The Supreme Ventures Foundation’s Memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Education, Youth & Information for the upgrading of fire safety equipment in children’s homes across the island is gaining momentum with the completed installation of new equipment in six homes, including two in the Mustard Seed Community.
So far, under the programme, equipment has been installed at six facilities — Yadel Home for Girls in Old Harbour; Strathmore Place of Safety in Spanish Town; Reddie’s Place of Safety in Kingston and Homestead Place of Safety in Stony Hill, St Andrew.
Two homes within the Mustard Seed Community, Sophia’s Place in Gordon Town and Mahoe Drive, have been fully installed with work on the Gift of Hope facility in Spur Tree, Manchester to begin shortly.
Under the MoU, which has a cap of $40 million over three years, 50 children’s homes will receive new fire safety equipment and supplemental training by the Jamaica Fire Brigade.
The agreement was signed between the SVF Chairman, Peter McConnell and then state Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture, Floyd Green, earlier this year in the presence of critical stakeholders the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) and the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB).
The programme was launched by the foundation approximately one year to the date of the tragic fire at Walker’s Place of Safety that claimed the lives of two children.
SVF Director Heather Goldson says that after donating $10 million to the rebuilding of the Walker’s Place of Safety, the foundation sought to take more long-term steps to address the issue of fire safety in children’s homes which gave rise to the MoU.
“Children in State care are a key mandate for our foundation, so we feel compelled to assist in whatever way we can to improving the well-being of this vulnerable group. The spate of deadly fires in recent times prompted an in-depth assessment of the homes across the island to identify gaps in the fire safety preparedness, equipment and training. We want to play our part in improving this situation,” she said.
Goldson noted that while some of the homes already have fire equipment and underwent training by the Fire Brigade, there is the need to modernise and upgrade the systems that exist, as well as to reinforce the training of administrative staff and housemothers.
“We applaud the efforts of the government agencies and the Fire Brigade for what they have done so far, and we are humbled to be able to step in and boost their efforts, improving the systems and reinforcing the knowledge base of the housemothers and their teams. We visited Homestead recently and brought the Fire Brigade with us to meet with the housemothers there and they had so many questions about fire safety that were able to be addressed on the spot,” she said.
Work is slated to begin at four other homes — Elsie Bernard Home for Girls in Kingston; Maxfield Park Children’s Home; St Augustine Place of Safety and St Monica’s Girls Home. They are anticipated to be completed by the end of this year.
CEO of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) Rosalee Gage-Grey says the assistance the programme offers comes at an opportune time.
“We are so grateful to the Supreme Ventures Foundation for stepping in at this time with a multifaceted programme that acknowledges that training is just as important as the fire alarm system itself. Fire safety is critical for every child and even more so for children in State care and this programme seeks to create a network of stakeholders working to ensure their preparedness in a fire emergency,” she said.