THE north-east area of the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council (GJDC) in the United States has implemented a raft of care services for Jamaicans who reside within the region, particularly those who have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Northeast Diaspora representative Dr Karren Dunkley told the Jamaica Observer that a team has been put in place to cater to the needs of those who are not prepared for the novel coronavirus financially, emotionally and psychologically.
“There have been tremendous emotional, financial and social devastation. We had an enormous reporting of people who have either lost their jobs or had a serious reduction in income, and because of that, we have implemented a system on our website aimed at assisting with food, bill payment, immigration services, financial assistance and health care, if they need it – and this applies to whether or not they are documented or undocumented,” explained Dunkley.
She stated that individuals have been very responsive, and have been taking advantage of the services being offered through the website and representatives in each state within the region.
“We have seen a tremendous uptick in the number of individuals who have reached out to us. Jamaicans are proud people and when you see they call to ask about the food pantry, you can just imagine what we are going through as a people,” Dunkley argued.
Hewitt Howard, another Jamaican, who has been operating a food pantry in Ogontz, Philadelphia, since the 1980s, confirmed that there has been a 30 per cent increase in the number of Jamaicans who come in for assistance, especially when they realise that the food pantry is being operated by a Jamaican.
“We provide fresh vegetables, water, meat, cheese, milk, eggs, sandwiches, and all the canned goods you can think of. Generally, we serve over 200 meals per week, however, right now we are doing approximately 600 meals per week. I have seen an increase in the West Indian community; they have found out that we are Jamaicans so more people come around because they feel more comfortable,” said Howard.
Dunkley, in the meantime, stressed the importance of getting counselling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You know there is a stigma in Jamaica as it relates to mental health, so we call it emotional health care. We are now averaging 10 calls a day, typically you’ll get two or three calls per day,” she noted.
“Now there is a high level of uncertainty and anxiety; people just don’t know what is happening, what’s next. Everyone anticipated a shorter duration of the impact of COVID-19, and to see that this is not a two-week or three-week thing, the information keeps changing,” she said.
Certified social worker Lorraine Smith heads the team that provides counselling.
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