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Fire-ravaged home for girls in Jamaica re-opens in time for 100th anniversary

Posted on: March 21, 2018 11:11 AM
An architect’s drawing of the new Wortley Home

A home for girls which was all-but destroyed by a devastating fire in 2015 has been re-opened by the Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, Howard Gregory, after being re-built. The Wortley Home is one of three children’s homes run by the diocese. It was first opened in 1918 and will celebrate its centenary in May. Under the slogan “Founded by Love, Built by Faith,” Wortley Home provides “a place of safety” for girls aged between seven and 18 who are orphaned, abused, or whose family are financially unable to care for them.

“The girls are lovingly cared for, given a Christian upbringing, and are exposed to important life skills that will be important when they leave at 18,” the home says on its website. It has accommodated children under the age of seven and allows over-18s to remain resident if they are attending college or university.

The 19 residents of the home at the time of the fire we re-housed at the nearby SOS Children’s Village and were supported by Food for the Poor, Jamaica. Bishop Howard was joined by Food for the Poor’s chairman Andrew Mahfood for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The Bishop thanked the agency for its assistance in “restoring a nurturing environment for the girls in our care.”

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Photos (above and below) showing the extent of the destruction of the Wortley Home caused by the June 2015 fire.
Photos: The Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands

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The new Wortley Home is a split-level building designed by architect Rivi Gardner. It has dormitories on two floors to accommodate a total of 32 girls – up from the previous capacity of 24. Facilities include a sick bay, a homework and study room with 20 computers donated by two former residents who now live in the United States. Separate bedrooms and bathrooms for the House Mother and staff, an office and meeting room, a common area for visitors, emergency staircases, a modern security system and landscaped grounds.

The $40 million (Jamaican dollars, approximately £224,000 GBP) cost of rebuilding the home was supported by a fund-raising campaign, and benefitted from the active support of former residents. “During the summer, I got an email from one of the girls who left 15 years ago to inform me that she has a personal contribution towards the home and her response was a manager’s cheque for $100,000,” suffragan bishop Robert Thompson told The Gleaner in September 2015. “This, to me, shows it is quite obvious that the home has been making an impact. Girls who use to occupy this home have also launched a fund to assist with the process.”

Commenting on the re-opening, Wortley Home board member Tanya Wildish, highlighted “the tapestry of kindness” reflected in the many and varied donations received since the fire. These included a $30,000 contribution from a bake sale organised by a four-year-old child. However, she asserted, “we want to move beyond the charity basis on which the home operated previously, and to achieve self-sufficiency.”

In January last year, 28 boys aged between six and 18 had to be re-housed after a fire destroyed their Clifton Boys’ Home in Darliston, Westmoreland, which was operated by the Diocese’s St John’s Anglican Church. A fundraising effort is currently underway to re-build the home.