Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
A group of Portmore Christian counsellors has taken on the issue of family conflicts that are likely to end in bloodshed and grief. They are already seeing changes, even if in small doses.
Confronted by the gamut of family and relational challenges that are the offshoots of today's realities, the group of qualified professionals has, over the last year, embarked on a determined mission to break the back of the blight caused by the collapse of social order in the community.
The nation was shocked last week when two small children were killed in Trelawny, allegedly by their father who took his own life, and an ex-soldier who killed his mother-in-law and injured his common-law wife in Clarendon the previous week.
The team of six counsellors has been working full-time to restore families through the Portmore Family Life Ministries Counselling Centre for exactly one year and, by all indications, the organisation has been making its mark in a multiplicity of areas.
There are six trained counsellors at the highest levels serving the people of Portmore. Three are equipped with doctorates in counselling; another two with master's degrees, and an intern, also at the master's level, completes the team.
Coordinator at the centre Dr Hyacinth Peart's doctorate is in Christian counselling, her master's is in counselling and her BSc in education. She marshals the proceedings.
The team set up the counselling centre in Edgewater in February 2012, to take on what was a monumental task.
"There was always the desire to have such a centre in Portmore because of the population, as well as to alleviate the burden on the Kingston and Spanish Town (Family Life) offices as well," explained Peart.
Marriage, family breakdown
Peart disclosed that a major issue has to do with the breakdown of marriage and the family in the populous community. "This is among the problems affecting persons who should be spending time together ... people are going to work in the dormitory community and coming home late; that does not foster healthy relationships ... ."
She disclosed that the number of residents seeking assistance at the centre had picked up significantly between February and December 2012.
"The number is picking up and the scope is there because of the number of persons in Portmore as well as growing awareness, with the removal of the stigma attached to counselling," she said.
Peart said even the churches umbrella organisation - the Portmore Ministers' Fraternal - is referring troubled members to be counselled at the centre.