Holy Family, Mount Salem's Oasis

No. 50 Friday, February 05, 2010
Many people would be surprised to know that Mt. Salem means ‘Mount of Peace’, but the troubled community has been far from peaceful.

   Plagued with problems of violence and crime over many years, Mt. Salem has been stereotyped as just another inner-city community of criminals and young people lacking ambition.
   However, there is a place in Mt. Salem where everyone is treated as equals and given a fair chance to better themselves and their families; an initiative of the Roman Catholic Diocese, The Holy Family Help Centre and Day Care,
   The Western Mirror caught up with one of the two sisters involved in the running of the facility, Sister Anne Quinn, an Australian national whose initial purpose was that of being a missionary.
   “I have been here for eight years, and I have been working at this institution since I came,” stated the down to earth sister.
   The purpose of the centre is to make persons in and out of the community more self-reliant, without depending on the illegal activities which most persons are falling prey to in and around the community
   Sister Anne explained that the purpose of the self help centre is to, “Try to equip persons with what they need to gain employment and use some of the skills learnt at the centre at home.”
   A non-profit institution, the centre was started in 1972 by with a group of Roman Catholic sisters.
   “When the sisters first came here, they did social work, they taught the women and men reading, sewing, cooking and basic literacy because many couldn’t read or write among other things It (the community) was poor, the area was overrun with pigs, goats and refuse,” Sister Quinn explained. However, the sisters saw the need for a proper facility to be put in place to service the community and acquired a piece of land, and so the Holy Family Self- Help Centre was born.
   The centre grew over the years, and started to offer various courses to those in and around the community at a small fee, which goes towards the running of the facility. Table waiting, basic computer classes and housekeeping are courses which the centre offers. However, housekeeping, which was started in 1997, is the most popular course at the centre.
   “About 1300 persons have passed through the housekeeping course, most of which have gone on to go on overseas work programs, “said a proud Sister Quinn. Soon there was an outcry for the self help centre to, in addition to having various courses at the facility; have a day care in order to accommodate the children whose parents had nowhere to leave them when they went to work during the days. The clean, picturesque and welcoming environment serves as the perfect atmosphere for young children, as Christianity is at the core of the initiative. The Western Mirror visited the facility and was shown the safe haven so many persons in Mt. Salem have, for years, run to in their time of need.
   The centre, for five years had a basic school; unfortunately, graduates of the school were finding it difficult to get into primary schools.
   “Many persons feel comfortable and safe here, we made the environment welcoming and clean so that this can be an oasis,” said the Sister, who seemed unfazed by the reputation the community has, when asked the inevitable question, why Mount Salem, and wasn’t she afraid to live and work in the community, Sister Quinn said, “These people are human beings, many of whom are poor, which is nothing disgraceful, nothing to be ashamed of. I find most people (in Mount Salem) to be very helpful.” She went on to explain that shortly before hurricane Ivan, she walked in all the lanes in Mount Salem, looking at people’s houses and for those who did not have sturdy structures, materials such and zinc and wood were provided for them by the centre.
   So though many persons may stay on the outside looking in judging the community and people from the outside, there is good in the community, and the Holy Family Self Centre is just one of the many signs that there is.

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