Trinity School of Medicine has a newly formed student-mentoring program specifically focused on the island’s orphan population. Diana Freeman, president and founder of Kid Companions explained, “At my first student government meeting, I saw the organizations that had outreaches to orphanages and different homes around St. Vincent. They gave money and resources, but I wanted to belong to an organization that gave time and effort into building the lives of the children in these institutions, so I started something new.”
The new organization, according to Diana, found it “Absolutely easy to get members, everyone was willing to get involved and to help out,” chose to immediately put its objectives into operation. Within three weeks, they traveled to Georgetown (roughly twenty miles from campus, on the island’s north side) to visit the residents of the St. Benedict Children’s Home (a Catholic facility is home to twenty children between the ages of two months to eighteen years old, many with cognitive and physical impairments).
At St. Benedict’s, the medical students were greeted by supervisor Lovetha Lavia and immediately met their charges, proceeding to the home’s playground to get acquainted and play games including wheelchair races.
The Trinity students expressed their delight at participating in ‘Kid Companions’ first venture. The President explained that, “The most important aspect of our companionship to the children is that they have a good time and get comfortable with us, know we’re safe people that care about them.” Member David Mantilla noted, “I absolutely enjoyed this afternoon. I felt like I got as much out of it as the children did. I was just so happy to see the smiles on their faces; it is really is so simple as just coming out here and spending time with them.” Alexx Hames was overjoyed, “I believe that coming here has shown the kids that there is a larger range of people that can love them and care for them.”
St. Benedict’s director, Sister Nyra-Anne Pajotte, was extremely happy with the group’s visit, agreeing that, “The interaction is really encouraging to the children.” She confided that, sometimes, the children do not quite know how to engage outsiders, so people coming in to focus on companioning them is definite boost to their social skills.
Kid Companions has planned two other visits to the St. Benedict Children’s Home during this term, in which the children will be taken on walks and will be treated to a carnival. Additional trips are planned to the Social Services Clinic of the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (the nearby teaching hospital where Trinity students gain clinical experience starting in the first term). From there, Freeman hopes the initiative will only grow and even hints at some joint ventures with some of Trinity’s other outreach groups in the future.