Four times the joy! - Returning residents looking forward to special day with their foster boys
Christmas Day was usually quiet for Lorna Lawrence and her husband Michael when they first relocated to Jamaica in 2010 after living in the United States for more than 40 years, but thanks to the addition of four boys to their household, she is preparing for a grand celebration this Tuesday.
All of the boys are being fostered by the couple and live with them on their 35-acre property in Islington, St Mary.
"It was just a little bit too quiet around the house. We have always had children in our house, even overseas we had them too," said Lorna.
They have one son who is now an adult, but they have always taken in children. While in the US, they fostered 15 children, and while growing up, they remember their parents fostering children informally as well.
"We realised that there is a need in Jamaica for foster parents, and since we were parents already, we had the experience and the background and we want to give back," said Lorna, who made contact with the then Child Development Agency to find out how she could foster a child after moving back home.
"We took some children in the community and we would do homework with them, we would buy books, we would give lunch money and stuff like that, but then they went home. We needed somebody around the house," Lorna added.
Their first foster child joined them in 2014 and he is now eight, while the latest addition to the family is a five-year-old boy who joined them three months ago. Their youngest foster child is four years old.
"There have been challenges. They all have different personalities, but you have to work with each child individually," said Lorna.
The boys told The Sunday Gleaner that they are looking forward to decorating the Christmas tree, which is a tradition for the family. The tree would normally be up a few weeks before Christmas Day, but they had to delay this treasured activity because the Lawrences are currently putting additional rooms on their house to create more space for the boys.
As if the huge property with its assortment of fruit trees isn't enough, Lorna declared, "They need additional space to spread out."
In the Lawrence household, there is a role for everyone to play.
"They must clean their room. When my husband is going to take the goats out, they can go with him. They go in the afternoons to pick up the goats, because they each have one of their own. They help him feed the pigs and the chickens. We don't let them pick up eggs," she said.
"They get to watch movie once per week if they are good. It is a treat. They get their tablet if they have been doing what they are supposed to do, like schoolwork, and whatever chores I give them to do, but nothing in the week," she explained.
Each of the boys has a special place in Lorna's heart, but she is particularly protective of Damian*, the first boy she decided to foster.
"He doesn't have a problem, it is just that he is a little person, and then that comes with its own issues. His bones are not like everybody else's bones and so we have to be careful that he doesn't break his bones, but he climbs like everybody else does," said Lorna who washes, cooks and does the hard cleaning for the boys.
But she noted that for the most part raising the boys is a community endeavour. One of the neighbours sometimes keeps them when Lorna has to run errands, and others try to guide them while they go to church and school.
"If they see them doing something wrong, somebody would correct them and I don't mind that," said Lorna.
While returning residents had been advised in recent times to rethink plans to relocate to Jamaica, Lorna would love for more to come and try to make a difference.
"This is home," she said before adding, "We decided to come home because we've worked, we have earned our rest, so we decided to come here."
*Name changed on request.