St Ann’s Orphanage : A refuge for vulnerable children
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THE ST ANN’S Orphanage at 247 Thomas Street has been a home and refuge for many unfortunate girls for many a years.
The institution was begun way back in July of 1851, when a Roman Catholic Bishop took two girls from the Alms House to the Ursuline Convent and asked the nuns, who had just arrived in the country, to give them a home.
These girls were soon joined by many others, and thus St Ann’s came into being.
At present, there are 37 girls at the Orphanage, but the normal number is usually about fifty.
St Ann’s has accommodated as many as 102 children at one time or the other. The Orphanage caters for girls between the ages of four and 6. But sometimes, as in the case of two newly-admitted siblings who had a three-year-old sister, an exception can be made to avoid separating the family.
After secondary school, and at about the age of 16, the girls move on.
In the early years, the Orphanage catered primarily  to orphans. Many come today because they have been abandoned, neglected, or abused.
The girls remain until they have completed secondary education. Jobs are secured, and they move on, once they can support themselves. If they wish to continue on to higher education, they are given assistance. The St. Bernadette’s Hostel was opened primarily as a ‘half-way’ home for girls leaving St. Ann’s.
There is good collaboration between the Orphanage and the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security. Minimal financial assistance is received, and social workers are attached to the Home.
Children coming to St Ann’s are screened by officers of the Ministry, and must be recommended by them. The Ministry offers training courses, which are attended by staff of the Home.
St Ann’s has no definite income. Some generous people continue to give donations each year. The Home depends on ordinary donations of food, clothing and money. Each day, without fail, people arrive with cooked meals, bags of rice, sugar, flour and all sorts of other things.
Guyanese returning home from overseas go out of their way to bring very nice things for the girls. But most of the people who bring things to the Home are ordinary folks from places like Ruimveldt, Albouystown, Agricola, Sophia and Charlestown. They make the sacrifice to help.
Each year, the Good Friday collection in all Catholic Churches is divided between St. John Bosco Boys Home and St. Ann’s.
In times of illness, the St Joseph Mercy Hospital gives free service and medication when they have it. The girls are treated very well there, with no distinction made from any other children. Any child with a chronic disease is taken to see the doctor as regularly as necessary.
Whenever medical outreach teams visit Guyana, they often come to the Home and check all the girls. They then make the necessary diagnosis and prescriptions. A local pharmacist has offered to assist the Home. She has examined all the medicine chests to ensure everything is in order. She assists in purchasing whatever is necessary.
Many children arrive at the Home with academic problems. Some have missed school for two to three years or more. There are even those who have never attended school. In one case, a child of thirteen had never gone to school. She did not even know the alphabet.
If these girls are sent to government schools, they are placed according to age chronologically. Because they have missed school for some years, they cannot follow what is being taught in class. This leads to much frustration and plenty of disciplinary problems.
Many of the girls at St Ann’s attend the Marian Academy. Each child going there has to have a sponsor to pay the fees. Many people have given generously to this cause. There is a firm in Georgetown that currently sponsors five girls.
Many times the people who help are those who have lived at St. Ann’s as small girls. They are usually married, and have done well for themselves. They write to the Home and offer to help a child. Help comes from places as far away as Australia, Canada, the USA, Venezuela and at home here in Guyana.
All the girls learn responsibility by doing chores. Each child has a department to look after. They sweep, dust, mop and wash dishes. Duties are rotated regularly, so everyone gets a turn to do most things. Even the little ones learn to help, by picking up paper. They are taught that cleaning their surroundings is a part of life and a daily duty.
The girls at the Home are more fortunate than many others. They eat very healthy meals each day, they have plenty of clothing, they get all their school books, shoes, uniforms; and their education is assured. 
The staff is comprised of very devoted and capable women who play a major role in taking care of the girls. These are ordinary women and mothers who dedicate themselves to serving the children and being positive role models.
St. Ann’s continues to keep its doors open through the kindness and generosity of caring Guyanese.
Each day, a miracle unfolds with a simple knock on the door, and a small donation of some kind. 
You can offer your help with something as simple as taking a few children for a walk at the weekend, or spending an hour playing with them at home.

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