Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Working to save abandoned children


A CARING HOME: Senior Magistrate Lucina Cardenas-Ragoonanan with three-year-old Jasmine, the girl she has taken custody of, at their home in Palmiste, near San Fernando. —Photo: KRISHNA MAHARAJ

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Abandoned at home, on the streets and in strange places, the plight of the nation's children has motivated an increasing number of voluntary workers to provide the necessary care and services.

Senior magistrate Lucina Cardenas-Ragoonanan adopted a child and gave up her family home to be converted into a children's home.

She formed the Jizelle Salandy Foundation at her Marryat Street childhood home in San Fernando and has been working with a prominent group of San Fernandians in caring for abandoned children and senior citizens.

"Feed, Clothe and Educate the Children Foundation" was also formed recently in San Fernando to help parents care for the children.

Executive member, Marvin Warner said that children are suffering and parents need help.

The state of the nation's children also prompted Mother Margaret Deonarine employed with Ezekiel Children's Home in Couva to set up another home to provide care for unwanted children.

And Catholic missionary Sherri Ramirez who manages the Heart of Mary Care Centre in Toco found that the number of children abandoned in recent years was higher.

Working with a group led by former Mayor Ian Atherley, visits were made to the community in which the brutal murder of Sean Luke took place more than a year ago.

Luke, aged six, was found near his Orange Valley home in Couva on March 28, 2007 with an object thrust into his body.

The group were appalled by the conditions of life in the rural district. Each week they travelled to other similar poverty-stricken areas in an attempt to inspire parents to become more responsible.

Cardenas-Ragoonanan became part of the exercise in reaching out for the sake of the child which gave birth to two charities launched on January 17 at Royal Hotel, Coffee Street, San Fernando. The Jizelle Salandy Foundation for abused children and the St Jude's Centre for Children and Senior Citizens.

Former San Fernando West MP Diane Seukeran said that children were the victims of poverty in a society that has been driving an increasing number of women to abandon their children.

Pointing to poverty as the root of most crimes committed, she said the San Fernando group will strive to work with all the non-governmental organisations and government to assist as many children as they could.

She said that St Jude's Centre resulted from a vision by New York-based Sherilyn Michtaby who wanted to establish a privately funded home for seniors and children where the two groups can interact in a controlled environment with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities of international standards. St Jude's would be a privately funded NGO registered in Trinidad, she said.

When completed the facility will offer optimum care to children and seniors.

Cardenas-Ragoonanan became involved with abandoned and neglected children while working in the family court.

"All children are entitled to love and happiness," she said in a call for volunteers and corporate citizens to aid the cause of neglected children and seniors.

The group noted that more children were abandoned and neglected every day.

"Children are victims of irresponsible parenting," Seukeran said.

A total of 38 homes for children have been registered with the Ministry of Social Development.

Ramirez of America came to Trinidad in 1994.

She said that research has not been done to provide the best care for children.

"The larger the home, the more problematic it becomes," she said adding that foster care in smaller groups would be more effective.

Officials at the Social Development Ministry said the focus was on building stronger families with a support system to keep children in family homes.

"The extended family system and close knit community groups are not as strong as before. We need to provide assistance in caring for children in family homes and only remove them as a last resort," an official said.

Seukeran spoke of a plan to involve high school children in caring for abandoned children. Plans are also afoot to hold a two-day seminar of training for care givers, she said.

She said that the group will be approaching the Ministry of Education to get high school volunteers to work at the children's homes.

Another project titled "Festival of Angels" has been planned for the Easter vacation as a day of fun for children.

"Festival of Angels" will honour the child and help to shelter them from the cruelty they have been exposed to, she said.

She said that raising funds to build a home for St Jude's Children and Senior Citizens begins with "Escapade" at San Fernando Hill on February 17 with tickets priced at $400.

"We can no longer turn a blind eye to the sufferings of our children," she said.