December 17, 2011

JAMAIICA: St Catherine Elderly Get Early Christmas Dinner

KINGSTON, Jamaica / The Jamaica Gleaner / Lifestyle / December 17, 2011

Elderly people from Bog Walk and its environs partaking of the dinner put on for them by the Bog Walk Chapter of the United Nations Association of Jamaica on Sunday, December 11, at the Tru-Juice Sports Club at Bybrook, St Catherine.- PhotoS by Paul H. Williams

By Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer

BYBROOK, St Catherine: 'TWAS MINUTES after four o'clock. I saw her alight the vehicle, ably assisted by another senior woman. I stared because she was the epitome of elderly elegance. But I realised she could not move without holding on to the other woman. Then, it struck me. She looked mighty familiar.

I left the hall of the Tru-Juice Sports Club, at Bybrook, St Catherine, to get a better view, and I was bowled over. This stunning elderly woman was Gloria 'Miss Mama' Lewis. On Saturday, February 12, The Gleanertold the story of the utter poverty in which Miss Mama, a visually impaired person, was existing, sharing her food with rats and her bed with a lizard, among other subhuman conditions.

If only Gloria Lewis, who is visually impaired, could see the heads that she turns as she arrives at the Christmas dinner put on for the elderly in and around Bog Walk.
If only Gloria Lewis, who is visually impaired, could see the heads that she turns 
as she arrives at the Christmas dinner put on for the elderly in and around Bog Walk.

Now, on Sunday, December 11, when Miss Mama made her grand arrival, all eyes were on her in her black and white ensemble. The late great fashion icon Coco Chanel would have been delighted to see her. She had arrived for the fourth annual Christmas dinner for shut-ins and elderly people in and around the Bog Walk, St Catherine, area. After a long embrace, greetings, chit-chat and photo-shoot, I escorted Miss Mama to her seat.

The dinner was a community outreach effort by the United Nations Association of Jamaica (UNAJ) Bog Walk Chapter, led by Esau Samuels, founder and chairperson, who had first told The Gleaner about Miss Mama's plight. "We see where at this time of the year people forget about the elderly, so we reach out to them in this way," Samuels told The Gleaner.

Reaching out

And it was in such a delectable way that they reached out, starting off with cups of hot soup, and Tru-Juice orange juice. After large plates of rice and peas and a variety of meat and salads, the senior citizens got more juice and ice cream for dessert. Entertainment was provided by the singing duo of Twisane Henry and Norman Wilson, who thrilled the gathering with some sacred and Christmas music. Later in the evening, the elderly got a chance to perform or reminisce about the old days. But, despite the abundance of food and drinks, there were no packages of niceties this year, as the regular sponsors were not in a position to be generous this time around. Tru-Juice was the main sponsor on Sunday, having hosted the elderly at its sports club providing them with gallons of orange juice. Debbie's Grocery of Linstead and Ewarton, Priorities, McDonald's and Cecil Wholesale in Bog Walk also donated food and other supplies. Shell Bog Walk's Joy Tapping also chipped in.

Much of the cost, however, was stood by the UNAJ members and volunteers, who prepared and served the meal themselves. Hyacinth Weir of Knollis, St Catherine, stayed away from church to make her contribution. "It's very important to me. I usually help them every Wednesday. I am always willing to help. You have to help people in whatever area you can," she said.

Special season

Collette Davis-Brown, secretary of the Bog Walk chapter, mindful of the fact that she will not be young forever, in explaining her involvement in the project, said: "Christmas season is a special season to show people that you care ... . I am affectionate when it comes to my elders. One day I am gonna be in their position." Yet, she would like to see a centre in Bog Walk where the elderly can meet to get assistance.

The beneficiaries with whom The Gleaner spoke were all grateful for the gesture by Samuels and his team. And Samuels vowed to continue to reach out to the less fortunate, "as long as God gives us strength". He said: "Sometimes it's not easy, it's really challenging", but "without service in the community the community will go to sleep ... . You need services in the community to keep people alive, service to the community is critical ... . By the grace of God, we hope to grow."

Copyright © 2011 Gleaner Company Ltd
Credit: Reports and photographs are property of owners of intellectual rights. 
Seniors World Chronicle, a not-for-profit, serves to chronicle and widen their reach.