January 8, 2015
The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) recently continued its tradition of spreading Christmas cheer to the residents of Best Care Children's Home, even as the home faces possible closure at the end of this month.
Armed with toys, toiletries and food, the NEPA team sought to make the yuletide season that much brighter for the 40 wards at the home, located a stone's throw from the Agency's Head Office in Cross Roads.
NEPA's interaction with the home, which caters specifically to children with special needs, had its genesis in the Agency's desire to give back to society in a meaningful way. That was three years ago and now the mutually beneficial relationship is stronger than ever.
"Our last treat was particularly special because we visited expecting to bring gifts and entertain the kids, but they surprised us by putting on a mini concert which we thoroughly enjoyed," mused Environmental Officer at NEPA, Jodiel Ebanks.
Orville Johnson, Chairman of the Best Care Foundation which operates the children's home said that the team was very appreciative of the support it gets from entities like NEPA which choose to not only donate cash and kind but to spend time with the children.
"These donations are great as they help us to pay the bills and to cater to the children's physical needs. But the interaction with the children is just as important because it helps them (the wards) to develop their social skills," said Johnson.
He added that such activities are in keeping with the home's drive to ensure the children are well adjusted and able to become productive members of society.
However, a dark cloud looms overhead as the home may have to close its doors by month end due to financial woes.
"It takes approximately $24 million annually to run the children's home. While we get a subvention from the Government this only covers 45 per cent of our operating costs. We do fundraisers throughout the year to supplement this amount however given the tough economic times we are facing it has been difficult to make ends meet," said Johnson.
He added that Best Care Foundation currently has a $3 million deficit that if not met by the end of January would result in the home ceasing operations.
"We are heartened by the ad hoc contributions made by various members of the private and public sector, however what would really help us to remain afloat is a constant reliable inflow of funds each month, that way we would be guaranteed that we have the resources needed to meet the children's needs," he said.
Mr. Johnson says monetary contributions to the home can be made through the CIBC New Kingston Branch, account number 0111501518.
Peter Knight, Chief Executive Officer of NEPA said that he has already begun to rally his members of staff to contribute to this worthwhile cause and he would encourage other Heads of Agencies to do the same.
"Best Care Foundation provides a critical service by assisting in the development of children with special needs. I'm therefore calling on all Jamaicans to make a contribution, no matter how small to save this institution," said Knight.