St. John Jamaica’s Volunteers of Hope for Children, Families Affected by HIV/AIDS


What do you know about the Order of St. John, and its work in Jamaica for the past 115 years?  Well, in future posts I will be telling you more about this effective, professional, faith-based non-profit organization that quietly goes about its work caring for the health of the Jamaican people – and people all over the world. It is an extraordinary and unique organization in many ways. Please find below a press release from St. John Jamaica regarding a USAID-funded project in support of orphans and vulnerable children and their families. At the closing workshop, our Children’s Advocate praised St. John Jamaica for putting service into practice. The St. John Ambulance Association of Jamaica deserves our support.

Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison speaks at the closing workshop to the St. John Jamaica Volunteers of HOPE. (Photo: St. John Jamaica)
Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison speaks at the closing workshop to the St. John Jamaica Volunteers of HOPE. (Photo: St. John Jamaica)

Children’s Advocate lauds St John’s Volunteers of Hope Initiative

Children’s Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison has lauded St John Ambulance Association of Jamaica for its Volunteers of Hope initiative which seeks to develop a corps of caring and sensitive volunteers committed to helping orphans, vulnerable children (OVC) and their families impacted by HIV AIDs by providing psychosocial and educational support.

This is part of a multimillion dollar project funded by USAID and managed by World Learning, through which three NGO’s received funds to support a four (4) month project to positively impact OVC and their families in various parishes. Some of the project activities were: (i) strengthening families as primary caregivers of children; (ii) strengthening systems to support improved linkages, both at the community and national levels; and (iii) increasing access to OVC essential services, including education and health care.

Speaking at a closing collaborative workshop recently held at St John National Headquarters in Kingston, Mrs. Gordon Harrison congratulated the Organisation on its 115th anniversary of outstanding service to the nation underscoring that volunteerism is truly well and alive in Jamaica. “This initiative coming from outside of the state to serve this special vulnerable community is a welcome one and demonstrates what true service is all about..it is not pure lip service,” she stated.

The indefatigable Dr. Jennifer Knight-Johnson (right) Rev Fr. Garth Minott, Chairman of Jamaica Aids Support and Dr Jennifer Knight Johnson, Project Management Specialist at the USAID Project sponsors share a light moment.
The indefatigable Dr. Jennifer Knight-Johnson (right) Project Management Specialist at USAID Jamaica, shares a light moment with Rev Fr. Garth Minott, Chairman of Jamaica AIDS Support for Life and Alison Christie Binger, Executive Director, St. John Jamaica. (Photo: St. John Jamaica)

Pointing to statistics provided by the Ministry of Health, Mrs. Gordon Harrison stated that the age range between 15-19 represents the onset of sexual expression and activity among children. She noted that children needed to be protected from all circumstances that could lead to any type of abuse. This includes sexual abuse which may result in the transfer of HIV AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Mrs. Gordon Harrison lamented the disproportionate number of girls who continue to be abused by men, some of whom are afflicted with sexually transmitted diseases. She mentioned that this practice is permeated within a culture which suggests that sex with virgins, though taboo, will lead to a cure. She also underscored the growing incidence of sexual exploitation of the nation’s boys at the hands of grown men. “Child sex exploitation and abuse, transactional sex due to economic considerations in the home, are prevalent. The level of conviction of sexual perpetrators is low. Children need proper guidance to make right choices. What is also needed is age appropriate sexual education so that children can be aware of some of the consequences of sexual activity,” she proffered.

Alison Christie Binger, Executive Director of St John Jamaica explained that the workshop series which began over the summer had been “an enlightening, energising and rewarding journey for our volunteer corps. We have been using our 115th anniversary to build the capacity of our volunteers in critical areas to better serve our country especially vulnerable groups. We successfully engaged over 50 volunteers including several St John Master trainers who are Voluntary Counselling and Testing Certified Specialists.” Noting that a number of St John volunteers had already been working with OVCs, she commended and thanked the entire team for “wholeheartedly showing great enthusiasm for the program, their willingness to be fully engaged and their commitment to serve.”

Some 15 persons will be initially targeted to provide support to OVC and their families under the initiative with the guidance and mentorship of several of St John Master Trainers /VCT Counsellors. We hope to forge firm partnerships with entities such as Mustard Seed Communities, Eve for Life and Jamaica AIDS Support which will allow us to leverage our strength in the area of first aid and provide value added life enhancing services, including psychosocial support, first aid training for children, families and caregivers,” she added.

The volunteers listen closely. (Photo: St. John Jamaica)
The volunteers listen closely. (Photo: St. John Jamaica)

On a final note of encouragement, Mrs. Gordon Harrison said “St John Jamaica Volunteers of HOPE is a valuable program. I am very confident about the sustainability of this initiative. 115 years of service is nothing to sneeze at. What better way can an organisation celebrate such a major milestone than to give back to the community through selfless service and by way of an important programme as Project HOPE? You will certainly add significant value to the lives you will touch,” she told the volunteers.

St John Jamaica is a part of the Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John Of Jerusalem. Surviving over 9 centuries and accredited to the United Nations, St John, a world leader in first aid is a global, voluntary, charitable organization committed to enhancing the well being of mankind to prevent and relieve sickness and injury without prejudice.

The Jamaica Project Hope HIV Counselling capacity building program was delivered by a top flight faculty drawn from the University Hospital of the West Indies, Child Development Agency, the Police, St John Jamaica VCT Specialists- Chaplain and Master Trainers, OVC Resource Centres and Donors and covered several crucial topics. These included the status of OVCs worldwide, regionally and in Jamaica, UN Conventions on the Rights of the Child, HIV Voluntary Counselling and Testing, Engaging OVC-Building Trust and Confidence, Caring for OVC and promoting their total well being, St John Health Care, Child Care and Vulnerable Adult Policies, Jamaica’s Child Care and Protection Laws, the roles of the Child Development Agency and the Office of the Children’s Registry as well as collaborative partnership opportunities with OVC Resource Centres.

St. John Jamaica is at 

(l-r) Alison Christie Binger, Executive Director, St. John Jamaica, Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison andVenerable Patrick Cunningham , Chaplain of St John view the St John First Aid Manual. (Photo: St. John Jamaica)
(l-r) Alison Christie Binger, Executive Director, St. John Jamaica, Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison and Venerable Patrick Cunningham , Chaplain of St John view the St John First Aid Manual. (Photo: St. John Jamaica)

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