Columns

Helping children

Barbara Gloudon

Friday, July 13, 2018

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QUESTION: What were 12 boys doing in the caves? Over the week past the eyes of the international media were focused on the far eastern part of the world, where a story emerged of a frightening situation. News of the situation swept across the world. Clear over here in Jamaica we divided our attention on Brazil's staggering loss in the World Cup with the saga of the Wild Boars Football team.

The story of the youngsters who survived on hope captured the world's attention. It all began on June 23 in the Philippines when the 12 boys, members of a football team, accompanied by their football coach, ventured into a cave while on a team trip. It was then that heavy rains started and the entrance to the caves was flooded, trapping the boys deep inside. They were reported to the wider world and listed as missing.

The anguish of the parents started as they hoped and waited to hear if their children were still alive.

From everywhere on the globe the interest spread. Some nine days after going missing a team of international divers found the boys deep inside the cave. After the initial joy of that discovery, discussions began on how the youngsters could be brought out safely. There was talk of a crash course in swimming and scuba diving all to be done before the rainy season in the Philippines began.

The passageways of the cave were dark and flooded in places. In other areas, there were mere inches through which the rescuers and the boys would have to squeeze through. The world outside continued to hope and pray to see what would be the outcome. Fears were heightened when on July 6 a rescue diver lost his life in the attempts to traverse the dangerous cave system.

By Sunday, July 8, reports revealed that four of the boys were brought out from the caves with the assistance of a team of highly trained diving experts. It took two more trips on the following days, until on July 10 everyone had been safely rescued. Can you imagine the joy of the parents, teachers, guardians and all who had done their very best to make the effort a success?

We were all so thankful for the happy ending. To quote the hero Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible, until it is done.”

One child at a time

On Wednesday, a report on the status of a young boy who suffered from brain damage at birth was featured in the media. Prime Minister Andrew Holness visited the family of Tahjay Rowe, as he heard they had been seeking assistance to deal with the youth's illness.

His family are aggrieved at what he has had to go through. Their anguish is heightened by the fact that, in 2015, the court had awarded the family $26 million in the outcome of their lawsuit against the Government. Three years later, they are struggling to care for the teenager while they await payment.

During his visit the prime minister promised “speedy compensation” to fulfil the needs of the child. He made it known also that he too has family battling with illness and knows how heavy the bills can be to provide health care.

For some this is the story of a high-ranking official doing what has to be done to bring hope to a sick teen. For others, it is all a part of the game of politics. However you see it, let us hope that this young man and his family will receive the help that is due to them.

Children and courthouse

Have you heard of children as young as three years old having to 'testify' in court? Much has been said about the situation in the USA involving the cases of families separated from each other after entering the US illegally. The US Government had instituted a policy of separating family members while their immigration status was being resolved. Young children have been placed in State care, sometimes hundreds of miles away from their parents. On many occasions the parents have already been deported while their children remain in America.

This week we have been hearing that the infants have had to appear in court alongside their lawyers. Most don't speak English and are far too young to understand what is happening around them as the court decides how and when they will be reunited with their parents. What a world we live in!

Talking neighbours

Politics and politicians were on display in Montego Bay when the Caricom heads of government assembled at the convention centre last weekend. Some 200 foreign officials from the region were present to take on a number of critical issues, especially the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME). According to media reports, the agenda was filled with discussion on crime, security strategy, disaster management, climate change, and other weighty matters of great importance — and yet, there was very little interest in the deliberations.

Thinking that maybe we Jamaicans are to weighed down by other matters to give attention to Caricom, I reached out to a friend in Trinidad. I asked her what was the response in her neck of the woods. She responded that public interest was also subdued. The feeling is that Caricom is all talk and very little action.

Reports from the gathering say meetings are to be held in the next few months and Caribbean leaders have promised that things are going to improve. Well, let's see what comes next.

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