Keisha Hill, Gleaner Writer
The Mustard Seed Communities (MSC) focuses on serving marginalised communities that include children and adults with disabilities, children affected by HIV/AIDS, teen mothers and others. Recently, the non-profit organisation received a significant boost to its coffers with a donation of US$100,000 (J$940,000) and an additional pledge of US$150,000 (J$1, 410,000) over the next 10 years from Unicomer Jamaica (Courts).
According to executive director of MSC, Darcy Tulloch-Williams, there are more than 450 children in 14 homes across the island that the organisation is responsible for. The money, she said, would be used specifically for its 'Dare to Care Programme' that caters to persons who are HIV positive.
"We will be creating farming opportunities in which we can provide these children with fresh fruits and vegetables. It's a critical way of looking at providing our own food to feed ourselves," Tulloch-Williams said.
The donation was made in honour of Hayden Singh, former managing director of Unicomer Jamaica who died in February 2011. Singh at first was a mentor for the children and subsequently became a member of the board.
The donation will be used to start two farms, with the pilot project set to get under way at Jerusalem, Spanish Town, which currently has 175 children. The second phase of the project will be undertaken at Jacob's Ladder in Moneague, St Ann, which houses 45 mentally ill children.
"We had to think strategically to become as independent as we possibly can. We will decide shortly what each farm will produce but we are thinking along the lines of agriculture and livestock," Tulloch-Williams said.
The pledge of US$150,000 Tullouch-Williams said the money will be used to create a trust fund, particularly for the HIV/AIDS children. "Anti-retroviral drugs are expensive and the money will be used to deal with these expenses. Their systems are impaired because of the illness and they are subsequently prone to other diseases," she said.
Tulloch-Williams said they also have a robust overseas volunteer programme that includes regular to professional individuals who just want to give of themselves. Most of the children who are in the care of the MSC are those who have come through the courts, and they provide a protected environment for them.
To show their gratitude, one of the homes under the 'Dare to Care Programme' will be renamed in Singh's honour - Matthew 25:40. The Hayden Singh Children's Sanctuary.