One Man's Inspired Support for Walker’s Place of Safety
Harel Linton, like many Jamaicans, was devastated when he woke up on Tuesday, January 16, to hear that the Walker's Place of Safety in St Andrew, had been engulfed in a fire that killed two of the 36 children housed there.
Unlike most Jamaicans, however, he organised a collection effort at his workplace, JN General Insurance Company (JNGI) that same day, which raised $41,000 from staff members. With matching funds from the company, by the Wednesday, a JNGI team was able to purchase sandwiches, bottled water, a water cooler jug and toiletries, to present to the children at the church where they were staying.
"I was shocked and saddened by the tragedy," he said. "Beyond any sadness however, we also have a responsibility to help those who are most in need."
And that is what Linton and some of his colleagues had been doing for the past nine years - every month at the Walker's Place of Safety.
The senior manager, Analytics, at JNGI, is now lobbying his firm and the JN Foundation to make an even more substantial contribution to the Walker's Place of Safety relief efforts.
A committed Christian and father of three, he said that he had spearheaded the staff efforts over the years to provide support for the home, but also to have his fellow staff members share their life experiences with the children.
"Our team selected Walker's to benefit from our JNGI corporate social responsibility programme in 2009," Linton related. "And about a quarter of the staff support the programme. There is a smaller core group of eight team members, who have organised our monthly visits over the past nine years."
'They need to know that we care'
Located at 17 Lyndhurst Crescent, in Kingston, the Walker's Place of Safety served as a transitional residence for children, from toddlers up to 12 years old, who were abandoned, or removed from their homes due to unstable conditions. The place of safety aims to provide the children with proper nutrition and shelter, along with access to education and appropriate health care.
"Some of the children at Walker's were abandoned at birth; and, as a result, no one comes to visit them," Linton said. "Therefore, they need to know that we care for them."
The children are now relocated to three different homes; and the employees at JNGI have divided themselves into three teams to visit each one. The first visit took place in the week following the fire.
"It is our aim to make other visits and to handover back-to-school items, toiletries and clothing, which were suggested by the Child Protection and Family Services Agency," he said.
Linton also advised that the staff members at JNGI were engaged in a second collection of funds for the children. He said, "We all realise that our visits to see and interact with the children are just as important as our donations."
Grace Allen, manager of the Walker's Place of Safety said, "JN General Insurance has been one of our regular supporters for many years, and we welcome their assistance at this difficult time. The children need all the support they can get, and I encourage all potential donors to step forward."