April 06, 2016
Shanique Samuels This remains of a house in Portland Cottage that was razed by fire earlier this month.

Stacy-Ann Murray spent much of yesterday crying and wondering where she would find a place to rest her head and those of her eight of nine children.
Murray, 30, said the ages of her children who live with her are 12, 10, nine, eight, six, four, one and a half years old and three months old. She has an additional child who lives elsewhere.

At nightfall, the heavens had opened up, and Murray, who had taken up refuge at a neighbour’s house, was under no illusion. There is no room in that inn. As the rain poured, the mother of nine cried. Hours earlier, her three-bedroom house was burned to the ground. “Mi nuh know wah fi do right now because right now rain a fall and a neighbour yaad me deh,” a tearful Murray told THE STAR yesterday.

Her house, a gift from charity entity Food for the Poor, was one of two families houses in Portland Cottage that were razed by fire about 9 a.m. yesterday. “Any help me can get we glad. If me can get a bed and clothes. The children don’t have anything. We lost everything. Only the clothes on their backs they have,” said Murray.

It is reported that a neighbour saw fire coming from the two-bedroom board house Murray and her children lived in.Murray said she had just left the children next door and was on her way to May Pen when she got the call that her house was on fire. It quickly spread to the other house, and within minutes both dwellings were flattened.

emergency shelters
That other house happens to be that of one of her babyfathers. He, too, lost everything in the blaze. “Me have family, but dem don’t like me,” said Murray as she appealed to Government, private citizens, charitable organisations, and corporate Jamaica for help. “If it is even a one-room house so me and di pickney dem can kotch. Me wi lay down a floor until better come,” Murray said.

planning programme
Children’s advocate Dianne Gordon Harrison said that when disasters like the one on Portland Cottage strikes, the immediate need is for shelter, food, and clothing.“If there is family or any neighbour that can help, that is the first port of call. If that does not work or does not exist, the state can put them in an emergency kind of home until all other details such as schooling is worked out,” Gordon Harrison said.

Betty-Ann Blaine, convener of Hear the Children’s Cry, said that it is time that the Government seeks to intensify its family planning programme in a bid to reduce the number of children that people, especially the poor, have. “When you have a disaster like this, the children become vulnerable to abuse,” Blaine said. “The real victims are the kids.”

Blaine said that the mother must take responsibility for having so many children and that the fathers of the children should be made to take parental responsibility. “We have a problem in Jamaica with too many children being born to the poorest Jamaicans who cannot look after them,” she said. “Our fertility rate nationally is pretty low, but the children that are being born, most of them are being born to the poorest Jamaicans and that is the problem.”

Yesterday’s fire was the second in three days in the Portland Cottage community. On Sunday morning, two families, including an elderly woman, were left homeless after their houses were consumed by the fire. Winston Maragh, councillor for the Rocky Point Division in the Clarendon Parish Council, said he has been proactive in seeking assistance for those affected. The May Pen Fire Department said they are still investigating the cause of the fires.

Persons wishing to assist Murray may contact 575-2203. 

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