Philanthropy is alive and well in Jamaica; but the need is great. Our vulnerable children and adolescents need help. On the north coast of the island, the Issa Trust Foundation (which has been working in Jamaica for the past 17 years) is planning to make a difference to their physical and mental wellbeing by building a free non-governmental clinic on a donated lot of land at Richmond Estates, twenty minutes from Ocho Rios in St. Ann. The Foundation is seeking to start construction by early 2023 and to begin operations as early as 2024.
The clinic will focus on pediatric and adolescent patients up to age 19 years old. The Trust is looking for co-funding partners, and fundraising is well under way. The aim is to create an atmosphere that engages both patients and families in multifaceted services addressing physical, mental, and social support needs. It’s the holistic approach. In addition to offering preventative and curative pediatric care and adolescent services, the centre plans to operate specialty clinics, cardiac, nephrology, gastroenterology, mental health support, oncology, vision, and hearing tests. The centre will also serve children and adolescents from other regions on the island, as well as offer rotation programs for U.S. doctors to partner with local Jamaican doctors.
What are some of the areas that the Foundation hopes the centre will help to address? Mental health is a particular concern. According to UNICEF, the COVID-19 pandemic has made matters worse, globally and on our island. Already, Jamaica has been lagging behind international standards in terms of its capacity to deliver mental health services to its population. Nationally, the ratio of psychiatrists to patients is 1:1,582 and the ratio of community mental health officers/nurses to patients is 1:306; this is compared to 1:150 and 1:50 internationally, respectively.
Jamaica also has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the Caribbean, according to UNICEF’s Situation Analysis of Children in Jamaica, 2018. Seventy of every 1,000 births are to an adolescent girl. Teenage pregnancy is twelve times more likely among the poorest households, and is the primary cause of dropouts from secondary school among girls.
The Issa Trust Foundation hopes eventually to expand the clinic’s services beyond the parishes of St. Ann and St. Mary, offering specialty clinics and partnering with other parishes and organisations such as Chain of Hope in opening cardiac clinics for children. It’s all about partnerships, and building on a concept.
The Foundation has already been involved in supporting public hospitals around the island with neonatal and pediatric care, including at the St. Ann’s Bay Hospital, where it helped remodel and provide new equipment for the neonatal wards at a cost of US$267,000. They do not simply donate equipment; they also train Jamaican doctors and nurses on the equipment, and offer biomedical engineering support to train the medical staff on how to maintain and repair equipment.
How can you help the Issa Trust Foundation in this venture? Well, you can buy a ticket (or two) for their “For The Children” Gala at the famous Sony Hall in New York on November 12, 2022. The legendary Third World will provide amazing music and there will be a special surprise guest performer. Tickets are US$350 each, or you can book a table. If you are not able to go, why not make a donation, anyway.
About the Issa Trust Foundation
A U.S.-based 501c3 nonprofit organization, the Issa Trust Foundation (issatrustfoundation.com) focuses on pediatric care for children in Jamaica. The foundation was formed in 2005 by Couples Resorts. It has conducted numerous medical missions across the island over the last 17 years. In the last 8 years, the foundation has focused its efforts on neonatal care in St. Mary and Westmoreland. ITF created a neonatal model at St. Ann’s Bay Hospital, lowering mortality rates in 4 years by 60 percent. The model included donations of equipment such as neonatal ventilators and training of doctors and nurses, along with biomedical engineering training on how to maintain critical care equipment. ITF implemented the same model to Sav La Mar Hospital in Westmoreland. ITF partners with many top 10 nonprofits such as Direct Relief, Bridge of Life, and Partners For World Health.