Christmas Angels | Young couple opens home to two wards of the state
She has done just about everything to make Christmas extra special each year, but for this year, Chavanie Clarke decided to focus on creating wonderful memories for the two wards of the state she has taken home for the holiday.
The 31-year-old general manager is among several persons who responded to an appeal made by the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) for Jamaicans to participate in its annual 'Take a Child Home for Christmas' programme.
According to Clarke, the experience will benefit her just as much as it will benefit the children.
"Thinking about these small children in the home facility and the festive season is happening and them not having anybody to sort of share that with, I thought, you know, this could be a good gesture.
"It is not taking too much out of me, I have the space, and it is something I can afford, why not?" said Clarke of the decision she made after seeing the appeal while browsing The Gleaner Online recently.
She immediately sent the link to her boyfriend Jonathan Bright, who shared her sentiment.
Clarke said that the initial decision was to take one child, but after learning that she had a brother who was at the same facility and was just a year older, the couple thought it best to keep the siblings together.
THE RIGHT THING TO DO
"It only seemed like the right thing to do to take both of them, because the whole purpose is to have a homey feeling for Christmas; so you don't want to separate family. We figured it would be easier for either child to adapt if they had a sibling or somebody who was known to them," said the young professional.
The couple has a long list of things they want to do with the four- and five-year-old pair, including decorating a Christmas tree, which the children picked out last Friday.
"We did a little bit of shopping last night, so we started getting toiletries and snacks and we were planning to have a smaller Christmas, but we are kind of expanding it, so now we are doing ham and chicken and fish and the whole works," said a beaming Clarke.
The couple also plan to take the children to church today, then for ice cream a little later.
"We have a nice schedule outlined for them. There is a pool at the house, so we have a pool day planned, and we also want to take them for a little drive," she said.
MEMORABLE CHRISTMAS EXPERIENCE
Clarke admits that there are risks involved in taking a child home for Christmas as anything can happen while they are in their care, but has pushed the fears behind her as she prepares to give the children a Christmas experience they are unlikely to forget.
"I intend to have children, and that is something that, as a parent, I will have to grapple with every single day, so essentially, my approach is to treat them like how I would treat my own children; very protective, very watchful and mindful of what they are doing and who they are interacting with, and ensuring that at all times, I am there for them," said Clarke.
"It is one of the best ways that you can give back, and it is a gift that will last a lifetime and a memory that you will create that will surpass many memories and erase a lot of bad memories," she added.
In the meantime, chief executive officer of the CPFSA, Rosalee Gage-Grey, says that almost 200 wards of the state have been taken into the homes of Jamaicans for the holidays.
The programme is open to persons 25 years and older who meet the requirements established by the CPFSA, including a possible home visit by its agents.
Gage-Grey, who has taken home three boys from state care to spend the Christmas with her family, said that she is encouraged by the reactions of Jamaicans who have opened their hearts and their homes to these children.