Life On The Edge – Loneliness Taking Toll On 99-Year-Old North Street Resident
In just under two months, Mercilyne Iona Stephenson is looking forward to joining Jamaica’s list of centenarians. But the frail woman, born May 28, 1918, fears she may not make it because of the dire situation in which she has found herself.
Now, at the ripe old age of 99, the well-spoken Stephenson, a long-time resident of North Street, Kingston, said she is happy to be living but feels that if no help comes her way quickly, even living to be 100 would be no need for celebration.
Alone and without much help, Stephenson, who still has sharp eyesight but weakened hearing, lamented her situation.
“You see me here,” she said with a steady, yet quiet voice. “I am an old woman and I am a sick lady. I have seen whole heap of things and God keep me to this point, but look at my surroundings. I am worried now because I am alone. Not even the church business wid me anymore,” she told The Gleaner last week, with a look of dejection on her face.
“I moved here in 1961 and it is here I have been since, but is like I am abandoned. At nights, if a emergency a God alone me have fe call pon,” she said.
The run-down house that she calls home is without electricity or running water, and compounding her misery was the constant overflowing of a National Water Commission sewer main almost directly in front of the yard she occupies, that routinely dumps fecal matter on to the premises.
Since The Gleaner reported last week that the main was continuing to overflow despite recent rehabilitation work on the sewer system along North Street, Dr Horace Chang, minister with responsibility for water, has indicated that the Government was in the process of sourcing funding to continue the project which started last December.
So far, the Government has spent approximately $36 million on the rehabilitation work, which was supposed to correct the more than 10-year problem of raw sewage overflowing in the vicinity of St George’s College.
…Plan needed for Ms Mercilyne ‘before it’s too late’
A nearby resident has pointed to the devastating impact wastewater overflowing along North Street in Kingston has had on 99-year-old Mercilyne Iona Stephenson, among others, causing them to abandon use of the stand-alone communal bathroom and toilet at the back of the elderly woman’s home.
“We not so old as Ms Mercilyne, and we have it so bad here. Imagine what she faces every day. She could be all of us grandmother and this is what she must deal wid. It wicked, man,” said Marlon Straw.
His house, too, was being adversely affected, with the sewer water eroding the foundation leaving his back room almost detached from the rest of the house.
Although having all her wits about her, Stephenson pointed out that loneliness was taking its toll on her mind.
“I am alone most of the time. Every day, it’s just me. I have a few people who come around to help in whatever way they can but it is always just me alone here. Sometimes I want somebody to talk to and it nuh happen,” she said.
“Night and day is only God me can talk to. But I need people too,” Stephenson added.
Joan Bennett, one of two women who make it their almost daily duty to look in and assist their most senior neighbour, agrees that much help is needed.
Bennett wants the member of parliament for the Central Kingston constituency in which they live, Ronald Thwaites, to come up with a plan to help change Stephenson’s fortunes “before it’s too late”.
“She is strong, but even the strongest of us have a breaking point. How much more of this kinda life is she to take?” questioned Bennett.
“We can only do the little we have for her. But she needs to be in a better place, like one of those homes for the aged. On top of that, look at this place she living in. How can the MP know of her situation and do nothing?”
Yesterday, the church Ms Mercilyne once frequented, Coke Methodist, got her a space at the Sisters of Mercy, Place of Innocence.
Asked about the good news, Stephenson responded with a smile. “I am thankful. It’s never too late for good news.”
In her younger days, Stephenson worked as a domestic helper for years, and then took up vending, selling meat seasoning and other items to sustain herself. But with her best years behind her and failing health setting in, she had to leave the roadside and since then has been staying at home, with nothing to do but depend on the goodness of others.
Looking ahead, she said at least, she will be in a cleaner place, where she is sure to get more assistance.
Photo Credit: Norman Grindley/Chief Photo Editor – Gleaner
Anti Bullying in Jamaican Schools
Bullying typically starts in primary school, peaks in junior high school, and declines around the final years of high school. Its effects can be severe and long-lasting on youths and their families. The basic fact of bullying is that it is a cruel torment, so disturbing that educators often do not have the resources, training and time needed to battle the problem.
Children who are bullied are five times more likely to be depressed compared to their peers. Boys who experience the violence of bullying are four times more likely to be suicidal. Girls who are bullied are eight times more likely to be suicidal. Besides all of the suffering caused by bullying, it can lead to loss opportunities for its victims. Both bullying and being bullied destroy the basic peace and sense of security students need for happiness, learning, and growth—all the normal positive experiences that should be available to every child in school.
Bullied Victim Case 1. On January 8, 2016 Music Teacher Lyssette Hawthorne lost her son to suicide. She relates her 15 year old first born and only son to the public as “handsome, intelligent and talented.” He was also student at a prominent high school in Jamaica – How could suicide be possible for a young man that had the world ahead to live for?
He Was A Victim Of Bulling at School. His mother states that she tried to help her son with many resources, but the bullying was too much for him. He saw no way out of it but through death. Bullying snuff the reason to live out of him.
Bullied Victim Case 2. “I LOVE that man above, please shield me from danger; only God knows my problem.” This was the suicide note left behind on the bed of 11-year-old Damal Jackson of Wait-A-Bit, Trelawny, Jamaica. Damal was found hanging from a tree in his backyard in 2011.
The signs of bullying were missed at home and school
Damal’s mother Natasha Robinson related to the Jamaica Gleaner that Damal was subjected to bullying by an older boy at school, she found out about the bullying the day before his death – from his 11-year-old cousin who attends the same school, and told her about Damal being constantly bullied by a boy, who on several occasions demanded money from Damal. She made plans to report the matter to the school the next day, however he committed suicide the very evening she told him of her plans for the next day. His mother said that she believes her son was so afraid of the reaction of the older boy once his teacher was made aware of what was happening, and fear drove him to hang himself.
Teachers at the school reported that they were unaware that Damal was being bullied. He was an excellent student who was doing well in his preparation for the Grade Six Achievement Test, and they say he did not show signs of uneasiness.
Le Antonio’s Foundation End Bullying Globally and Anti-crime Initiative
What Exactly is Bullying?
Bullying can described as the act of repeated (or the potential to repeat) aggression or hostility to another person (mental, physical or social), repeat negative behavior to another person, intent to harm, it involves real or perceived power imbalance between perpetrator and victim. Bullying does not include playful and/or friendly teasing and fights/arguments between children of equal strength.
Child peer bullying can be described as when one student is picked on, attacked, or made fun of repeatedly by another student(s).
Types of Bullying: In most cases as the two boys above who killed themselves after being bullied, bullying does not always manifest as a physical attack (fight) on the victim. Most of the behavior of bullying will be demeaning name calling, subtle and continuous shoves and pushes, intimidating stares and looks, intimidating sounds, threats, isolating another child from activity and other peers, spreading rumors. While many acts of bullying may not escalate to violence, the psychological and emotional impact can be far more devastating.
Bullying among youths is an age old silent killer, it destroys lives of the young physically, mentally, psychologically, and socially. Bulling is swiftly increasing in Jamaican schools with the advancement of technology and decrease of unity withing among school educators, families, and the community at large.
Some of the Common Types of Bullying Among Youths Are:
- Physical Bullying (Fights, Pushing, Grabbing, Shoving, Hitting, Spitting, etc)
- Verbal ( Intimidating Sounds, Name Calling, Laughing, Spreading Rumors/Lies, Insults, etc)
- Emotional (Isolation, Intimidating Steers and Looks etc)
- Cyber Bulling/Technology Bullying (Using Text Messages, Social Medias, Phone Calls to Create Verbal and Written Harassment)
- Sexual Bullying (Forcing Sexual Actions on Another, Harassment for Sexual Actions)
- Gender Bullying (Stereotyping a Student as Having Other Sexual Orientation, or Sexual Behavioral Tendencies and Creating Emotional, Physical, Cyber, Sexual or Verbal Harassment)
- Racial Bullying (Creating Emotional, Physical, Cyber, Sexual or Verbal Harassment About the Race of Another)
Signs A Child Is Being Bullied:
We listed below some possible warning signs that a child may be bullied and needs support. Of course, these signs could indicate other problems than bullying, but any of these warrant investigating what is happening to the child. Every child is different and any child can have an “off” day, so any of the below must be monitored for a pattern of behavior that is not typical for your child, rather than assuming it to be bullying at the first sign.
- Unexplained physical marks, cuts, bruises and scrapes
- Doesn’t want to go to school or other activities with peers
- Afraid of riding the school bus
- Afraid to walk home alone
- Afraid to be left alone: wants you there at dismissal, suddenly clingy
- Suddenly sullen, withdrawn, evasive; remarks about feeling lonely
- Marked change in typical behavior or personality
- Appears sad, moody, angry, anxious or depressed and that mood lasts with no known cause
- Physical complaints; headaches, stomachaches, frequent visits the school nurse’s office
- Difficulty sleeping, nightmares, cries self to sleep, bed wetting
- Change in eating habits
- Begins bullying siblings or younger kids. (Bullied children can sometimes flip their role and become the bully.)
- Waits to get home to use the bathroom. (School and park bathrooms are often not adult-supervised, and can be hot spots for bullying.)
- Suddenly has fewer friends or doesn’t want to be with the “regular group”
- Always starving when he comes home. (Bullies can use extortion stealing a victim’s lunch money or lunch.)
- Sudden and significant drop in grades. (Bullying can cause a child to have difficulty focusing and concentrating.)
- Blames self for problems; feels “not good enough”
- Talks about feeling helpless or about suicide
- Runs away
Can there be a Zero Tolerance Approach to Bullying?
Children who get involved in the action of bullying others are often very skilled at choosing their victims and covering their tracks. Bullying does not always take place in the classroom, this can happen on the playground, on the school grounds, on the path from school to home, in the bathroom, in the lunch room, at gym, etc. Children who are victims of peer violence often become skilled at hiding their hurt, fear, intimidation and depression. Most time they begin to contemplate a way out of the situation themselves without getting an adult involved and may feel that the situation is unique the them and their lives. Parent and teachers are often not aware of the signs of bullying and easily mistake them for the normal teen and pre-teen growth process.
Le Antonio’s Foundation has taken on the challenge of eliminating bullying among the school aged youths in Jamaica. The Foundation has formed “Le Antonio’s Foundation Anti-Bullying team”, headed by Founder, President and CEO of Le Antonio’s Foundation, Antonio McKoy. Volunteers of the Foundation visit schools in Jamaica and present the message of anti-bullying. The Anti-Bullying team is comprised of Le Antonio’s Foundation Youth Ambassador who volunteer with the Foundation to spread the word about he effects of bullying.
Ant-Bullying School Campaign Meetings
End Bullying Globally Campaign: at each school that Le Antonio’s Foundation Youth Ambassador visits they present an education session to the students during the general assemble and class room one and ones. The Anti-Bullying team identify what is bullying and the types of bullying, managing and resolving conflict, the consequences of bullying and speaking up against bullying if they are aware of it.
Le Antonio’s Foundation created a “Anti-Bullying Pledge” of affirmation against bullying. This pledge is delivered to the to the students during Le Antonio’s Foundation End Bullying Globally presentation in the schools. Students are encouraged to keep this Anti-Bullying Pledge in a safe place where they can be reminded of they decision to honor anti-bullying.
Anti-Bullying Sub Groups in Schools
In September 2015 the Jamaican Ministry of Education revised its safety and security manual to address bullying in schools. The policy mandates administrators to provide guidelines for creating awareness about bullying in schools, as well as identify sanctions for breaches. The manual mandates that reports of bullying must be documented, data kept, and steps taken to assist both victims and offenders.
Le Antonio’s Foundation will act as a non-governmental, non-profit organization in support of the Jamaican Ministry of Education and, will join school officials and the office of the guidance counselor at each school that accommodates an End Bullying Globally Campaign, to set up and spear head “Anti-Bullying Sub Groups” in the schools in Jamaica. “Le Antonio’s Foundation Sub Groups” will serve to provide additional information on bullying and stand as support to the schools. The Sub Groups will link the schools with resources to assist the students affected by bullying, including the victims, those that witness bullying and the students that bully others or participate in the action of bullying. The office of Le Antonio’s Foundation Sub Groups will document the incidents of bullying and present the schools with a anti-bullying survey to distribute to the students for statistical collection.
Le Antonio’s Foundation is joining the forces of the youths worldwide to stand up against bullying. Youth from all over are joining the Foundation to be a End Bullying Globally Youth Ambassador. The benefit of becoming a Le Antonio’s End Bullying Globally Youth Ambassador are tremendous, not only do the Ambassadors have the opportunity to send the message of Anti bullying, they also have the opportunity to participate in all of the Foundation events related to anti-bullying.
Le Antonio’s Foundation Homework & Development Center Re-Opened on November 17, 2015. Big thanks to our sponsors!
We are pleased to announce the reopening of the Le Antonio’s Foundation Homework and Development Center on November 17, 2015. After the Observer news covered the closure of the Le Antonio’s Homework and Development Center, this sparked comments from the community and the Foundation received help from residents of Montego Bay’s business community; which enabled the Homework and Development Center to re-open. The efforts to re-0pen the Center was spearheaded by Montego Bay businesswoman and chairman of Hanover Charities: Mrs. Katrin Casserly, who secured sponsors to re-open the center.
LIST OF CURRENT (2015) SPONSORS OF LE ANTONIO’S FOUNDATION HOMEWORK AND DEVELOPMENT CENTER
Kathrin Casserly, Courts Furniture Jamaica, Patrick Casserly, Candis Craig, Elizabeth Lang, Mr and Mrs. Tom Tyler, Dr. Arusha Chambers, MD, Frederick Moe, Sidney Archer, Ashley-Ann Foster, Fairview Texaco, Doctor’s Cave Bathing Club, Carla Dear, Dr. Orlando Cunningham, MD, Dr. Germaine Spencer, MD, Fontana Pharmacy – Anne Chang, Kathryn May, Magne Bjørke, Cadine Lawrence, Gregory Yap Sam, Feona Bola.