Barrett Town, Montego Bay
Montego Bay is the largest city on Jamaica’s northern coast. Around 1.2 million tourists visit Jamaica every year, and along with the capital Kingston in the south, Montego Bay is a key destination.
Many poor Jamaicans move to Montego Bay, believing its popularity with tourists will provide abundant opportunities for employment. Sadly, many migrants end up living in the slums which line the roads that lead into town.
A tainted paradise
Montego Bay is a popular holiday destination for wealthy Jamaicans from Kingston, many of whom have second homes here. Fine dining and plentiful shopping appeal to tourists from abroad as well, and the coastal landscape is dotted with villas, hotels and holiday resorts.
But alongside the wealth and glamour lies a world many tourists don’t get to see. High levels of crime, gang violence, and limited employment prospects are characteristic of Jamaica's urban centres. And children growing up in these dire conditions are exposed to the many hazards.
A vulnerable childhood
Some children are ensnared by the lure of gang culture, and particularly vulnerable are those growing up without their parents. Others are the only breadwinners in their families, either because they have lost their parents or because there is no work for adults. Forced to work long hours on the streets of Montego Bay, these children miss out on the education which might have helped them escape the cycle of poverty.
Our Children's Village in Barrett Town
Against this backdrop, we needed to act to help children and families affected by the terrible conditions faced by many Jamaicans living in Montego Bay. In 1972, we established our Village in the suburb of Barrett Town. Inaugurated by country singer Johnny Cash, a keen supporter of our work during his lifetime, the Village stands on a beautiful plot of land abundant with trees and fresh produce harvested by the families.
A nursery provides an introduction to education for children from the Village and beyond, and offers daycare to local mothers so that they can work to support their families. A primary school takes children on the next step of their academic career and once again is open to the local community as well as children from the Village.
The support we offer does not end with childhood. As young people near independence, an SOS Youth Home offers the opportunity to take their learning to the next level, with vocational training available to those wishing to pursue a career in trade, while higher education is offered to those with more academic aspirations. With the guidance of expert counsellors, young people also gain an insight into the challenges of independence, and prepare for success in adult life.
In Barrett Town, we offer children a way out of the hardship that affects so many, and a means of success in independent life.