Jolyn Bryan, Gleaner Writer
In response to the increasing economic hardships being faced by many communities in St Thomas, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Albion has partnered with the community to form the Hope Mission Outreach Foundation. The non-profit organisation was officially launched at a small ceremony on Sunday at Jell Gardens in Albion.
Though it is the initiative of several members of the church, the foundation is an independent organisation and will be operated separately. The aim of the foundation is to uplift the residents of St Thomas who have little or no financial support, education, or skill to provide the basic needs for themselves and their families.
The Hope Mission Outreach Foundation will provide clothing, food, toys, school supplies, and scholarships, and where possible, will endeavour to provide employment opportunities as well.
St Thomas is still considered by many to be one of the poorest parishes in the island despite its many natural resources. Areas such as Ramble, Goat Ridge, Llandewey, Sommerset, and other deeply rural communities are especially affected by lack of employment and support. The agricultural and industrial sectors of the parish have declined in recent years, leaving many without jobs or opportunities for advancement.
Royan Campbell, managing director of the foundation, explained to Rural Xpress that he believed that poverty was one of the most pressing issues of this generation and was the source of the world's suffering. The alleviation of poverty, he explained, is the responsibility of all, not just the Government.
"We are tired of the casting of blame and the pointing of fingers. We have decided that it is time for us to do something about this now, and as such, we have formed the Mission of Hope Foundation to benefit those people of St Thomas who are in need, those who are poor and impoverished," he said.
The launch of the foundation was met with praise from several individuals and entities, including Sylvia Duncan, director of Legal Administration at the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Health; and the St Thomas Police Division. Dr D'Oyen Smith, medical officer of health at the Princess Margaret Hospital, expressed his appreciation for the vision of the foundation. Prominently displaying a red ribbon in commemoration of World Aids Day, Smith explained that prevention of the disease was difficult because of the many social issues tied to its spread.
Earn a living
"With the reduction of industry in St Thomas, transactional sex has become a means by which people earn a living, and this has led to many cases of HIV and Aids," he explained.
He pledged the support of the South East Regional Health Authority, the St Thomas Health Authority, and the Ministry of Health to the foundation in helping to alleviate the poor social conditions that exist in the parish.
In commemoration of World Aids Day, and to begin its outreach and assistance, Shelly-Ann Thompson, public relations officer of the foundation, made a presentation to the Morant Bay HIV Treatment Unit to aid in the treatment of the disease.
Photos by Jolyn Bryan