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What they want for Christmas is a new bus

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
The home’s administrator Joanne George shows off the children’s many trophies in their television room. Photo: KRISTIAN DA SILVA

Christmas is the season of giving. While it would be hopeful at best to believe we are generous all year round, more likely than not Christmas is probably the peak time for charity.


A visit to the Couva Children’s Home and Crisis Nursery (CCHCN) proved it, as their Christmas cup runneth over.


Beverly John, chairman of the board at CCHCN, said during Christmas their children never wanted for food, clothes or toys. In fact, excess items were typically donated to other children’s homes in the community.


“Christmas is a nice time here,” she said happily, explaining there were abundant donations when it came to food and toys. She said people usually gave non-perishable items—but what the home really wants is its own bus.


“Our main stress is finding transportation when we have activities.”


She said a ride to MovieTowne, for instance, would cost about $600, which included paying a maxi for the day. Trips to church on a Sunday were difficult too, as members of the congregation within the community would offer to pick up children from the home.


“Santa would be really the sweetest man on earth if Christmas morning he could drive up here in a bus and give us the keys, and say, ‘This is yours,’” John said.


Director of Goodwill Barbara Alleyne shared John’s wish.


“What we are looking for most of all is our own bus,” she said via telephone.


Goodwill has a daily attendance of 120 children, exposing them to nine regular disciplines, as well as extra-curricular activities including woodwork and dressmaking.


Alleyne expressed similar feelings of happiness and abundance among the children at Christmas time.


“We get apples and pears. People get ice cream and bring for them. If you hand them a simple gift, they’re fine. It’s just one of those things,” Alleyne said.


Asked to describe Christmas Day at the home in Couva, John and Joanne George, the home’s administrator, lit up as they described excitedly and simultaneously a grand breakfast, prepared by the children.


“On Christmas morning, they make us breakfast. They set the table, cut up the ham, and they serve. It’s real nice,” John said with pride.


Later in the day, a truck with Santa Claus at the helm shows up, and distributes toys.


“They get a lot of stuff. We tell them to put aside one for a friend at school, and we save some gifts to give as rewards,” George said.


But what George and John said would be a welcome change was for people to contribute to a child’s account at Scotiabank. All 20 children who live there now have a trust with the bank, which will be handed over to them when they turn 18.


Finally, and probably the most frustrating of their needs is getting assistance from the government.


As governments change over the years, the process for approval for a subvention has been stalled, started over, and is currently being reviewed. 


Goodwill is approved for a subvention, but has not received it since September after being told repeatedly, “It’s being prepared.”


“What could we do? The last excuse was they had a change in staff. It’s rough,” Alleyne said.


Food, clothing, toys and books cannot pay for the counselling and workshops that are needed for children who have suffered emotional, physical and sexual abuse, and abandonment. Money is also needed to pay the salaries of those caregivers, like George, who say it’s a Sunday-to-Sunday job. They commit to spending their lives caring for and rehabilitating children, filling the roles of mother, aunt and grandmother. In these instances, some homes simply need money.


“For us, the most important thing people could do is make contributions of money,” John said, saying it would be used to build the home’s music room and possibly get a bus.


How to help


To help CCHCN get that much-needed bus, or build its music room, cheques can be made out to the Couva Children’s Home and Crisis Nursery and delivered to Camden Quarters 15, Couva. Or make direct deposits into Scotia Bank, San Juan branch, account number 1201462. For more information, call 679-2711 or e-mail: [email protected]. Goodwill needs financial assistance too. Help the cause by donating to Goodwill Industries at Royal Bank, account number 9411000921. ​


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