Nestled in the quiet community of Newport, Manchester is Curphey Home, an infirmary for Jamaica’s indigent military veterans. Referred to as a “Haven”, Curphey Home was established in 1957 and was named after the late Colonel Sir Aldington Curphey, one of the founders of the Jamaica Legion. The first four residents moved in to the Home on 1 January 1957.
Curphey Home provides care, support and protection to persons who served in the Jamaican Armed Forces, including those who served in World Wars I and II as well as those who participated in other military deployments locally, regionally and internationally. The Home has a capacity to house only 25 residents; therefore, most of the destitute military veterans have to be cared for externally. Run mainly by a team of volunteers, Curphey Home is funded through donations from the National Poppy Appeal, Government subsidies, and contributions from the JDF
“Many of our military veterans experience challenges and unfortunate situations that result in them not being able to take care of even their most basic needs”, commented Lieutenant Colonel Warrenton Dixon, Chairman of the National Poppy Appeal. “The Curphey Home provides a place of safety, comfort and care that allows them to live the remaining period of their lives with some level of dignity. This is why the Jamaica Legion works hard each year to improve our fund-raising efforts. However, we are finding out that many people now, do not really know what the National Poppy Appeal is about, and don’t understand how their donation helps to enrich the lives of these ex-soldiers. The international motto of the Poppy Appeal is “lest we forget”, which speaks to how important it is that we do not forget the sacrifices made by the men and women who dedicated their lives to protecting our future and the safety of our country. These veterans have served their country well and deserve our care and assistance, and we all have a duty to help.”
Curphey Home is supervised by a local management committee and directly controlled by a resident Superintendent. The buildings and compound are owned by the Government and people of Jamaica. In addition to the personal and health care of the residents themselves, other more general needs of the home are related to ongoing building maintenance, utilities, transportation, and insurance. Special projects such as a small cash crop garden and a poultry farm are undertaken to reduce the cost of operating the home.
Over the years, the condition of the building deteriorated, however in 2017, through a collaboration between the National Housing Trust (NHT), the Jamaica Legion and the Jamaica Defense Force (JDF), restoration of the premises was carried out. Renovations included an increased accommodation capacity, new bathroom and bedroom facilities, renovated recreational spaces and much needed improvements to the general structure of the building.
COVID-19 has however presented numerous challenges for the Home, especially as the residents all fall within the most vulnerable group. The staff has been diligent in putting out extraordinary efforts to keep the residents safe. The increased monitoring and sanitation processes and protocols required, not only call for increased resources, but also impacts the residents emotionally. Because of the suspension of visits to the Home, persons who would have normally come to offer various gifts, play games, read, entertain and give spiritual counselling to the residents, are unable to visit, and this of course has had a huge emotional impact on them.
COVID19 has also affected the general fund-raising drives, and in 2020, prevented the Jamaica Legion from reaching its funding targets, however, thanks to the CHASE fund, four water tanks were donated to the Home and a monetary donation from THE POPPY Appeal Committee of the St Andrew Justices of the Peace, was able to assist with ongoing repairs and operational expenses. Additionally, at the end of 2020 the Jamaica Legion was voted to be the recipient of a grant of $850,000 from the NCB Foundation’s Grant a Wish promotion, which also helped to bolster the donation efforts and thus helped to relieve some of the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We definitely need to create awareness about the Jamaica Legion and Curphey Home in particular”, stressed Colonel Dixon. “While the original residents were war veterans, the numbers of which have dwindled over the years through natural attrition, the Home was established to take care of indigent Jamaican military veterans; that purpose remains to this day. There are therefore Jamaican veterans there who served in various military Formations both prior to and subsequent to Jamaica’s independence. The common thread among all the residents at Curphey Home is that when they were able to serve, they exposed their lives to imminent danger in the interest of the Jamaican people. This fact is true whether they served with the Royal Air Forces (RAF), West India Regiment (WIR), Jamaica Infantry Volunteers (JIV), or the Jamaica Defense Force (JDF). Whether they served at a time when a war was actually declared or not, every Jamaican soldier was, and still is, prepared to put service to the country over their own safety. As they get older and leave the service, some of them fall on very hard times and it is the mandate of the Jamaica Legion to foster a spirit of comradeship between these Ex-Servicemen and women and the Jamaican people, in an effort to solicit assistance towards the care of those at Curphey Home, as well as the many who cannot the physically accommodated there.”
Even with the best of intentions the Jamaica Legion is unable to accommodate all the needy military veterans at the Curphey Home, and so many of them still live under very undesirable circumstances. Some of this is due to the limited capacity of the Home while some veterans elect to remain in places of their own choosing. It is still however the responsibility of the Jamaica Legion to secure their welfare, even outside of Curphey Home.
All Jamaicans, local and abroad are encouraged to donate to the Poppy Appeal, which takes place between now and November 11, knowing that this donation will go a far way into making sure that this wonderful institution is maintained, and is able to meet its obligations of giving these indigent military veterans a better life. More information about Curphey Home can be obtained through the Jamaica Legion by emailing [email protected] or calling 876-322-0235.