Jamaica Gleaner / Mandeville, Manchester:
She is a woman who has walked among kings and queens but has never lost the common touch.
Her life, from a very tender age, was about serving people selflessly, skipping the pastime of ‘dolly house’ as a young girl, she spent time helping the less fortunate with domestic duties.
Now founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of the charitable organisation Friends in Need, Yvonne Townsend has left behind a life a luxury to meet the needs of the homeless, persons living with HIV, abandoned children, abused children, battered women, drop-ins, cancer patients, fire victims, among other underprivileged persons.
“I was able to acquire a lot of things before age 30. I had my two degrees, my land, house, car, visa. I worked as a police officer here in Jamaica before moving to The Cayman Islands, earning the equivalent of J$ 250,000 monthly. I have been the bodyguard for the Prince of Morocco – travelling on his yacht. I guarded Portia Simpson Miller, and list goes on.
She continued: “I have been in the charity for 25 years, and I have never looked back. There is nothing more rewarding than giving back. I have opened up my house to these persons. It is compartmentalised in three sections: the women are to one section, children to one section, and the men are to one section.”
Accepting no cash donations, Townsend relies on the sales from the organisation’s thrift shop to offset expenses.
“We don’t want to be held accountable for anybody’s money, so we take donations of used clothes, shoes, anything, and most of these items are sold at the shop to purchase supplies for the home and to feed the street people, etc.”
Having had judges who have served at the Manchester Parish Court place children in her care, Townsend has, to date, cared
for some 90 children, some of whom are now overseas,
back in school, and are working professionals.
“It is a faith-based-organisation. we don’t know how it’s going to work sometimes, but it works! Those who donate to us are the average Jane and Joe, the widow’s mite. We don’t get help from the really affluent persons, but we can’t stop doing what we are doing.”
Townsend has also travelled to over 15 countries, partnering with agencies to help hurricane victims.
Having once been displaced for six months, after Hurricane Ivan struck the Cayman Islands. Townsend had to live in her car and sleep where she worked. She says as a result of this, she has a special love for street persons.
“Though we are based in Mandeville, it is our aim to impact all the parishes in the island. We cater to everybody, but our main aim is to get clothes for homeless men. Sometimes we go out there and you bathe them, but you run out of clothes. So we are appealing to every man out there to donate even one pants. Women, whether it’s from you father, your uncle, your boyfriend, your husband, please donate some male clothing for the homeless. we would be grateful.”
She ended: “I believe it is our God-given duty to help the less fortunate and we should live out our dreams. I have become poor to make others rich. But though I am poor financially, I am wealthy with the rewards of knowing I have touched a life.”
Contact: Friends in Need Charity
Tel (876) 421-3453
Opening hours: Monday to Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
10 Hargreaves Avenue