A call for more facilities to house abused families

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An early childhood educator wants to see more facilities established to house abused women and families in Antigua and Barbuda.
The call has come from Camelda Michael, who also thinks that both the church and community need to be more involved in offering assistance to families who are facing these challenges, especially when they involve children.
An early childhood educator for over three decades, Michael has worked with many individuals and organisations at both the national and community levels.
These include the Child and Family Guidance Centre, Koren Norton – Counselor at Mount St. John’s Medical Centre, Alexandrina Wong from Women Against Rape, who all, at some point, had to deal with the aftermath of challenges faced especially by women and families who have undergone varying types of abuses.
Michael said that based on her observations, “These people need a strong support group, because without that, you crumble, if you don’t have someone on whom you can rely, also someone who is confidential that you can share and know for certain that what you said to that person will remain there, it can be tough.”
Over the years, Michael has opened up her heart and moreso her doors to many families, especially women who have been abused or have fallen on difficult times, based on domestic disputes.
She revealed that regrettably, she no longer has the capacity at her home to do so, but she thinks the urgent need exists to erect facilities such as Halfway Houses to help battered women.
She said her church, Living Hope Christian Union on Wireless Road, has now taken on the task of erecting such a facility at that location.
Michael disclosed that the Johnson’s, Sutherlands, Cassada Gardens/Clare Hall (JSC) outreach executive, which was associated with the Christian Children Fund was able to acquire funding from the Canadian fund, since in the 90s to start the structure, but could not complete the project because it went dormant due to lack of funds.
With the church’s ongoing development programmes being re-energised, Consultant Ruth Spencer was invited to speak on various topics, including business management and she was instrumental in accessing further funding to resume work on the building that had been unfinished for many years.
In the hope that this will be a race to the finish, Michael said that more avenues for further funding are being sought.
The two-storey wall structure should comprise four bedrooms which will house families who urgently need a place to stay for short periods.
Michael is calling on the government and other organisations to construct similar structures at strategic points across the island as the need is real.
She said although there are families that are dealing with many forms of abuse in a quiet or obvious manner, the real story is still not being told for many reasons.
“I think we are not seeing the true picture because I’m still receiving calls on a fairly regular basis about persons needing assistance, and as I said, I can’t host people as I did before, so I would start looking around to see what can be done. Most of these young women who find themselves in these positions don’t have any money as some are not working and are unable to pay rent for themselves and their families which usually include children.”
Michael has suggested that the government and service organisations take on the tasks and enquire about the number of abandoned houses around the island that can be repaired and used as suitable living quarters for families who are being left to fend for themselves following an abusive relationship.
“It’s an urgent need”, she lamented. “You see a lot of houses around the country just closed up for years that can be used to meet the urgent needs of families. I visited an organisation called Special People Achieve Reform Knowledge Self-acceptance (SPARKS) aimed at diverting youths from prison, located at Coolidge, the other day and I was very impressed to hear the young lady say that the house was donated to them. It’s a very beautiful place, so there are many houses around just sitting there, even right here in Sutherlands that can be fixed and used to help people in these situations.”
According to her, the full picture of people suffering from abuse is not known to the public because women/families are afraid, embarrassed and just downright afraid of what exposing this plight may bring.
“Yes, you go to the hospital and you lie your way out, you don’t give the true story of what really happened because you don’t want the person to be arrested, you don’t want your name out there, and so you sweep it under the carpet. But you can only sweep under the carpet for so long. I would really encourage these persons to seek help and look at the bigger picture.”
Michael noted that educators should also be observant of children’s behaviour in school and urged them not to label their cry for help, love and attention as “disgusting or rude”. Show love she appealed to parents.
“If parents show love, when their [children] go out there, they should be able to detect true love from love that is not genuine.”
Michael appealed to individuals and families who are going through abusive relationships to seek the appropriate help and address the issues in a holistic manner as soon as it starts.
She urged parents/adults who have to deal with challenging youths on a daily basis, not to give up.
“Don’t give up, you have to keep at it, when one avenue fails, try the next and the next, all is not lost, we have to keep trying until we succeed.”
Michael, although armed with a vast amount of experience in handling these social issues, said she too has had her fair share of personal challenges dealing with youthful loved ones and her holistic approach to dealing with them usually bears fruit.
According to Michael, the corrective approach must include the child/victim, the church, parents and even extended family members.

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