Eve For Life: Repairing broken spirits!
Over the past seven years a non-governmental group, Eve For Life, has quietly gone about the business of providing a guiding light for hundreds of Jamaicans.
The group targets mainly females between the ages of 13 and 24 with the majority of them being HIV-positive, survivors of childhood sexual abuse or just youth at risk based on HIV-related issues.
The organisation, which was co-founded in 2008 by Joy Crawford and Patricia Watson, provides psychosocial support mainly for females in the parishes of St Ann, St James and Westmoreland.
At present, Eve For Life has 164 direct clients in various programmes, including for children - male and female - aged eight to 16 years old. The group also has 20 clients in a support group for survivors of sexual abuse, some of whom contracted HIV as a result.
"We provide support in a four-pronged way. We host a large support group for them and training and sensitisation around life skills, sexual and reproductive health and rights and parenting," said co-founder Joy Crawford, who is also the director of programmes and training at Eve For Life.
"We also provide them with one-on-one counselling with a counselling psychologist, and we also provide them with peer-to-peer mentorship. The mentorship is run by mentor moms, who are young women who were in the programme before, who we have trained in a number of disciplines and now act as big sisters for them.
"We provide them with what we call a life coach, who is an older, more mature woman living with HIV who acts as a surrogate mother for them."
The beneficiaries also have access to vocational development as Eve For Life networks with key partner agencies, such as Lifelong Learning and Heart Trust/NTA, in an effort to get the girls back in school or to undertake skills training based on their capacity.
The females who have young babies are also given a basket with groceries and related items every month.
"We offer them family interventions as well, where we interact with their family and immediate caregivers to strengthen the family unit to make sure that whatever we are doing with the girls is being sustained, and the family can also come in to us for counselling," Crawford disclosed.
One young lady, who has been in the programme for the past five months, credits it with saving her life.
"I used to think about killing myself and all those things, but now I don't think that anymore because I have something to live for and I believe in myself," the young mother told The Sunday Gleaner during a visit to one of the organisation's support groups recently.
"It helps me mentally and physically to don't really listen what people have to say and give me strength every day, because the counselling is good and we bond with each other," another added.
WORTH THE SACRIFICE
Crawford said it is the growth of the women which makes the many sacrifices all worth it.
"It has been a major sacrifice, but it is their (beneficiaries) success, it is the empowerment and unfoldment that really pushes us, because if we can save one family in Jamaica, we would have done our duty," Crawford said.
But the organisation is not without its challenges, the most pressing being the remuneration of the 17 persons across the island who administer the programmes.
"Because our programme is funded by international donor partners (95%), we write proposals and such, but donors do not pay for administration or salaries. I don't know when we are going to change that, but a very small per cent of any project comes towards salaries and our admin," said Crawford.
"That's the biggest gap that we always have, so our people are given some kind of remuneration on a project-by-project basis."
As is often the case, however, with groups that focus on empowering single-sex groups, some persons have questioned if the organisation is turning the minds of some of these women away from men.
"I have never heard that," said Crawford. "Our programmes are very open and the best persons to ask are the girls themselves. Go ask our donors, go ask our partners, and go ask the clients themselves, because I could tell you anything."