CRS Work in Jamaica
Because of its location in the Caribbean, Jamaica is particularly vulnerable to the effects of devastating tropical storms and hurricanes. In 2006, Catholic Relief Services helped farmers who lost their crops to the flooding caused by Hurricane Emily revive their fields. In 2007, Hurricane Dean ravaged southern Jamaica. CRS provided emergency shelter, sanitation supplies and support to rebuild damaged and destroyed homes. Today, CRS focuses on strengthening the ability of our partners to better prepare for and respond to hurricanes and other emergencies through a series of trainings that help mitigate the negative effects of natural disasters. To further enable our Church partners to respond quickly and efficiently when a disaster hits, CRS stocks critical emergency relief supplies, including plastic sheeting and water purifiers, in warehouses on the island.
HIV and AIDS
CRS is supporting the Catholic Church in Jamaica in the effort to develop a national HIV strategy and provide education and voluntary counseling and testing services. In addition, with a grant from a committed Catholic individual in the United States, CRS has been able to support Mustard Seed Communities' efforts to provide care and support to children living with HIV who have been abandoned by their families and communities. Stigmatization of HIV prevents children from receiving the medical and social support they need in order to thrive. The Mustard Seed project provides educational, developmental and life skills activities in order to prepare them for life on their own.
Jamaica has been dubbed by some as the "murder capital of the world." Violence plagues urban areas. As many as 1,600 murders were committed in 2006 alone. Jamaican youth are largely both the perpetrators and victims of violent crimes. CRS works in partnership with the Catholic Church in Montego Bay and Kingston to stop the cycle of violence and provide youth with alternatives to violence.
Two CRS-sponsored projects support marching bands, bringing youth from different communities together to learn how to work as a team. Music is a vibrant part of Jamaican culture, and participating in the marching bands provides youth an outlet for their creativity, a positive place to work, and the experience of being part of a team. The marching bands give performances in the communities, gathering together people from diverse—and often conflicting—backgrounds to recognize their similarities.
Public education in Jamaica is not free, and many families cannot afford to send their children to school. Those who are able to attend school often do not receive a quality education. In 2007, CRS piloted a project in Montego Bay, Jamaica's second-largest city, focusing on improving the education of 200 children in the diocese. To give students in overcrowded classrooms a chance to focus and study, CRS has established learning centers staffed with experienced tutors and stocked with resource books in two different communities. In addition, CRS provides nutrition and transportation assistance as well as scholarships to disadvantaged students.