$400,000 Project For Kids At Risk.
By Tedburt Theobalds, Project Manager/Building Surveyor
A $400,000.00 reinforced concrete structure at upper Aupicon, Vieux Fort to be used as a Children’s Home is nearing completion, thanks to the generosity of the Defoe Foundation, and a number of corporate companies and citizens.
Among the other contributors are True Value, Saint Lu Metal and Plastics, and Wilrock to mention a few.
The construction started approximately four months ago by Curtly St. Ange of Casa Design which won the bid from a field of six applicants. However, our focus today is more on the Vieux Fort Children’s Society, under the leadership of President Mrs. Beverly John, a social worker and resident of Moule-A-Chique in Vieux Fort who has championed the cause.
The Vieux-Fort Children’s Society (VFCS) is a registered charity made up of members and volunteers, who incidentally pay an annual subscription of EC $50.00. Many of the members are persons living in Vieux Fort, and environs. They have been the anchor team for the development of this beautifully timed project, and have done remarkable fundraising over the past four years. In fact, the annual fundraising dinner will be held tonight at the National Skills Development Centre on the St. Jude Highway, Vieux Fort.
One of the (VFCS) society’s aims is to provide services for families to assist them in maintaining a healthy family environment for children. To this end, the new children’s home will house children who are unable to remain in their current home, because they are deemed to be at risk, in need of or have suffered sufficient harm through child abuse, parental neglect or abandonment.
This is very timely because according to Mrs. Elizabeth Lewis, who is the current Director of Human Services and Family Affairs, “the increase in incidence of child abuse and neglect in Saint Lucia continues to be a serious concern for practitioners, policy makers and society at large. Issues of poverty, illness or death of parent, parental migration, lack of parent skills, teenage pregnancy, corporal punishment, drug addiction and mental illness, are some of the factors that have been attributed to the increase in incidence of child abuse and neglect. Children, therefore, constitute one of the most vulnerable groups in the population”.
The three-bedroom building is approximately 1780 square feet in room area and sits on 2.5 acres of land leased to the VFCS by the government. Before construction began the site had to be cleared, properly levelled and an access road constructed. The drains which were cut have been somewhat eroded by the recent rains and the road will have to be paved.
In addition, funds will now have to be sourced to fence the entire area to provide complete safety for the children and administrative staff. A preliminary figure for this next phase borders in the region of approximately EC$150,000.00. For the time being, this home will accommodate nine children – three boys, three girls and three infants. Advertisements are out for someone qualified, skilled and experienced to manage the home, which to my mind has the potential to evolve into an even bigger establishment given the recent incidences of child abuse recorded over the past months. There is need for other staff to manage and administer the home.
The VFCS has used several different ways of raising funds. These include sales of good quality donated clothing and household goods at a rented charity shop on Clarke Street and flea markets, stalls at special events such as Laborie Jazz, the sale of homemade products and crafts, beach BBQ’s and regular donations from benefactors. In fact, the business community has been very generous with monetary donations and pledges of goods and services. Over the last four years the group has been able to raise more than $250,000.00 to get the project started. On this note, I must make special mention of Sister Mary Lee who was very instrumental and had me to volunteer my time and services free to see this project reach this stage. She had to return last month to the United States to continue her services for the poor and needy.