“Monsignor Gregory!” a voice called down the aisle of the store. Founder of Mustard Seed Communities, Msgr. Gregory Ramkissoon, was visiting Florida for a few days and stopped into the store to pick up a few items.
Hearing his name, Msgr. Gregory turned to find a young woman. He didn’t quite recognize her; where might he have met her before?
“Hello, Monsignor! I don’t know if you remember me… I’m from Mary’s Child,” she said. At that moment, Msgr. realized that this woman, now an independent adult living in the United States, was a former resident of MSC’s home in Jamaica for pregnant teenagers and young mothers in crisis, Mary’s Child.
The residents of Mary’s Child are survivors: courageous girls who may have experienced abuse or neglect, and are referred to MSC by social workers, schools, and health authorities. At any given time, Mary’s Child accommodates about 20 girls and their babies. Since its start in 1992, the apostolate has housed over one thousand girls who each typically stay at Mary’s Child for six months to a year.
Mustard Seed Communities strives to provide an environment that nurtures and empowers these girls. By providing shelter, food, and education to young mothers and their babies, Mary’s Child encourages them to achieve goals set both for themselves and for their children. Personally, socially, professionally, and spiritually, Mary’s Child fosters a family of empowered individuals who can proudly look toward a promising future.
“It’s really hard to put into words what we do for these girls… you watch and see the transformation. They come here as a blank slate but they leave so empowered,” commented Nadia Williams, Administrator of Mary’s Child. Ms. Williams has been working with Mustard Seed for 16 years, experiencing the residents’ growth in confidence and independence time and time again.
Mary’s Child is one of the only homes of its kind in Jamaica. Its unique model bolsters capability and confidence in young women as each resident has a responsibility to keep the home running. Upon arriving home from school each day, the residents spend time together, read and do homework, cook dinner, tend to the gardens outdoors, care for their babies, and prepare for their futures. This family-like structure encourages organizational and leadership skills that hold immeasurable value as the girls transition into motherhood.
Spirituality is held at the heart of the residents’ lives; every day, the girls are immersed in opportunities for spiritual development. “They learn to build up a personal relationship with God,” said Ms. Williams. Morning meditation, midday rosary, and weekly Mass are all crucial components of day-to-day life at Mary’s Child.
“I learned so much about love and compassion during my time there and the significance of spirituality and religion,” wrote Tiffany, a mission volunteer who stayed at Mary’s Child with her medical team from Adelphi University.
In addition to this loving and safe shelter, Mary’s Child hosts programs that nurture educational and professional development. A multitude of computer courses, home economics lessons, seminars on parenting skills, sewing classes, and more training opportunities are available for the girls to hone in on skills that will support them through adulthood.
“One thing I am passionate about is female independence—both socially and financially. I love the way that Mary's Child is teaching and guiding these girls into being self-sufficient and focuses on their education and future employment,” said Luci Wilden, owner of Knots & Vibes, a handmade crochet label based in London. Last year, Ms. Wilden hosted a workshop at Mary’s Child for residents to learn crochet as a practical skill for earning income as well as a creative outlet.
This Women’s History Month, join us in celebrating all the women and girls who are blessings in the Mustard Seed Communities family:
Women like the mother who recognized Msgr. Gregory, who once called Mary’s Child home and are now living empowered lives thanks to the support and love they received at MSC
Women like Ms. Williams and the caregiving team, who dedicate their careers to uplifting the mothers of Mary’s Child
Women like Tiffany and Luci, who offer their time and talents to the girls and babies at Mary’s Child, and the mission volunteers across all MSC apostolates
The countless women around the world who support the work of MSC in ways big and small
The girls of Mary’s Child, who inspire our community every day with their grace, courage, and hopefulness