Jer­main De­foe and Vieux-Fort So­ci­ety team up for Home

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By

Nasha Smith

Af­ter an ex­ten­sive dry spell in Saint Lu­cia, the rain came down on a gath­er­ing atop a hill in Aupi­con, Vieux-Fort on Thurs­day af­ter­noon. But it did not dampen any spir­its, rather it was re­ceived as a bless­ing for the new Chil­dren’s Home ex­pected to oc­cupy the site in the next few years. Thanks to a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the Vieux-Fort Chil­dren’s So­ci­ety and the Jer­main De­foe Foun­da­tion, a safe haven will be avail­able for those in dire need. And ac­cord­ing to so­ci­ety mem­ber Ju­lia Ed­win, it’s long over­due.

“The chil­dren in the south need pro­tec­tion and find it dif­fi­cult to get place­ment. The ab­sence of a Chil­dren’s Home in the south leaves our chil­dren with­out a place of safety and a place of pro­tec­tion from abuse and harm. Many re­main in the abu­sive en­vi­ron­ment and thus a cy­cle of abuse con­tin­ues. How­ever, the estab­lish­ment of the Chil­dren’s Home in Vieux- Fort will pro­vide a place of safety and as­sist par­ents to de­velop skills that will help them make choices which are more re­spon­si­ble and ben­e­fi­cial to their chil­dren. In ad­di­tion, the Chil­dren’s Home in­tends to pro­vide ther­a­peu­tic sup­port, em­ploy­ment and train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Since open­ing its doors in 2010 the Vieux-Fort Chil­dren’s So­ci­ety has worked dili­gently to raise funds and source part­ners to build the home. When the Jer­main De­foe Foun­da­tion launched in June 2013 and agreed to part­ner, it was a match made in heaven. One of the peo­ple who knew the plight and strug­gle of the project was so­ci­ety pa­tron Gover­nor Gen­eral Dame Pear­lette Louisy.

“I would like to ex­press my sin­cer­est thanks to the Jer­main De­foe Foun­da­tion for com­ing in and re­ally as­sist­ing in what is un­doubt­edly a most wor­thy cause. I’m not quite sure but I may have been in­vited to be pa­tron be­cause of my po­si­tion but it could have been per­haps I am from the south as well. I no­ticed that work has al­ready started and I am re­ally look­ing for­ward to the estab­lish­ment of the Vieux-Fort Chil­dren’s Home.”

The day was an es­pe­cially poignant one for foun­da­tion name­sake Jer­main De­foe, a Lon­don-born foot­ball star for Sun­der­land who is the off­spring of a Saint Lu­cian mother. De­foe spent a great deal of his child­hood on the is­land vis­it­ing rel­a­tives and, to­gether with his fam­ily, felt the strong de­sire to ‘pay it for­ward’ to his ‘home away from home.’

“I would just like to first of all thank God be­cause with­out God none of this would have been pos­si­ble. I would like to thank ev­ery­one who was in­volved in mak­ing this hap­pen. It started off with a dream and a vi­sion. We sat down as a fam­ily and just spoke about giv­ing some­thing back. This is­land for me is home. I re­mem­ber com­ing here from the age of one or two by my Nan’s house not too far away, play­ing foot­ball on the streets with my cousins. I just feel blessed in life. So I just sat with my fam­ily and we truly be­lieve that we can make a dif­fer­ence, make a change. And that’s why we came up with the Jer­main De­foe Foun­da­tion. It’s been an un­be­liev­able and hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence.”

De­foe’s mother, San­dra St He­len echoed her son and en­cour­aged oth­ers to do more than just pay lip ser­vice.

“We rec­og­nize that ev­ery­thing and the sup­port net­work was pre­dom­i­nantly at the other end of the is­land and so, with re­search, we re­al­ized there wasn’t much sup­port down south. We sat down as a fam­ily and de­cided rather than sit down and com­plain and talk about it, let’s be proac­tive, be­cause we can. Talk is cheap. It’s not in the talk, it’s in the walk. If you are in a po­si­tion to make a dif­fer­ence, you should do so.”

And that they did by or­ga­niz­ing, within three months, a gala din­ner in Lon­don which raised over 100,000 pounds to­wards the project.

Founder and chair­per­son of the Vieux-Fort Chil­dren’s So­ci­ety, Bev­er­lyn John was over­come with emo­tion at the ma­te­ri­al­iza­tion of the long­time dream.

“I’m try­ing to hold back the tears. It’s been a long time, a re­ally long time com­ing. We’ve worked hard and we are so pleased for the sup­port we’ve had from so many per­sons. It’s a priv­i­lege to be here to­day to give this vote of thanks not just for the home but for the sup­port of every­body, for be­liev­ing in us and keep­ing the dream alive es­pe­cially when there are times that we think it’s not go­ing to work, some­thing hap­pens to say keep go­ing,” John said.

The con­tin­gent per­formed the cer­e­mo­nial sod-turn­ing with a bless­ing from Dr So­nia Hinds and amid sev­eral stunning song ren­di­tions from the La­borie Girls’ School Choir.

De­foe and his mother at sod-turn­ing cer­e­mony.

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