(Jamaica Observer) Caring for the less fortunate is second nature for Eusa Samuels, a Guyanese who relocated to Jamaica 13 years ago.
In fact, when the real estate professional moved to the island in 2005 and saw the desolate conditions under which some of the nation’s elderly lived, he broke down and cried.
Samuels, who settled in Bog Walk, St Catherine and was later joined by his family, could not ignore the silent pleas for help from the poor and abandoned members of the community, including the elderly.
The founder and president of HELP (Helping Each Life Progress) Outreach Foundation Limited, said there were two needy elderly people who inspired him to start the charitable organisation.
“When I came here I saw an elderly lady, she has passed away now, but she was living alone. She had been abandoned… when I go to her home, she would call me ‘paason’; she couldn’t see me because she was blind, but I couldn’t convince her differently that I was just an ordinary person in the community.
“And there was another guy, he, too, has passed. I swear to you, how he was living, this thing moved me in such a way that my family has never seen me cry… but I shed tears like a baby,” Samuels recounted to the Jamaica Observer. “I committed from there on [to help]. Sometimes it is tough, but we keep pushing; we must go on because there is need.”
When asked to expound on the conditions of the two senior citizens, he said: “[The lady] was living in a little shack, and the most difficult part was when we were leaving… because she would start to cry.
“… While her condition was bad, [the man’s] condition was worse. He was in a quad by himself, no door. The only thing that was there, was a zinc frame. We went there in the end part of the year, and he was there very cold. When we visited, he was looking like wolverine — his hair and nails were so unkempt, regular nail clippers couldn’t cut his nails.
“He was a very sweet, old man, and when we were finished with him, he didn’t need to say anything — the smile on his face said it all,” Samuels said.
According to the Guyanese man, he grew up in a house where he was taught to always assist those who are in need.
“I grew up in a home where my grandparents were always doing [for others]… and they taught us that when people come knocking at your door, you must give them something to eat, you must help, so it is in me,” he said, adding that his grandfather was a church elder.
Samuels said, too, that he has always felt like he has failed his grandfather, and so giving back is part of his atonement.
He explained that when he was a boy, his grandfather would tell him the story, repeatedly. However, he did not get, then, what his grandfather was trying to say to him.
“I didn’t fully understand things, but I realise sometimes when you get up in age, you just need someone to listen [to you], someone to talk to… I didn’t think I did enough for my grandfather back then,” Samuels said.
He explained that in his community of Bog Walk, people have come to his door for help.
“That is why it moves me, to not just do it as me and my family, but to have [the entity] registered and have more people like myself take part,” he explained. “Guyanese or not, I would still be doing it.”
The outreach organisation was registered in 2014, but Samuels explained that it is an extension of a charity group which was founded in 2005 under the United Nations Association in Jamaica.
Samuels said he and the members of that charity group decided to start a new organisation that would allow them to focus on issues determined by them, as they were the ones who would be funding those efforts. He said the group decided to focus on helping senior citizens and shut-ins in Bog Walk and surrounding environs, through a weekly soup kitchen that provides meals every Wednesday as well as monthly home visits to the elderly individuals, which also includes the provision of meals and carrying out regular grooming.
HELP Outreach Foundation Limited also has an annual senior citizens’ treat at Christmastime and a health and legal fair, where they can access free medical checks, medicine and legal advice.
“Everybody is for themselves. Everybody is fighting for themselves and everybody is looking out for themselves, and that is a big problem,” Samuels said.
He said his group is doing its part and comprises of people who are not wealthy but are simply doing what they can because of their passion for reaching out to others and commitment to helping.
“Throughout the years there are days when we feel that this is going to be it, but through commitment and a will to proceed and to move forward, that is why we are here today,” Samuels said, adding that the group also gets support from community members.
In the meantime, he said one of the greatest needs for the group is a motor vehicle as it is unable to provide meals to people in some areas.
The president said there are some communities that the group has not visited in a while, because when they started he was using his vehicle to transport meals but because of work obligations in Kingston, he is unable to continue.
“The need in the community is great, and if we who are able don’t reach out and touch a life and help somebody, well then… without outreach like this, we would all be blind,” Samuels said.