Thursday 5th June 2003

Rainbow home in need of rescue
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By Shirvan Williams

Rainbow Rescue, a home for socially displaced, homeless and hard-to-handle boys, has found a new site in Belmont.

But repairs to the new premises will take three months, and the shelter has only a month to vacate its present location at Bournes Road, St James.

The new home, at Jerningham Avenue, Belmont, will cost a good deal of money to repair.

“We have received Government assistance,” said Judy Wilson, CEO and programme co-ordinator of Rainbow Rescue. “(Trade and Industry Minister) Ken Valley was really instrumental in getting this place for us.”

But so far this is all the assistance offered by the Government.

The building comes rent-free with the condition that it must be repaired by the home. The cost of repairs is yet to be determined. But the estimate for the work on the roof alone is $80,000.

The new site is being leased to the shelter for two years by the North West Regional Health Authority.

Refurbishing the new residence will be a challenge for the home, as it survives solely by the grace of sponsors.

“The building is structurally sound, but front and back will have to be redone. It hasn’t been inhabited for the last 20 years,” said June Gardner, president of Rainbow Rescue.

“Pigeons and vagrants have lived in it for some time. The roof has to be broken down. The wall where the kitchen is, is cracked all over and the entire kitchen will have to be redone. The beams of the building have been eaten and rotted by termites.”

But it will not be the first challenge that the home has endured, she said.

In the last three years, more than 25 boys have found shelter at Rainbow Rescue.

Children are allowed in the home from age nine and can stay until they are 19. Wilson said all of her students are prepared for independent living by that age.

“We don’t throw them out. We make sure they can get on their feet,” she said.

Wilson began her career as a caregiver six years ago at Credo House, a shelter for homeless children in Port-of-Spain.

She recalled going to Woodford Square at 5 am looking for needy children.

“I’ve been to every nook and cranny of Trinidad trying to find street children,” she said.

Wilson has four children of her own and said it breaks her heart to see children living on the street,

“There was a need for help. It started off as just a gesture: I would give Christmas lunch to street children. Then I realised there was a need for more homes because the number of street children is the fastest-growing homeless population in Trinidad,” she said.

When she first started Rainbow Rescue, it was out of her own home.

“We dropped the children to school so there was no passage to pay. I had to buy extra food, but other than that it was manageable,” said Wilson.

The home now has four caregivers who work shifts around the clock, so the 13 children are never left unsupervised.

Some children come to the home from off the streets, others from abusive homes, and the rest display out-of-control behaviour that their parents can’t handle, said Wilson.

“A lot of children run away from home because of their stepfathers. The mothers have to decide between this child that is giving trouble or the man that is providing for her and the rest of children. They usually choose the man.”

Most of the children who live at the home were enrolled in school before, she said. They are therefore kept in school, but Wilson admits they are not all academically inclined.

“We found that some of the children enrolled in school were not learning. They were moving up, but could not read. Thanks to bpTT and their sponsored learning programme we were able to give them extra lessons at home,” Wilson said.

“By providing them with a more private setting, they are improving.

“We try to find something they like and develop them as best as we can. For example, one of our students loves landscaping. We will make sure he can read and have the basics and get him involved in landscaping as much as possible.”

Rainbow Rescue’s biggest contributor is the Rockefeller Foundation.

“The Rockefeller Foundation has kept us on our feet. Other people give regularly as well. The British High Commission furnished the home. There is a pensioner who gives us $200 a month, religiously,” Wilson said.

Many of the children have slight mental disorders and need more psychological help, Gardner said.

“Many of these children are dealing with anger, hatred and rejection. They have no conscience because of all the abuse. Sometimes children’s homes cannot help,” she said.

At present Rainbow Rescue provides part-time psychological care according to the availability and price range of psychologists.

There is a need for a remedial school where children like these can receive long-term psychological care, she continued.

This home should house them, treat them and teach them, Wilson added.

Rainbow Rescue is asking the public to assist in any way they can as the home continues to provide for children in need.

The home can be contacted at 622-2722.

©2003-2004 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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