Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Launch of Ellen Pearl Outreach Children’s Charity (EPOCC)

A children’s charity with a difference was launched on Friday, May 27, 2016 at the UWI Western Campus. The Ellen Pearl Outreach will be the medium through which children in need of help can telephone a trained counsellor to talk about their problems. At the launch, its founder, Mrs. Beverley Chung spoke about its inception, and Dr. Pearnel Bell told us how it will work in Jamaica. Stakeholder groups brought greetings and children entertained with song and poetry. The keynote address was given by Juliet Holness, MP for St Andrew East Rural, graciously standing in at short notice for The Hon. Marlene Malahoo Forte Q.C., MP, who was indisposed.
     After delivering her opening remarks, Joy Crooks, Nurse Administrator at CUMI invited Rev. Lenworth N Anglin to lead us in prayer, followed by greetings from stakeholder groups.
     Mrs. Gage-Grey of the Child Development Agency (CDA) welcomed the contribution that this charity offers. 10 in every 1000 children are in need of intervention, meaning 8000 children for their population in Jamaica. The CDA is on a mission to protect children and looks out for ways of getting involved in the national conversation. We need to see each child as our own. CDA endorses EPOCC and looks forward to a meaningful partnership.
     Dr  Claudette Crawford-Brown, Lecturer in the Dept. of Social Work at UWI brought greetings from that institution, and from  Jamaica Association for Social Workers, and from other organizations she represents. After 40 years in child advocacy, she recognizes that the social status of the child is in a lot of trouble.   I wrote in my notes that 100 children were murdered in 2015. (I hope I made a mistake and that that isn’t true.) Only one child was murdered in 1993. Sexual abuse is increasing at an alarming rate. 700 children went missing. People are crying out for solutions, but the link between the micro-level and solutions is missing. This programme could pave the way to macro-level solutions.
     Mrs. Debbian Livingstone Edwards brought greetings from the Office of the Children’s Advocate, (OCA). She also welcomed the programme because children require free and ready access. There is a gap in the availability of psychosocial services, and there is a need for sustained counselling.  She reminded us that it is our civic duty to protect the rights of children.
     Greetings from FLOW/Lime Foundations was to have been brought by Mrs. Shellian O’Connor, who was unavailable because of illness, but she assured EPOCC of their commitment.
     Corinaldi Avenue Primary School choir treated us to an emotional rendition of their song; and Mount Alvernia High School’s Susanna Hyde, Child Ambassador for the OCR for Region 4, performed a poem about a boy accused of stealing. I wasn’t sure if he was guilty or not, but Susanna’s enactment made us feel his fear and sense of isolation.
      We saw Ms. Ottoa Wilson busy videotaping the launch, and were then introduced to her work – a short video about child abuse in Jamaica, and her paintings and drawings displayed around the room. 
  Mrs. Beverley Chung, who was born in Catadupa, St James, but left Jamaica when she was nearly 9, took us on her journey to the founding of EPOCC. She keeps in touch with Jamaica and is distressed about what is happening. She wrote a poem entitled Jamaica Weeps, Jamaica Bleeds. Inspired by a visit to Bridge of Hope Charity in Uganda, her question “Why don’t they do something?” became “Why don’t I do something?” She knew that she herself had the skills to run a charity, inherited from her grandmother, Ellen, and he mother, Pearl, who both started churches and for whom EPOCC is named. She also had experience of working with Childline in the UK.  She shared her vision with Dr. Pearnel Bell and Nurse Joy Crooks, who both said, “We need to listen to children”.  A further impetus came from Sir Patrick Allen, Governor General of Jamaica’s address to the 6th Biennial Diaspora Conference (June 2015), in which he encouraged support for community projects that would positively impact the lives of children. Hence EPOCC was born.

EPOCC’s vision is to improve the lives of children.
 Mission -Initial Aims:
  • To provide a national free 24hr helpline service manned by fully trained counsellors
  • email and Web-chat counselling service for children on any problem whatsoever
  • Register of services with appropriate referrals
Long-Term Aims:

  • Visit to schools, youth clubs/centres and churches to inform on abuse awareness and to empower children to say 'no' and/or to report abuse
  • Transitional opportunities and mentoring post 18 years for children that have been in care
  • Further educational opportunities for disadvantaged youths


In the UK: Beverley Chung, Roger Panton, Jacqueline Longmore, Mrs. Cecelia Ellis (UK Treasurer), Mrs Emma Barton (Fundraiser).

In Jamaica: Joy Crooks (Secretary), Dr. Pearnel Bell, Hopeton Ridgard – Board Member for Finance; employed at JMMB; works in youth ministry.

Mrs. Chung had consultations with Esther Rantzen, who started Childline in the UK. Subsequently,

On Oct 12, 2015, EPOCC was launched in the UK.

From Oct ’15 to Jan’16, the organizational structure was worked out.

From June to September 2016, the training of volunteers will take place.

How you can help: sponsorship, advocacy, fund-raising and volunteering. Together we  can change the future of our children.

Dr. Pearnel Bell then spoke about Jamaica Childline. There was a helpline in Jamaica before, but it only lasted 7 years because of lack of support. It is needed more than  ever now with mental health problems escalating. The incidence of untreated mental health problems becomes a public health problem.
          They are actively recruiting volunteers, and 60 persons have applied so far. They will be given 40 hours of training. An international trainer will train the trainers in Jamaica. The government agencies: OCR; CDA and OCA will be present at the training.
          A SWOT analysis was performed:
Strengths – Trustees in UK and Jamaica. Aggressive fund-raising’

Weaknesses – lack of support from stakeholders; keeping in touch with stakeholders.

Opportunities – for sponsorship and to achieve.

Threats -  lack of support from stakeholders; naysayers; financial sustainability; numbers of volunteers.          

However, with 3 universities and 1 college on board, it is hoped that EPOCC will prevail.
Mrs. Juliet Holness in conversation with Dr. Pearnel Bell
“If we don’t stand up for our children, we stand for nothing,” said the dynamic Kimone Clarke, a social worker, in introducing The Guest Speaker, Mrs. Juliet Holness, MP for St Andrew East Rural, and wife of Prime Minister, Mr. Andrew Holness. Ms. Clarke piled on ‘special’ after ‘special’ in describing Mrs. Holness, who demonstrates in word and in deed that she stands up for children.
Keynote Address
“Children are a gift from the Lord and a blessing” quoted Mrs. Holness. She then debunked two common sayings used in relation to children.

1.     “Spare the rod and spoil the child” is often quoted as a command to beat children. However, the rod is not intended for beating. The shepherd’s rod was used to guide the sheep, not to beat them. There are other ways of punishing children, such as time-out and withholding privileges.

2.     “Children should be seen and not heard.” Children do make excessive noise sometimes, but it is our responsibility to listen to children as well as talk to them, so that we can be sure we understand each other. Body language is not sufficient engagement. They can tell right from wrong and know how to trick you.

It is our responsibility to build children’s self-esteem.

Re the internet: many people are fearful of children using the internet, rightly so as there are pitfalls. While it is useful for children to be able to do their own research, we need to pay attention to what they are doing on the internet. Children push hard against rules and norms, so parents and other adults in charge of children must give guidance to give support for positive development.
     She welcomed the launch of EPOCC, pointing out that child abuse includes emotional abuse; and that we don’t realize how many children are in need of this service. A desperate human is one with no hope. She implored us to support the work of EPOCC.
     The function closed with the presentation of an orchid to Mrs. Holness by Hopeton Ridgard; Vote of Thanks by Mrs. Janette Allen; Closing Remarks by Joy Crooks; and closing prayer by Rev. Milton Davidson.  

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