I have just been to the 'Best Care Chidren's Home' here in Kingston - not knowing what to expect.
The home is near to New Kingston - but hidden on a back road. Quite a large plot of land with a pleasant enough building with faded murals of flowers, cartoon figures and butterflies and the like. My first sight was a man with a wide and fixed grin walking along all the while trying to free his hands which were quite loosly tied behind his back.
Inside we went to the dining area, where little children - the smallest being about 9 years old but looking like a slight three year old - were being treated to a meal of sweet and sour chicken, rice and peas, vegetables and cups of juice. Many of the chilren were unable to speak or feed themselves. Many were reaching out to get some sort of human affection, even from strangers like me.
I saw another man who also had his hands tied behind his back. Why, we asked? The nurse in charge told us that the first one had a tendency to remove his trousers - which she was sure we wouldn't like to see. The other had a tendency to dig into the rubbish and eat food from there.
The first man eventually managed to release his hands, and first took a big handful of food from a bowl of food that was unattended. Later, he seemed to alternate between trying to put his free hand back into its cloth strap and trying to remove his trousers - which the staff had purposely put on him back to front, a trick which seemed to do much as the second line of defence.
Later, the children went off to the classrooms at another section of the building, while the older residents - many in their 20s came in for their lunch. Many of them were in a very sad state, unable to walk, some in wheel chairs, some basically pulling themselves across the floor, severely challenged both physically and mentally. Drooling, crawling, making noices but not speaking - but peaceful - and not in a drugged sort of way, just naturally peaceful.
We saw their dorms - the beds all made very well, with large stuffed toys on many of the pillows. Tv's and fans on the walls.
Its tragic to me, but heartening to know that we have such a place for these orphans of the state. The care they are getting may or may not live up to the name of the home, but on the limited resources available, at least they seem to be happy enough. The range in ages was surprising - but there is nowhere for many of them to go as they get older.
The home gets by on some aid from the state and donations from various businesses. Out of sight, these people are out of our minds - but thankfully are not completely forgotten, even in a country where human life often seems so cheap.