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Teen stretches hand across sea to hospitals

Published:Thursday | April 30, 2020 | 12:24 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer

Though miles away from home, 16-year-old Jaiden Weir-Jackson is extending her charity to Jamaicans as the Government seeks to flatten the COVID-19 curve.

In the coming weeks, reusable cloth face masks that are fitted with charcoal filters will be distributed on her behalf to residents of the St Ann Infirmary and children on the paediatric wards of the St Ann’s Bay and Port Maria hospitals.

“I was planning to come to Jamaica this summer, and I had intentions of doing community service at the infirmaries and hospitals,” said Jaiden, who migrated to the United States in August 2019.

“Because of the coronavirus, I don’t think I will be travelling, so I was wondering what can I do to help out around the community.”

While brainstorming, the teen came across Bonnygate Women’s Group, partly based in her birth parish, St Ann.

The women’s group, which spans St Mary and St Ann, provides training in sewing and embroidery skills to community members.

“We were actually doing it for the tourism trade, but we were unable to fill our markets because most persons are older women, so we were assisted by Digicel Foundation to do some training,” coordinator Shirley Duncan told The Gleaner.

“After six weeks of our training, COVID came on board, so the women who are seamstresses shifted gears and decided to do masks,” she said.

Duncan is grateful for the partnership with Jaiden.

“We are impacting lives at the community level, and she is still a student trying to help people here,” she said.

Giving back is not a new domain as she often participated in walkathons, and last Christmas, she assisted with preparing and delivering food to the homeless in Ocho Rios.

In addition to her personal donation of US$200, the teen launched a fundraiser on Go Fund Me on Monday to solicit funds towards purchasing fabric and elastic needed to make the masks.

“I’m really excited about it because I didn’t think that it would get so much attention so fast,” she said, adding that she has raised US$150 of her US$400 goal.

The teen has also started a club geared at staying active at home among her friends.

She hosts live sessions online a couple of times per week and is guided by workout videos.