Trinidadians from all walks of life have come together in an astounding display of generosity and comradeship to make the ultimate Christmas present possible– a brand-new home for the boys of Rainbow Rescue. The home for abandoned boys was previously based in a house in Belmont which was falling apart and had become too small to accommodate the children.
Then, in October,2011, the government granted them a lease on a dilapidated building at 2 Saddle Road, Maraval, that had no functional infrastructure and was being used by vagrants. The home's director, Judy Wilson, then turned to the public for assistance. Hundreds of individuals and corporations responded to her call, chipping in with cash and material donations to fund the $2 million needed to make the building habitable for the children.
"When we got the place it was just more or less a shell. There was no electricity, there was no water, we had to start from scratch," Wilson told the T&T Guardian. "There are those who have given us big things and those who have given us little things, and to me everyone is equally important. Two companies donated tiles, a doctor got her friend to provide us with 40 containers of paint, a company donated solar panels that they still have to come and install–and there's just so much more things."
The newly refurbished home is a two-storey building with much more space and can comfortably house up to 14 children. Downstairs, there is a reception area and some office spaces for staff. Also on the ground floor, there is a classroom equipped with computers where the children will receive lessons from volunteers, and a large kitchen with a side door opening into a garage with a foosball table.
Upstairs is the dormitory with bunk beds, the bathroom and the television room. It has been 15 years since Wilson first devoted herself to the cause of looking after abandoned children. Previous articles printed in the Guardian have described the struggles she faced in the early years, caring for children who came from the street. The children would fight, steal and vandalise. This lingering image caused some anxiety to Maraval residents when they found out the home would be moving to their community soon.
"There was a little concern from some of the neighbours, afraid that little criminals were coming in the neighbourhood," Wilson admitted. "But this was 15 years ago, when we had street children. It's no longer like that. Now we take the children directly from their homes when social services bring them to us."
In trying to explain the difference in how the home operated from its inception to now, she said,"The police just brought a little one last week, of 14 years. If you see how tiny he is–and he was the breadwinner for his four younger siblings. He's never gone to school or anything like that. "We went to MovieTowne the other night and it was the first time he had ever seen a movie. He wasn't out getting into any mischief, he was too busy looking after his family."
When asked what the home still needed for Christmas, Wilson said cash donations. She said a lot of people preferred to give material items so they knew for sure that their money was used to the benefit of the boys, but the home costs approximately $60,000 a month to run, only a quarter of which is funded by the government. The rest comes from private donations. The children themselves are eagerly looking forward to their first Christmas in the new home.
One of them described the new home as refreshing and they all said it was a gigantic improvement from their previous place in Belmont, Port-of-Spain. The boys, like all children, would love to have things like a ripstik, a Nintendo 3DS and cell phones as Christmas gifts. But among the requests that the children made was one for school supplies: notebooks, copybooks, school bags and geometry sets. Wilson urged people wishing to give gifts to contact the home first at 622-1200, so they won't end up with too many of the same items.