The Mustard Seed Communities started 30 years ago as the first home for children with disabilities in Jamaica and now has 14 communities in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Zimbabwe caring for orphaned and abandoned children with mental or physical disabilities or HIV/Aids.
Dare to Care is the Mustard Seed Communities HIV/Aids programme, which was set up to provide care to abandoned or orphaned children with the infection in Jamaica. Mgr Gregory Ramkissoon, the founder of MSC, said: “These children have been mistreated, isolated from society, barred from schools, orphaned by parents who have died from Aids and /or abandoned by relatives who want no association with them. Some have contracted the disease through sexual abuse.”
Children are found in terrible circumstances. One was found abandoned in a pig-sty, another tied to a tree. Most children arrive at Dare to Care close to death or in a very bad condition.
Mgr Gregory tells of the amazing change in the children who live at Dare to Care. He said: “Children who were once withdrawn and had given up on life are now happy and willing to fight to live.” Visitors to Mustard Seed see children who are healthy-looking and bright and this helps to change society’s perception of HIV/Aids and break down the walls of stigmatisation.
This summer Matt Scott, a qualified sports coach from Bournemouth, spent part of his gap year with the children of Mustard Seed Communities in Jamaica. He tells how “the children excelled at every sport… they could perform at higher levels if it wasn’t for the prejudice shown towards disabled and disadvantaged athletes”.
Mr Scott says that his time with the children changed his way of looking at life.