Walker’s Place of Safety duo together till the end
Oneika McGrae and Anna Kaye Moreland … The two were born performers, delighting everyone with their singing and dancing. (Photos: Garfield Robinson)
NOT even death could keep 12-year-old Oneika McGrae and Anna Kaye Moreland apart.
The two perished in a fire that destroyed the Walker’s Place of Safety on Lyndhurst Road, St Andrew in January.
Director for Child and Family Programmes at the Child Protection and Family Services Agency P Audrey Budhi said Moreland and McGrae were the lives of the party.
“The affectionate 12-year-old Oneika was a song bird. Singing was a grand thing her friend 16-year-old Anna Kaye Moreland who had a winning personality. She was loving and full of fun. The two were born performers, delighting everyone with their singing and dancing. It was uncanny,” Budhi said during a tribute at the Memorial Service for Moreland and McGrae on Lyndhurst Road, last Monday.
“They came to the Walker’s Place of Safety roughly the same time — just three days apart from each other. Both attended the Best Care Special School of Education. Both loved entertaining. They were born in the same month. Visitors to the home were really drawn to them automatically,” Budhi continued, adding that the girls were pleasant and cooperative.
Budhi ,while noting that Moreland was very friendly said the staff was in the process of planning their birthday party when tragedy struck.
Monday’s emotional service was a testimony of the joy they brought to everyone who came in contact with them.
“We’re singing from our hearts because we love them,” Moreland’s best friend Selena Reid, said before performing a rendition of Y ou Raise Me Up.
By this time, Reid who was one of the lead singers, began weeping.
She was not alone, as students from Best Care School of Special Education, which both deceased girls attended, also broke down while performing their musical item.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information Floyd Green while noting that the response from individuals and corporate Jamaica to assistance during and after the fire had given him hope, said he wants fewer children in State care.
“In fact, if more of us would check on the person next door to us and find out how they are doing with their children and how we can help we would probably have less children in our homes and we want to have less children in our homes,” Green stated.
“I would suggest to all of us that we always remember Oneika and Anna Kaye in our individual lives and see if we can do more for our children who are in need of care and protection,” Green went on.
Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, in whose St Andrew East Central constituency the fire occurred, was in one accord with Green.
“I really want to, in a sense echo something that has been said before. All that we could find that good will everyday of life and not wait for tragedy to strike for us to show our real … humanity because if we did that Jamaica would be much more better place for all of us. I think also that we need to take this opportunity to remind ourselves that we can do better,” Dr Phillips said, adding that it was not the time to cast blame.
However, Dr Phillips said the only thing that is certain about the fire is that it provides an opportunity for some to take stock of themselves and to determine the road ahead.
“Each of us can do more to take care of those around us. I want also to specially recognise, in fact, this is the second major lesson that there is so much goodness around us and it was so evident on that evening of January 15. I want to particularly pay my tribute to Selena Reid, to Grace Allen and Kimani Anderson who did so much but in communities like this people have so much negative to say about people in these communities but on that evening the best of them came out and did what they could,” Dr Phillips said.
Dr Phillips also urged individuals to continue donating.
“One thing we can do even as I thank all those who have made contributions to the Child Protection and Family Services Agency with donations to rebuild the home the $9 million will need more,” Dr Phillips added.
Last month, the Child Protection and Family Services Agency said in a news release that the fire report stated that the blaze was caused by an electrical short circuit that originated in one of the children’s rooms on the first floor to the west of the building.
The release stated that the “heavy fire-load” that spread throughout the structure contributed to the rapid growth and spread of the fire, which resulted in the collapsing and caving in of the roof.
It was also stated that the home was last inspected by the fire department on July 28, 2016, and at the time it was found to be compliant with standard fire prevention practices.
In addition, the release said the agency commissioned a physical security inspection and assessment in November 2017.
According to the report, the outcome of the assessment stressed that the home was disaster-ready, as both caregivers and children participated in a series of training and were knowledgeable of the fire escape plan.
The agency also pointed out that based on internal reports the actions of staff and wards on the night of the blaze played a significant role in reducing the loss of lives and injury.
The emotional service included tributes from Phillips, Green, and children from Walker’s Place of Safety who have been placed in three children’s homes across the Corporate Area following the January blaze.