Infant Care Center Provides Needed Care
A Roatan Children in Crisis Center Opens, Reaches Capacity after Two Months

November 1st, 2009
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private]

Familias Saludables staff members Ingrid Evette Conner, Valerie Nelson, Sol Angel Velasquez.

Familias Saludables staff members Ingrid Evette Conner, Valerie Nelson, Sol Angel Velasquez.

Opening in the first week of August, the Morgan Jayne Infant Care Center in Sandy Bay is already working to capacity. The idea for the center began in September 2008, and culminated with the opening of the building in August 2009. The center transitionally cares for infants in crisis from exposure to AIDS, or mothers who are recovering from illness, drugs, or mental problems, and is the only care facility on Roatan to specialize in infant care.

Central to the Morgan Jayne center’s mission is providing physical and emotional support during crisis and rehabilitation. “This is a treatment center, not an orphanage,” said Valerie Nelson, who spearheaded the Morgan Jayne Project. Her daughter Jane is the on-site director.

Nelson is director of Familias Saludables, HIV and AIDS support center in Coxen Hole. Begun in 2001 under the umbrella organization, The Dawn Land Foundation from Alberta, Canada, Familias Saludables was initially a project for reducing mother-child mortality on Roatan. The non-profit currently provides support, education and counseling to the AIDS community and beyond, as well as baby formula, clothes, vitamins and medications. Familias Saludables currently helps 78 families, 175 of them children. The Morgan Jayne Project expands the scope of services offered by Familias Saludubles.

All infants in the center are on an intended six month program. “The first priority is to place babies back with mothers if their treatments and rehabilitation have been successful, second with extended families, and third with a home placement or adoption, strictly to local nationals or residents,” said Nelson. The center works closely with INHFA (Honduran Institute of Childhood and the Family), treatment programs, extended families, and donors toward this goal. “The whole idea is rehabilitation, not financial support to the families.”

The facility has capacity for ten cribs, and the center has to screen vigorously to keep numbers manageable, unfortunately turning away children. According to Nelson, the requests for help are overwhelming. Strict parameters must be kept in order to function effectively. The child must be determined to be living in “dangerous circumstances,” and the parent must be formally working toward rehabilitation and treatment, which usually occurs on the mainland. Admission is ongoing as the center operates with a revolving patient base. Nelson sees a definite need to expand, but is not planning on it in the near future. “In addition to space concerns are financial capacity, volunteers, and supplies, in order to provide quality support services,” said Nelson.

Several Roatan businesses have supported the center with fundraising events and donations, including Bananarama’s crab races, West Bay Lodge’s baby formula donations, Hyde Shipping’s donation of air conditioning equipment, Vegas Electric’s donation of solar panels, and the Christmas Concert for the Angels fundraiser.

Support also comes from volunteers and students from the ESBIR bilingual school who receive their community service credit. Students Cheyenne Schaub, 14 and Kaela Watkins, 14, have even returned for a second volunteer term. [/private]

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