First Lady lauds ‘Mission Child Protection'

Kaieteur News
April 10, 2007

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The Human Services Ministry should be highly lauded for undertaking an initiative which has served to rid the city streets of homeless children during the past month.

First Lady Varshnie Jagdeo made this observation during a recent interview when she noted that a venture of such nature has been needed for a very long time.

Through an initiative called ‘Mission Child Protection', which was launched in early March by the Human Services Ministry under the directive of Minister Priya Manickchand, more than 30 children have been rescued from life on the streets.

According to officials, the project was undertaken with the aim of enforcing the Ministry's mandate to protect vulnerable children and as such saw the construction of a facility suitable for housing those children.

Mrs Jagdeo revealed that though she was in India when the venture was introduced, upon her return she was briefed by the Minister of its existence. Accompanied by wife of the British High Commissioner, Sarah Wheeler, the first Lady said that she was taken to the facility where she was able to interact with the children.

And from the information she received, Mrs Jagdeo was able to infer that the state of the children had improved remarkably.

“The children have made great improvements from what I have been told of their conditions when they first went there. I hope that in a loving, caring and safe environment they will be able to thrive and become individuals that I know they have the potential to be.”

And the children's improvement, according to the First Lady, is evident in everything they do, especially their communication ability and their academic understanding.

“They are having classes there and they are learning about hygiene. They are learning how to be a part of the family structure they didn't have before.”

Reiterating her belief that the project is an excellent initiative the First Lady noted that the continued assistance of Government and Non-Governmental Organisations would become imperative in order to make the facility a permanent shelter where the children could get the long-term care they need.

And efforts are also being made to have the children enrolled into Government schools, a venture which is being supported by the Education Ministry, according to Minister within the Education Ministry, Dr Desrey Fox.

She pointed out that the government has a responsibility to make sure that street children are not only protected but are also exposed to a proper education. “We are definitely collaborating at all levels particularly with these children who are not in normal situations to ensure that they get their education.”

The facility, which caters for children aged four to 15, is not intended to be a prison, according to Ministry officials, but rather a rehabilitation centre where children are able to gain a new lease on life.

The Human Services Minister in an earlier interview had revealed, too, that the Ministry does not intend to keep the children but will rather endeavour to find their parents or any living relative who could adequately care for them.

And of those who were initially taken into the Ministry's custody a significant number has since been returned to families which are receiving assistance from the Ministry.

According to the Minister, efforts have been made to contact all parents in order to help them understand why their children were on the streets in the first place.

And several of these parents have since agreed to allow themselves to be monitored by Ministry officials.

“We believe some of these children can really turn into success stories and can go back to school and do things that a child coming out of a regular non-dysfunctional household can,” Minister Manickchand had noted.

At the facility the children are cared for by trained personnel and are afforded a homely environment which provides them with meals, recreational facilities and other necessities. They are also afforded health check-ups through the Human Services Ministry in collaboration with the Health Ministry.

The construction of the facility was made possible with the assistance of several Ministries and a few non-governmental organisations and serves as a more mandatory facility than the Drop-In Centre.