It’s always a fearful thing when the hero needs to be rescued.
Rainbow Rescue is a home for boys who have no homes, between the ages of eight and 18. For the past 14 years, the home has provided what is essentially parenting for more than 100 boys, from boys plucked out of the desolate streets of Port-of-Spain to boys forcibly taken away from neglectful and abusive parents. These boys have nowhere else to go and no one else to turn to. The home’s current location is a modest three-bedroom house on Jerningham Avenue in Belmont. It houses 13 children. In the small front yard is an area designated for football.
The back story
Almost 16 years ago, Judy Wilson, a businesswoman, decided she wanted to volunteer and give back to the community. She talked to some friends about feeding the homeless, but was given horror stories about crazy vagrants chasing after people and so steered clear of that particular cause. While in church one day she came across a story about homeless children and later on volunteered at a home in Port-of-Spain. In that time, she started doing outreach projects, going to Port-of-Spain and talking to homeless children, trying to persuade them to stay at a home. “It’s hard for them to adjust. They get used to the freedom and wildness of living on the street and being given a schedule and having to stay indoors becomes unnatural to them,” Wilson tells me. Somewhere along the line, the children at the home she volunteered with began coming to her home. She would feed them and talk to them and try to help where she could. “One morning, I woke up and saw two of the boys sleeping in my yard. When I asked them about it, they told me they could not go back because after three strikes, they were out.” Wilson said she persuaded the co-ordinator at the home to take the boys back. Shortly after, she found herself housing children at her own home. The boys she cared for at the time came directly from the streets, and brought with them the habits learned there—lying, stealing, obscenities and fighting. She subsequently started Rainbow Rescue at a house in St James and moved two years later to a property in Belmont leased to her by the North West Regional Health Authority.
“There was a man named ‘Tony’. He was a street vendor and he would sell things children would like - candy, stickers and small toys. I found out about him while talking to the homeless children during my outreach projects,” Wilson said. She said she found out Tony was using the things he sold to trap the young children. At night he would take them to an abandoned lot of land at Green Corner and would have sex with them there. “When I found out it became something of a war between Tony and me as I tried to get the children away. They were vulnerable and he offered them a form of protection that they weren’t getting. “When I did manage to get them away from Tony, though, I had nowhere to put them, so I took them home and they stayed at my house in Maraval.” Wilson recalls that those were some of the most difficult boys she has had to deal with. “I remember standing between two boys with knives in a bathroom.”
Today, the children who go to Rainbow Rescue are usually delivered there by social services or the police, and instead of fighting and stealing, Wilson and her staff have to help defuse anger and hurt and feelings of abandonment. The home caters to the children’s basic needs, arranges for them to see psychologists and engages them in sporting activities as often as possible. The first set of boys have now become men, most with their own homes, and visit Rainbow Rescue occasionally. “One of them came just the other day to bring me a wedding invitation,” Wilson said.
The happy ending?
It is not yet a happy-ever-after story. The home is in the process of relocating to a building in Maraval—a building that is almost a shell and is very much in need of extensive repairs. The relocation is necessary because they were told the NWRHA building they called home was needed to form part of the Port-of-Spain General Hospital. Wilson faces an estimated cost of $1 million in order to bring it up to scratch. The home has managed to raise almost half of the funds but is still attempting to get the rest. “Several people made promises to us. They committed to donating funds to renovate the Maraval building. But we haven’t received anything from them yet. We just hope they haven’t forgotten about us,” she said. Even with the promised funds, Rainbow Rescue will not have enough to completely fix the deplorable conditions at the Maraval building, renovations that were set back even further last year when flooding devastated the area. “So far we have only completed the roof.” The home will be having a brunch soon to raise more funds. In addition, it costs an average $60,000 a month to run the home, including salaries, utility, grocery and other expenses.
In a previous interview Wilson said 80 per cent of the monthly expenditure was raised through private donations. The hero has not yet been rescued but Wilson believes with the necessary help, that will happen in the next chapter.