often visit the low-income housing projects with members of her church to help the less fortunate. She decided to continue this cause when she returned to Jamaica.
"I have no funds, but my friends from abroad, they started helping me, so from January 2012, I started going down there. I was in Southside, but then someone from Tel-Aviv came over and asked me to help with the children and then someone asked me to help the women and then from there, I just started to help wherever I could in the community," Carara told The Sunday Gleaner
Carara said working with the residents of these depressed communities has been mutually beneficial.
While scores of residents benefit from the food, educational materials, spiritual guidance, counselling sessions and furniture she gives them, she finds that interacting with them has enhanced her life.
"I am telling you, the people of the inner city ... have changed me. They have given me more faith.
"Since I have been in downtown Kingston and in Parade Gardens, when I have problems, I complain less because I look at how the people in the area make the best of the little they have, and what other people regard as trash uptown, they regard as treasure downtown and they do wonderful things with what they get," she said.
Carara, who has a first degree in film and video production, and a master's degree in journalism and communications, has decided to do a documentary on Parade Gardens in an effort to combat stigmas attached to the inner city.
The documentary, which is called Parade Gardens: A Diamond in the Rough, is expected to highlight the talents and views of residents in the community, and Carara has established a GoFundMe page to help finance the project.
"I want to show a different side of Parade Gardens and the inner city so that the people uptown will see that their perceptions are wrong," she said.
"Uptown sometimes don't understand how many great things are happening downtown. How many people are actually skilled and are actually working.
"Yes, employment is a tough thing. A lot of the men are unemployed, and I even speak to the guys on the street, and I say, 'How can I help you to give up your guns?' and they say, 'We have to have opportunity', and I believe the opportunity will come when uptown also has a more open heart."
Carara uses social-media sites such as Facebook to seek help for those in the communities which are close to her heart, and often plan tours of the community for friends from other countries who express an interest in helping.
"People are not necessarily getting the help they want to get or they are not getting the jobs that they could get, even though many are qualified, because people are scared because of the perception of downtown," said Carara.
She argued that while bad things do happen in the ghetto, there are a lot of persons living in inner-city communities across Jamaica who are making positive contributions to the society, and she believes it's her divine destiny to highlight some of these individuals.
"There are good people there. It's not everybody running around with guns and shooting up the place. That is not what is happening," she said.