Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer
PORT ANTONIO, Portland:THE OPULENCE of Errol Flynn Marina was on one side. On the other, there were homeless indigents, some mentally disturbed. The derelict stage of the amphitheatre was a big bed for many. It was a juxtaposition of the fortunate with the unfortunate, not an uncommon sight in Jamaica. But between the serene marina and the decaying stage, there was something rare unfolding: people taking time out to feed the needy.
A small team from Port Antonio Salvation Army was out, last week Wednesday, despite the early morning rain, to provide a weekly breakfast for the destitute. The programme started after Major Edmona Sylvester saw the plight of the homeless in Port Antonio. She said when these people saw her in her Salvation Army uniform, they asked for money and food.
She took the matter to The League of Mercy, the outreach arm of the Salvation Army, last year June.
ADDRESSING A NEED
"We saw the need, and as a Salvation Army, we believe not only in the spiritual, but we believe in the physical as well," she said.
Since then, there is breakfast every Wednesday, served by Major Sylvester herself and other volunteers. The meals are prepared in Salvation Army facilities and transported to the spot near the amphitheatre.
A typical breakfast, served sometimes with a hot drink, could consist of roasted breadfruit, chicken donated by KFC, biscuits, dumplings, cooked bananas, rice, and cornmeal porridge.
On the 29th, the indigents had KFC chicken and biscuit, beans and boiled breadfruit, with mint tea. One woman, who called herself Sheila, told The Gleaner the breakfast was all right.
"We depend pon it. We wait pon it," she said, after which she dramatically told of her crises and her unsuccessful attempts to get assistance from the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education.
Between 33 to 37 people are served weekly, and sometimes there is a shortage as the numbers can increase unexpectedly. The money to fund the programme comes mainly from the pockets of the Salvation Army and its members, some of whom donate disposable cups and cutlery. Rice and beans from Food For The Poor are part of the donations. Kamal Supermarket and businessman Patrick Lee also chip in from time to time.
And there are times when the volunteers run out of funds. When this happens, Major Sylvester said they have to "dig deeper" into their pockets. She said this is a big challenge.
"The trees have breadfruits and sometimes there is no one to pick them. That, too, can be a challenge," she said.
Major Sylvester welcomes contributions to the programme so that breakfast can be provided two or three days in the week. "We encourage fellow citizens to help in their respective areas as the needs arise," she said.