St John Bosco provides guidance
Dave Lindo, Gleaner Writer
HATFIELD, Manchester:THE ST John Bosco Boys' Home, nestled in the hills of Hatfield, Manchester, for many years has been making a positive impact on boys needing a place to call home, guidance, and an education in order to find their place in society.
The boys' home was established 52 years ago by the Sisters of Mercy, a Catholic order of nuns which also operates the Alpha Boys' Home in Kingston.
Sister Susan Frazer is the director of both the Bosco and Alpha Boys' homes where she has been working for 38 years. "It's quite a thrill taking a child that has few opportunities and giving him an education and a trade and puting him on the road to success. That is just a wonderful feeling!" Sister Frazer remarked.
The St John Bosco Boys' Home caters for up to 160 boys, ages seven to 18. As Margaret Russell, administrator and assistant to Sister Frazer explained: "We get our boys through the Child Development Agency, or from the police - those who have run afoul of the law. Some children were abandoned by their family, some were displaying violence at school or were uncontrollable at home."
Russell added: "You have children who are brought here who are unable to read and write. We take them back to kindergarten level, teach them how to master the alphabet. We work with them until they can read and write. We have 10 teachers who are all trained teachers."
Barbara Turner, principal of the school, has been working at the home for 34 years.
"I feel greatly enthused with my job - when I see my boys leave here, become good citizens, have good jobs, and come back and tell me about their experiences," she told Rural Express.
At age 15 or 16, the boys are taught a trade. "At that age, provided that they can read and write, they are introduced to a trade, taught a life skill," Russell said. "We have a catering school where they learn to bake, cook, and wait tables. They get a certificate when they have completed the course."
The home also has a butchering department where the boys are taught the trade of the various cuts of meat and how to serve the public. They are also certified upon the completion of the course. There is also a farming programme in which the boys work in the home's greenhouse or piggery department.
The Bosco Boys' Home sells its meats and other produce to supermarkets and restaurants across the island, which allows the boys to learn aspects of merchandising and customer relations.
There are many success stories of boys who have gone through the home and made something of themselves. As Russell proudly disclosed: "We have boys who have gone through the catering service, and cruise-ship lines have taken them in. Sometimes our boys on these cruise ships call us from exotic places all over the world such as Brazil and Alaska.
There are also boys who have left the institution and are working in the local tourist industry and the agriculture sector. Some, as disclosed by Sister Frazer, have progressed to owning their own businesses.
Over the years, more so in recent times, the home has been faced with financial challenges, as Sister Frazer explained, "The biggest difficulty is trying to survive on an $800-per-child per-day budget - feed, shelter clothe, educate, and train. All of that has to be factored in."
Sister Frazer added: "We only get about 50 per cent of what we actually need in finances to run the place. So we have to earn from our self-help projects, the butchering shop, catering department, sponsorships, gifts, and donations from people. We have to earn about US$40,000 every month. That's a lot of money."