HelpAge project reduces negative impact of migration in Jamaica


By Rosaleen Cunningham and Caroline Dobbing

An older women in Jamaica shares a special moment with her granddaughter. Our project in Jamaica has helped to bring different generations together. (c) HelpAge International A HelpAge International project in Jamaica has been successful in reducing the negative impact of migration in multi-generational households.

The innovative project involved parents, grandparents and caregivers in three inner-city Kingston communities where 75% of families have been affected by migration. In total 1,500 multi-generational households and 7,500 people took part.

Caregivers who participated in the project received training in parenting skills. As a result, they said they could cope better with their caring responsibilities. The training also increased life prospects for the children in their care.

Strengthening families and communities

"These are important development issues," says Jeff James, Caribbean Regional Representative for HelpAge International. "When families are more resilient and able to face challenges, communities become stronger and more supportive."

Grandparents and parents alike said that the project had improved their daily lives. They were enthusiastic and committed to the project. Many said it had increased their ability to handle conflict and anger. They also noticed a decrease in domestic violence and better communication between generations.

Impact of migration on older Jamaicans

More than 225,000 people legally migrated from Jamaica between 1996 and 2007, according to the Planning Institute of Jamaica.

As part of the project, HelpAge also carried out a survey to find out more about the effects of this migration. Around 1,200 residents in three inner-city communities in Kingston took part.

The survey revealed that most people who had migrated made little or no provision for their children's education or welfare before moving.

The results showed that after migration, 56% of children were cared for by older siblings. The remaining 44% were looked after by other family members, including grandparents.

Old age poverty and migration

Remittances from overseas are one of the leading sources of foreign currency inflows into Jamaica, making up 17% of Jamaica's gross national income. 54% of Jamaican households have received cash from family members working overseas.

However, the participants in this project reported that a large proportion of that money is spent on food and school expenses. This leaves little for those who are caring for children - including grandparents - to survive on.

Indeed, poverty in old age is a reality for many Jamaicans, with almost 40% of those over 60 living below the poverty line.

Jeff James points out: "As this percentage increases and migration continues, a greater proportion of older people and younger children will be living in multi-generational households. Unfortunately, many of them will experience high rates of poverty and vulnerability."

Recommendations to reduce the impact of migration

To further reduce the harmful effects of migration, HelpAge has made a number of recommendations to the Jamaican government, which include:

  • implementing educational programmes and counselling in schools for children of migrants
  • organising preparation sessions for parents who plan to migrate to address its impact on their children and other family members
  • facilitating skills training workshops to increase employment opportunities so people have an alternative to moving abroad for work
  • establishing a register of migrant parents to enable better monitoring of children left behind.

Project details

Other project activities included:

  • counselling for families
  • a career guidance programme with schools in the project communities
  • community information fairs to provide basic health checks and information on government social assistance programmes
  • making a short feature documentary on the impact of migration on families of Jamaican origin
  • training in small business development and the use of remittances.

The project's specific focus on households affected by migration will inform HelpAge's on-going work in Jamaica on secure incomes, health and social care, emergencies, climate change and disaster risk reduction.

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  • SAM (30 April 2014)

    I am voluntarily trying to help trace a mother (& father) for a Jamaican 1956 British born female. This 1956 babys mother firstly called herself Mavis Joyce Fowlin when she arrived on the ship s/s Jamaica Producer on 22nd Dec 1953 from Kingston to London uner Steamship Lines Jamaica Banana Producers Ltd. Official number 156140. She stated that she was 21yrs but I think she was younger. She said that she was a teacher and heading for Essex County Hospital, Essex. But this doesnt make much sense to me.
    Later on 8th January 1956 she gave birth to her daughter in Bishopsgate London. She allowed adoption to a white couple through a Methodist womens congregational church network.
    She must have returned to Jamaica briefly in late Jan/Feb 1956. I believe that she returned on or just before 5th March 1956 as a single Joyce E? Fowlin with a date of birth as 24/08/35. She states that she was then living at 72 Lancaster Rd.,Stroud Green, London as a student. (I noticed that a married man calling himself Roy G Thompson was also a passenger on this trip back to England via Plymouth. He was said to be a labourer and apparently living at Faraday Rd., London) .
    In Dec 1956 Mavis /Joyce Fowlin married an Alvin Thompson in London.(Stretham)
    It appears to me that they may have been married anyway - perhaps back in Jamaica, but that it was easier for Mavis J Fowlin to retain her single status in official terms.
    Or maybe, they knew each other before, but only got round to getting married in Dec 1956, once the dust had settled from having the January 8th 1956 baby adopted. Either way, it may be that the same man on the passenger list dated 5th March 1956, is the father of the January 8th 1956 baby. As his date of birth is 01.05.30., if he is whom we later came to know as Alvin, then hell be in his 90yrs whilst Mavis is likely to be mid 80yrs. If they are still alive, it is crucial for the January 8th 1956 baby to make contact sooner rather than later. And if they have died, she would still like to know where their remains have been interned- and to know where here birth mother actually came from in Jamaica and whether she remained in the UK or went back, because this is an emotional journey that needs to be completed for her own well being.
    The mother appears to have reluctantly given up her child for adoption, even though the family that took on the responsibility were absolutely fine, warm and caring. They gave her a good upbringing and have also long since died as they were very elderly when they first took the baby in. The 1956 baby has daughters & grand children who would also like to know a bit more about their roots. Please can you help us?
    EM: or Tel 07949074989

  • ankita bagga (20 October 2011)

    i liked it. keep it up may god bless you

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The project is funded by the EC-UN Joint Migration and Development Initiative (JMDI) funded and implemented by HelpAge International and Hope for Children Development Company.

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