Franciscan

Friars' Work

Medical clinic a game changer for the people

By Lindsey Archdeacon

For years the Franciscans have worked to combat hunger, get kids to school, and bring the Gospel to people at their Jamaican mission. The busy St. Anthony Kitchen provides meals to over 150 people a day. The latest student to graduate from their successful Get Kids to School program is now thriving in college.

With these programs up and running, Fr. Colin King—who has been in Jamaica full time since his ordination in July of 2017—is eager to address the need for basic medical care among the people of the small, rural communities in which they serve. The deep care and concern he feels for the Jamaican people is palpable when he speaks of them. His excitement about the medical clinic is contagious.

"There is no medical presence in the small settlement of Revival," he explains. "It’s a 30-minute drive by car to the nearest medical facility and a 45-minute drive to the hospital in Negril—and that’s if people can even find and afford a taxi for transportation."

To be seen in the nearest medical clinic, people must arrive by 4:30 a.m., or they likely won’t be seen at all that day. Long lines form early in the island heat. Taxis usually don’t operate in the middle of the night, so people are forced to leave for the clinic the night before, walk, pay a friend who has a car, or just forgo medical care altogether. Sadly, people often have to go without, and sometimes the consequences can be dire—like for the man whose dog bite turned into a limb amputation due to lack of basic care.

Fr. Colin explains that their neighboring diocese has a medical clinic with a nurse available five days a week and a doctor who visits two days a week. He envisions a clinic like this for the people he serves at St. Mary’s in Revival, where he is pastor, and for those in the surrounding areas.

"If we can implement a medical clinic for the people there, it will be a game changer, possibly even a lifesaver for them," he says. "Eventually it would be nice to have a clinic at each of our Franciscan churches on the island, but right now our goal is to get our first clinic up and running at St. Mary’s."

The friars already have a space for their clinic—a one-bedroom rectory on church property that they’ve been using as a general storage area since their arrival. It’s been a large undertaking to clean and renovate it, but Fr. Colin reports that people have been very generous with their time and resources. A Jamaican man with a background in construction has been working at night to help renovate the rectory. Some supplies have already been donated. Everyone in the community wants to see the clinic open.

They’ve also had a successful "Gospel rally fundraiser" at St. Mary’s Church. About 3,000 USD were raised by the hardworking people of the parish.

"That’s double the funds of the largest fundraiser we’ve ever had!" Fr. Colin exclaims. "We’re off to a strong start with a lot of commitment and involvement from the community, which is fantastic because this must be a community project and effort. The local bishop is very supportive as well."

The friars are hoping they will receive enough support to be able to open the new clinic, with nurses, later this August for school children to receive back-to-school physicals. Basic medical supplies, such as scales, height charts, first aid kits, and stethoscopes, are some of the things needed for the launch.

"We’ve got the land and we have the building, which are usually the biggest initial hurdles," Fr. Colin says. "We’re ready. Now it’s time to trust in people’s generosity and the providence of God to get this new clinic up and continuously running."

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