Sacha Walters-Gregory, Staff Reporter
Thyra Heaven, chairman, and Dr Phyllis Green, executive director of Hibiscus Jamaica Limited, are continuing the thrust of the volunteer organisation to make it as self-sustainable as possible.
Hibiscus Jamaica Limited assists Jamaican women who have been incarcerated and deported for drug trafficking from the United Kingdom. They assist the women and their families to survive the circumstances associated with the situation.
"The second thing is to give moral and other support to the relatives and especially to ensure that the children remain in school." said Heaven of the organisation, which is linked to their parent organisation in the UK, Female Prisoners Welfare Project - Hibiscus.
Once deported, Hibiscus Jamaica houses the women on average for 30 days during which they should be seeking accommodations.
Heaven and Green both have a wealth of experience with the organisation and intend to continue its thrust to have sustainable projects to support those they assist.
Training has already taken place of women, to teach them sewing techniques and also making those sewing machines available for them to complete personal projects. Additionally, there is skills training through the HEART Trust/NTA, to include training as household workers etc and literacy training for the children of the incarcerated women.
Heaven and Green concurred that trends have changed over the years and the women being sent to their centre do not reflect previous profiles.
"The drug mule business is hardly happening anymore. Women are being sent home more often for immigration purposes," said Heaven, specifically pointing out that it mostly involves them staying longer than their visas allow.
Green explained some of the circumstances which have contributed to the change. "It's partly education. Number one, there is a visa requirement, back in those days there was none, they could just hop on a plane. Second, the scanning is much more sophisticated," said Green, so it's easier for the authorities to detect those carrying drugs.
"And remember that the British Government had offered an incentive, they had started with £5,000, for people who would be willing to come home," said Heaven.
Individuals would then give up their rights to any appeals made for citizenship, and then they would be sent home.
"Now they've reduced that considerably to £1,500," said Green.
In an effort to follow through with their mandate to help these deported migrants reintegrate into society, they conducted a recent forum with some of the women they have helped over the years.
"The purpose of that forum was to bring together as many of the women we've helped as possible," said Green.
"We were able to get a feel of what they are going through or what is it that they want to do," added Green who pointed out that many of these women are working for themselves. Heaven noted that various employment barriers exist for them such as lack of training and the inability for persons convicted of a crime to be hired in the public sector.
"Many of these women are sorry and looking to start over," said Heaven.
Currently funded by the British Government, Hibiscus Jamaica is positioning itself for when this funding arrangement ceases.
They are planning their first official fund-raising event, Celebration for Change, a concert to be headlined by Myrna Hague along with others on November 10 at the Karl Hendrickson Auditorium, Jamaica College.