Update from Christmas 2009
Compliments of the holiday season to you from our family at the SOS Children’s Village, Stony Hill, Kingston, Jamaica. As we write we are making preparations for our end of year activities. It is at this time that we take an opportunity to reflect on the year and bring you, our many friends and sponsors, up to speed on what has being happening on the village over the course of the year. This year, though it had challenges, was a fulfilling one. We presently care for 127 children who include 22 boys and 9 girls in our Youth Facilities and 96 boys and girls on the village.
The year began with many activities and continued throughout the year. In March 12 children sat the Grade Six Assessment Test (GSAT) and were successfully placed in high schools. In June, 11children graduated from the SOS Nursery School and Preparatory School. One youngster was awarded a very prestigious scholarship to a prominent high which assisted with his school expenses. We also experience success from children who sat the Grade Nine Assessment Test (GNAT). Three young ladies were placed in traditional high schools: 2 young ladies enrolled in skills training in a two year programme and are both excited at the prospect of the experience.
This year we successfully reintegrated one young lady into independent living and is pursuing studies to qualify her on becoming a nurse. Though we said farewell, the parting was bitter sweet. While we know she had to leave us at some point, when the time comes it is very hard to say good bye. We wish her continued success and will be ready to assist if she so needs us.
Our mother’s day celebrations in May was low keyed this year but our mothers all enjoyed their gifts and the treat coordinated by some of the children who have moved on from the village and are now living independently. May also marked the annual celebration for International Child’s Month. SOS Children’s Village Stony Hill, took the celebrations seriously and with the assistance of some community groups, we had various “little” celebrations weekly. These took the form of spelling competitions (which the children looked forward to and thoroughly enjoyed); there were church services and also other activities that took place either at the village or at other venues in the wider community.
The Labour Day holiday, also in May, was a very productive one for Stony Hill as we had the generous assistance of a few community groups who were willing to assist us with the beautification of our property. The rains came but we were not to be deterred from our goal, which was to plant flowers and have some painting done. The day was very fruitful as we earned some new friends to the Village and got a facelift in the same day.The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th each year. This year we made all the preparation to deal with the season given the recent active seasons we have experienced. As the season is near an ending and without any activity, thankfully we still remain vigilant, and monitor all weather activities and keep our hurricane equipment and supply up to date.
July this year marked a huge change in the leadership of our national association. Anita Tharpe who served us for 5 years as National Director resigned and Gregory Wint took up the position and we wish him the best in his new position.
During the summer the children were involved in several activities both on and off the village. There were many invitations for summer camps and other activities which included football, basketball and arts and crafts. There was swimming classes as well and one group even learnt to speak basic Japanese writing their names. An aunt who is exceptional at art and craft undertook a class at the village and engaged the children in a series of Paper Mache, etching and crocheting and collages and other interesting pieces of needle work.
In September we welcomed a new village director in the person of Paul Osbourne and we are very happy to have him join our family. He is very enthusiastic about the activities for the remainder of the year and is already putting in plans in place the year 2010 and beyond. A new youth facility for boys was also opened in September and we were happy to promote an aunt to the position of acting youth leader for one of the boys’ facility. The boys have settled in quite well and have made their new house into a comfortable home.
While we embrace the successes we must also reflect on the challenges faced this year. We said goodbye to one of our much loved youngsters who lost his life in a most unfortunate turn of events this summer. The incident; while a very sad one our family has somehow served as a bonding agent as it has brought us much closer than we have ever been. The support of each other helped us to brave the turmoil that death brings and we are now functioning all the better for that experience.
We hope to add another 5 children to our family as we are in the final stages of admission and hope to have them integrated within a family in time for the Christmas celebrations. Along with these children we hope to ensure that our staff complement is adequate and are seeking the services of 3 additional aunts to complete our staffing. We anticipate that these vacancies will be filled soon as we are already in the process. There is also a vacancy for a Social Worker, which should be filled shortly. A Family Coach will also join our staff in a matter of weeks to assist the mother and aunts in developing each child’s full potential. We look forward to the addition and the exciting times ahead.
From the Stony Hill community and the wider Kingston and St. Andrew area we have had numerous service clubs, church groups and community groups pledging there continued support for the rest of the year and into the New Year.
Before the end of the year, the mothers and aunts will undergo computer applications training. This will equip them with the necessary tools to help their children with assignments and simple research techniques. There are two treats and a fun day planed for the village during the Christmas season. The children will also be aided in the preparation for the end of term examinations. We look forward to their success in these examinations and the continued success in their educational development. We hope to get our educational resource centre open for our village as a Christmas present.
This year with all its challenges, was still a good one for the SOS Children’s Village, Stony Hill. From the family on “the hill” to your family, we would like to say thank you for your wonderful support and your continued dedication to the children and the work done in their lives. We wish for you a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous and productive New Year.