One of the things I adore about Christmas is the increased service and volunteerism at this time of year. There are tonnes of Christmas drives and I get nostalgic remembering the high school tin food drives I used to host annually by that great institution located at 105 Hope Road for the Mustard Seed Community. Donating our time, talents and in cash or kind shows how much a little, when done consistently, can make a significant impact. There’s a lot to gain from living a selfless life and God blesses the cheerful giver.
Charity also reminds us that the things we often preoccupy ourselves with are rather trivial because there are a lot bigger problems out there affecting many in the real world like pain, infirmity, abuse and poverty. The unfortunate thing is that these causes exist year-round and need our support all year, but usually by January many are forgotten. I don’t suppose 2021 will be much different in that regard, but for now I’m drawing attention to some noble causes in Jamaica which deserve your awareness and support. A huge thank you goes to Matthew Chinn, an 876 Volunteer Ambassador and travel blogger I admire, for his assistance in putting together this piece.
Give The Gift Of Life
Jamaica doesn’t have many volunteer blood donors unfortunately. A lot of misconceptions about the process exist, and many Jamaicans harbour an irrational fear of needles. The process is very straightforward, efficient and a LOT LESS painful than you may imagine, and only a minority of people feel dizzy or weak afterwards despite the brochures advising you not to do anything strenuous for the rest of the day as an abundance of caution. Our blood shortage has been an omnipresent problem plaguing the delivery of healthcare in Jamaica, but in 2020 I saw it reach dire crisis levels, likely due to the reduction in blood drives because of the pandemic and postponement of elective surgeries which forces people to have ‘donor slips’ before getting their surgeries.
Picture this: a single gun shot victim can require 6 bags of packed red blood cells and two litres of fresh frozen plasma, which would require at least 6 donors. A patient with dengue haemorrhagic fever can take 10 bags of platelets, requiring 10 donors. Jaundiced or premature babies, and patients with kidney failure, sickle cell or undergoing chemotherapy often need blood products. I have seen people spend WEEKS in hospital waiting on the precious drop of life. I have seen people DIE waiting on blood and blood products as well, and they don’t often have rare blood types. Sometimes the unit of O positive blood (the world’s commonest blood type) they were waiting on for days gets reclaimed by the laboratory staff because a gunshot wound, stab or motor vehicle accident victim just presented to hospital, is actively bleeding and will die within minutes without a transfusion. Please, please, please donate blood if you can guys. The life you save may end up becoming your own. Follow the Blood Bank on Instagram for updates on blood drives or visit blood banks at major hospitals across the island to donate.
** Bonus tip: Carry proof of your recent blood donation and enjoy a 10% discount at Chilitos Jamexican Restaurant– another reason to love this restaurant. It makes my list of favourite restaurants in Kingston.
The Free Likkle Cupboard
Inspired by food drop-off donation boxes overseas, the Free Likkle Cupboard is a movement which aims to set up communal pantries in communities across Jamaica where people can drop off items like non-perishable food, personal hygiene items, school supplies and books for those in need to pick up! The first likkle cupboard was set up next to the Irieracing Moto Shop at 37 Shortwood Road. Its founders anticipate that more will be set up across Kingston, and possibly even across the entire island. I hope the items end up in the right hands, and that this cupboard is waterproof because the weather in Jamaica has been rather out of character these last few weeks! Check them out on Instagram if interested.
Riverton City Toy Drive
Their promotion flyer is self-explanatory. Support if you can.
Become A Friend Of The Blue Mountains
Donating toys and food around Christmas time is always in vogue but environmental causes need our support too, especially in Jamaica where our leaders neglect the environment in terms of policy-making, enforcing and funding. My favourite place in Jamaica is the Blue Mountains so becoming a friend of the Blue Mountains is a no-brainer. They ask for a donation of $4,000JMD from individual contributors annually, and this allows one to take part in decision-making activities which guide the Jamaica Conservation & Development Trust. If you’ve ever enjoyed Holywell, Portland Gap, the Blue Mountain Peak trail or anywhere else in this lovely protected park and UNESCO World Heritage Site, I suggest donating to assist the Trust in carrying out their work. They’re doing a great job with reforestation, invasive species control, trail and recreational site maintenance and public education in buffer zone communities. The Trust is a registered charity that’s partially government-funded, and the rest of its budget consists of donations from individuals and corporate sponsors. Visit their website here.
Another environmental group worth supporting as well is the Jamaica Environment Trust.
CPFSA Take a Child Home for Christmas Programme
I suspect this programme is currently on hold because of the pandemic, but the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) usually allows persons and families to host a child or children from state care in their homes for a day or more during Christmas. This programme has been in place for over 10 years and is apart of the agency’s mandate to promote reintegration of displaced children into new homes and families. To participate, interested persons must be at least 25 years old, complete an application form and submit 2 Justice of the Peace references and valid identification. These persons are then subject to an interview, background check and home assessment to ensure they are responsible individuals, and have proper facilities like suitable sleeping arrangements. If you’re interested in foster care or adoption, bonding with a child over the holidays via this programme may be a good starting place. Visit their website or give the agency a call to find out more.
Remember what I said in the introduction about causes needing our attention not just at Christmas but 365 days a year? So many of us would love to help by donating extra tin food from our cupboards, those items of clothes we seldom wore but are in excellent condition, those clothes we ordered online which didn’t fit right, or we have free time which could be put to good use. That’s where 876 Volunteer comes in. 876 Volunteer is a directory for various volunteer projects and charities around Jamaica, connecting good hearts to good causes. Follow them on Instagram and support any charities which tug on your heartstrings.
Other Reputable Charities Worth Supporting
- Mustard Seed Communities is a Catholic non-profit organization which cares for over 500 of the most vulnerable children in society across 10 homes, many of whom have physical and mental disabilities.
- Salvation Army Caribbean Territory Headquarters at 3 Waterloo Road, Kingston 10 (across from Devon House). Feel free to donate furniture, clothes and other items in good condition which you no longer have use for. You can also drop your change into their pans set up inside large malls at Christmas time to support. Every mickle mek a muckle.
- Missionaries of the Poor, a Catholic faith-based organization, which also cares for some of our country’s most vulnerable in Downtown, Kingston. This was founded right here in Jamaica by The Very Reverend Father HoLung, and has since grown to over 550 Brothers and Sisters from 13 countries.
- Food for the Poor Jamaica is Jamaica’s largest charity and helps by donating food, building houses and assisting people in establishing livelihoods.
Please support at least one charity if you can, and keep an eye out for ways to assist fellow Jamaicans who were impacted by the heavy rains in October and November. Read other posts in this Blogmas series, and visit my social media pages to see what’s the big deal about Blogmas 2020 on Adventures from Elle.