Like most cities throughout the world, Port of Spain has its share of destitute men and women who sleep and eat on its streets. For over 30 years, Living Water Community has been reaching out to them through our Caring Centre on Duncan Street, in the heart of the city.Those who used to search for their meals in garbage cans can now be assured of a nourishing and tasty breakfast and lunch at noon, along with a shower and change of clothes.
No one who comes hungry is ever turned away and we have seen Divine intervention at work as our ‘five loaves and two fishes’ get multiplied to feed the multitude.
We believe that whereas food for the body is important, the whole person needs to be fed; so we also provide these, our less fortunate brothers and sisters with spiritual nourishment viz.,a Bible reflection at breakfast time, and a Wednesday morning prayer meeting…..And of course, Grace is always said at mealtime.
Each month, on a rotation basis, an Eye Clinic is held in one of the following areas: Port of Spain – San Fernando – Chaguanas – Trincity. Prescription glasses are provided FREE OF CHARGE to:
Elderly persons 65 years and over who need glasses and cannot afford them
Children ages 8-10 years who need glasses and cannot afford them
Eyes are tested FREE by Ferreira Optical and frames provided by LWC.
Whether our country is experiencing an economic depression or an ’oil boom’ the poor continues to be with us. Many families are deprived of the basic necessities of life. Through the generosity of all who contribute to this work of the Community, by providing food hampers, donating milk and helping with the distribution, the Food Bank is able to give out food and clothing on a regular basis.
The Food for the Poor organization, based in Florida, USA, ships container loads of rice, soya, cornmeal, beans, clothing, etc. and Living Water Community acts as a distribution centre to supply religious and non-religious organizations throughout Trinidad and Tobago.
In August 1987, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago established a task force focusing on young street dwellers. At the request of this task force and the Government, Living Water Community agreed to set up Marian House providing that it would have active governmental support. This assurance came through the Ministry of Health and a state owned building was provided. This was located at the corner of New and Henry Streets, Port of Spain. On Christmas day, 1987, Marian House opened its doors with breakfast and carol singing to seventy-five young street dwellers.
Over the years, the Marian House program has evolved into a developmental program for adolescent males, and has successfully graduated a large number of confident, academically qualified, skilled and respectable young men, who were able to reintegrate and contribute positively into mainstream society.
In keeping with the vision of the national youth policy of The Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development, Marian House Living Waters Community subscribes to the following:
To uphold and promote the universal rights and needs of every child, as well as the holistic development and empowerment of young people.
To develop intervention strategies to protect voiceless and vulnerable groups, and adopt a team-based approach to our work on youth development.
Youths can be viewed ‘as change agents….’ and we are required to implement new structures, strategies, programmes and initiatives intended to make youth development a more significant driving force in Trinidad and Tobago’.
Marian House Living Waters Community’s framework for intervention and upholding this vision to empower and protect the voiceless and vulnerable adolescent youths places great emphasis on a systems approach and immense understanding of the developmental model, with particular reference to the at risk adolescent males. The approach to intervention is based on the following guiding principles and philosophy:
1. Children are victims of circumstances and every child has an inherent right to an education, the development of maximum capability regardless of gender, ethnicity, economic, social and religious background.
2. No child should be left behind – Children who are at risk for school failure as a result of environmental influences such as poverty, homelessness, abuse can be excluded from the instructional material from the classroom and be at risk for academic failure.
3. The right for every youth to be heard – research suggests that the most effective ways of focusing on children is by listening to their voices since we do not share the same perceptions. (Cook Sather,2002)
In keeping with these principles Marian House LWC seeks to
It is a developmental program. It provides an opportunity for second chances to spiritual development and learning. It avoids enabling a culture of dependency. The program takes into consideration the chronological age as well as the developmental stage of each young man when making any decisions. It is expected that the young man will learn new skills understand his rights but also be responsible.
IDP:- The individual Developmental plan determines the kind of help the young man receives holistically. it is a plan created by the young man and the staff. It defines the young man dreams/desires to a second chance.
Psychometric Tests/ Career Coaching:- This is a personalized kind of counselling and it has done wonders in the program. It allows every young man to do some deep introspection into self and their individual strengths as it relates to their career path and emotional intelligence.
IEP:- The Individual Educational Plan is an instrument also created with the young man’s input. He clearly outlines his plans for studies/ schooling identifiyng areas of strengths and weaknesses. We facilitate through the provision of schools/ extra tutoring after school and high level of supervision
How We Measure Our Success:
Over the years we have measured our successes not only by the academic landmarks but also by the developmental milestones. We can identify when a young man came into the program and did not understand self or had difficulty expressing self and today he is able to communicated with a high level of rational and understanding for self and others.
Some came to the program with deep hatred for God and bitterness towards others because of their life circumstances.
However, presently the same young men will offer to pray for you. Many have shared that they needed a second chance to an education because they were taken out of school at a very early age, and never thought that they will pass a subject at CSEC and we have had 90% success at this level. A young man came off the streets recently and said to us that all needed was to go back to school and get his passes. This young man had many challenges with the law, spent some time at YTC, as well as, lived on the streets. However, he met someone who told him about Marian House and he came seeking help, he shared his challenges and dreams, worked his plan IDP and he was very successful. Today he is employed and a focused young man in society.
A total of 186 Coaching sessions have been delivered to the young men of Marian House from 25 November 2013 to 18 August 2014. This consisted of 103 sessions of Life Coaching and 83 sessions of Career Coaching, all delivered on a one-on-one basis at Marian House. The young men seem to enjoy the sessions, as well as the personal attention that they received during their sessions. This was evidenced by the improvement in their demeanor and body language and their willingness to engage even after the sessions were over.
At least two Psychometric assessments were administered to each young man, and in some cases three. The Vocational Style and Career Assessment for Students (VoSCA-St), as well as Emotional IQ and Concentration tests.
Additionally, young men were actively involved in a mediation program which they used as a catalyst to developing their own cell phone policy. Also programs such as “Addressing fatherhood wounds” was able to help young men explore their hurts in respect to the absence of their father’s love and begin the healing process.
We have had significant successes in the Education of our young men at CSEC and CAPE examinations two of our young men will be attending the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine September 2014 pursuing a degree in medicine and Environmental Management respectively. There is also one young man at UTT and CAPE final year both of whom have graduated from the Marian House program this year. Additionally, there is one young man who are presently working as a prison’s officer and two others will be going into the prison and coast guard soon as officers. Additionally, some of our young men who came to the program with various difficulties from the vicissitudes of life having grown to be successful and productive citizens of this country. Marian house continues to be a second chance family, a learning environment in the best interest of our nation’s young men.
As a Community we are always eager to respond to the needs of the destitute wherever possible. The epidemic rise in HIV/AIDS cases in Trinidad and Tobago caused the Community to embark on a project where those who are so stricken can receive the care that is otherwise unavailable to them.
In April 2006, Archbishop Edward Gilbert cut the ribbon to mark the opening of Mercy Home, our hospice for AIDS patients.
This home has ten beds and a wonderful, dedicated and caring staff.
A 38 year old female patient was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS from Medical Research Foundation and was admitted to Mercy Home in 2012. Her husband had died a year before, leaving her with three children. When she was admitted for further care and supervision in taking her medication, from a weight loss of 60 lbs. she left Mercy Home weighing 130 lbs. While at Mercy Home, she joined us in our daily morning prayer and helped with the laundry.
As is done for all our patients before leaving Mercy Home, she received her Welfare Assistance and her Food Card services. From her first pay cheque, a small donation was given to Mercy Home, with tears in her eyes. She comes to visit us often, and when possible, she joins us in prayer and offers encouragement to the other patients.
She says often to others that “Mercy Home is a home away from home.”
Living Water Community is an implementing agency of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and works with that organization in the resettling of asylum seekers who come to this country looking for a safe haven.
In these times when many nations (especially in Africa and parts of Asia) are in the grip of civil wars and famines, many millions of persons are displaced and have to be resettled.
The Holy Father, Pope Francis, is especially concerned about the plight of these our brothers and sisters (who really have to be considered the poorest of the poor) and is constantly reminding the Church of its duty to shelter and care for them.
This home for infants and children in crisis was started in 1988 as more and more abused and desperate mothers turned up at the Centre begging for help. At first a house had to be rented and eventually the necessary funds were provided to purchase a more permanent home.
This now accommodates newborn infants to older children who have been abandoned or abused and brought in by social workers or community police.
This ministry involves round-the-clock supervision and a caring permanent staff as well as many ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ who help in various aspects of caring for these little ones.
In 2005, the St Joseph’s Home Project was initiated in response to many requests from families in need, who are already being assisted through our Food Bank and Rainbow House ministries.
The object of this project is to provide basic housing and sanitation needs in poor communities who are without the basic human rights: that of the right to shelter. At present, we have constructed approximately 25 houses as well as repaired and restored many others. We have also built 8 sanitation blocks across Trinidad. Upgrading humble shacks and providing one or two small rooms, enable our poor and destitute sisters and brothers to move from subhuman shelter to living a more comfortable family life.
With the assistance of our contractors and homeowners, we are able to start building houses at a reasonable cost. The people whose houses are being improved, participate by providing the labour to construct these 20’ x 24’ housing units. The expert help in construction comes from our contractors who build and share information with the new owners about basic construction methods.
We receive specialized and regular wheelchairs from Wheels for Humanity that are distributed to children with Cerebral Palsy (CP) and others who need regular wheelchairs.
We also receive regular type wheelchairs from Food for the Poor and these are distributed to children and adults on an on-going basis throughout the year.
Rainbow House is aptly named not only because the roof of the warehouse is shaped like an arc but also because it reminds us of God’s promise to supply the needs of His people.
“I have placed a rainbow in the clouds. It is a sign of my permanent promise to you and to all the earth.” (Gen 9:13). St Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians that: “…..this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches.” (Phil 4:19)
This is the distribution centre and also the storage facility which houses anything that may have been donated to the Community and may assist a poor family.
Food for the Poor, based in Florida, USA, supplies a steady flow of containers which are packed with foodstuff, medical supplies, clothing or whatever may have been donated to them in bulk. On a regular basis the warehouse offloads flour, beans, soya and rice and then distributes to various religious and non-religious groups throughout Trinidad and Tobago.
Since the inception of the Community a “soup run” ministry has been operating.
Members of the Community feed the homeless on the streets of Port of Spain with hot soup and tasty sandwiches. In this way the Community gets in touch with their needs and afflictions – some may be sick and in need of hospitalization or medication; some may need to be admitted to the Living Water Hospice. Others may be abused or abandoned or in need of drug rehabilitation.
A small but very beautiful ministry that teaches women sewing skills; who then become part of the team that makes fine liturgical vestments. These are bought by parishes etc. not only in Trinidad and Tobago but throughout the Caribbean.
Our Hospice is dedicated to St Maximillian Kolbe, martyr of Auschwitz, who gave his life that another might live. St Maximillian ministered to others condemned to death with him and he continues to minister to the dying patients at our Hospice as some of our patients have testified to his presence with them in their last days.
The following is a beautiful essay from a medical student who volunteered at the Hospice:
“Described as “A Gateway to Heaven,” Living Water Hospice in existence since 1983, continues to provide care for terminally ill cancer patients and those socially deprived. This summer I jumped on board to help make these individuals’ last days comfortable, peaceful and pain-free.
For most of us, the idea of death seems daunting. Where do we go? What happens next? are questions we frequently ponder. With endless theories and after-life experiences to confuse us even more, the after-life remains a mystery to the non-believer. But for those who do believe, we anxiously await that moment. On June 8th, 2014, Day 1 at the Hospice was something I prepared for. I expected the worst! Groans of pain, infected bed sores, weak, tiresome patients and “too” busy nurses! The horror stories regarding lack of healthcare in the country made me eager to contribute to a community that I believed need it most. As I strolled through the ward during the introduction, this was nothing I had ever seen.
Most patients seemed content, not anxious, pain-free and well…..appreciative and warm and for the most part at peace. All ailments were properly cared for every day like clockwork. Even more surprisingly, during my stay, the nurses never complained and they did their jobs to the best of their ability. Was I in the right place? To my understanding of death, it should be quite a scary thing but to these patients ready to face it, fear seemed almost unnecessary.
Reflecting on my experience at this religious organization, I came to realize that the caregivers impacted me more than the patients. Each day as I arrived I was assigned a specific name to accompany for the hours of my stay. As the blinds closed we began cleaning and dressing sores tediously one-by-one. During some unpleasant sights and smells, the nurse would spark up a conversation to lighten the mood. I stood in amazement as I heard the stories she began to tell. In one of their opinions: “witnessing death is the most beautiful thing.” This I could not understand. To become so attached to these individuals, then to watch them ‘go’ seemed merely disheartening. As she began to describe the process, I could not help but envy the nurses that are privileged to witness it.
“In the stillness of the day, you begin to recognize someone else when you look at the patient. Glossy eyes, youthful skin, plump lips and enchanting smiles are all right signs for the anticipated moment” she explains. Within minutes, sometimes hours, the body returns just the way they were born, like a baby and peacefully, their soul withers away in perfect time and space. Taking care of them made me think about my own life and career path. This is what the medical field is all about; having that self-less nature to give care to all those in need, careless of the rewards. The simple touch on their shoulder, the funny joke to see that innocent and hopeful smile and the thankful look in their eyes when you’ve put all of their needs in front of your own.
These are the type of memories that stick with you for a lifetime and remind you of your sole purpose. For me, I have these and more.
Unfortunately, my journey at the hospice has come to an end and these helpful hands have been temporarily put to rest. I am more than fulfilled with my experience and contribution.
To the believers, that place IS real and blessed is the Living Water Community who ensures safe departure.