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A safe house at last!


When four-year-old Kelecia Gayle made a public appeal for a “little” house last September, people thought she was referring to a doll-house.

However, Sasha-lee Lounds, founder of Right to Life Foundation, after visiting Kelecia, her two-year-old brother Majeed-Selvin, and their mother Janell Mannings at the dilapidated board house in which they lived in West Prospect, St Catherine, realised that the request was in fact for proper shelter.

Yesterday, the family had broad smiles on their faces after being presented by First Union Financial Limited with a brand-new one-bedroom concrete house with a spacious bathroom and kitchen worth over $2 million.

The house also came with some furniture and appliances, and Kelecia immediately made known her desire to jump into the bed.

Additionally, First Union Group of Companies CEO Lloyd Campbell, who was touched by the child’s appeal, ensured that she received a play house.

Yesterday, Mannings expressed relief that the family no longer has to go to bed feeling uneasy and unsafe.

“At nights, sometimes I would be worried because the house was not even one per cent safe. It was an old board house, coming from way back. I got a chance to stay there for a while but it keeps falling apart. The floor has holes in it. Me and Kelecia fell through it already, so it wasn’t safe. When we reached out, I was seeking a board house, but instead I got this, so I am grateful,” Mannings said.

The mother also said she was very thankful that God always heard her prayers and never abandoned the family.

“I was trying to make a ply board structure and I usually ask around for board, and so on. I was working in a bar and was saving to start something, but it wasn’t happening. I remember one specific night when I cried and said, ‘Lord, I don’t know what to do’, and I just gave up.

“I grew up in church, but I am a backslider. But the voice said to me, contact the local newspaper. My story came out and a day after; YouTuber Sasha-lee Lounds reached out to me and came to my home to videotape my story,” Mannings said.

“From that day, she told me that First Union had contacted her, wanting to make a home for me and my children and that is how this became possible. I give thanks to the Lord almighty first of all and then Sasha-lee Lounds and then the First Union Group who came through for me and put a smile on all of our faces,” Mannings said.

Member of Parliament for St Catherine North Central Natalie Neita, who attended the presentation, promised to help the family, which had sought assistance from her in the past.

“Sometime ago, Miss Mannings reached out to my office. She was on a list of hundreds of persons in need of this kind of assistance. I might have gotten to her sometime next year or the year after, or maybe not at all, based on the demands placed on the office of the Member of Parliament. I can’t tell you how elated I felt for the family, how impassioned I felt for this kind of corporate responsibility because a lot of companies get the opportunity to do this and don’t,” Neita said.

“As your Member of Parliament I want to partner with First Union. You don’t have a pit yet and you need to have a bathroom that flushes so Kelecia can grow up in a home with a flush toilet. The office of the Member of Parliament will complete your pit so that you can have a perfectly good bathroom,” she said.

Neita, who presented Mannings with the key to house, on behalf of First Union, and Campbell, whom she described as having a “kind heart”, said: “I pray that no evil will befall you in this unit and that only success will come to you.”

Lounds, who had made First Union aware of the family’s plight, expressed hope that corporate Jamaica will draw inspiration from the story and make similar contributions to the lives of others in need.

“I got a message one day from a young man who saw an article in the newspaper. My foundation had built a house previously. I came and interviewed Janell and when I saw the situation I felt as though I had to do something. What really touched people was Kelsey, who asked for a ‘little’ house. Persons thought she was only asking for a dolly-house, but she was actually asking for a real house,” Lounds explained.

“I was the person who broke it down and asked her what she wanted and then it played out that she ended up getting her dolly-house and a real one. Growing up, I never had toys. I never had dollies. I am really grateful that they decided to partner with Right to Life Foundation and I hope that corporate Jamaica will follow their lead and make an initiative like this one to find solutions for families like Miss Mannings’ family. I hope somebody else will get help based on this story,” Lounds added.

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