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Without Financial Help, Ranfurly Home Faces Closure

“RANFURLY must raise $400,000 or close its doors forever” read the headline in Friday’s Tribune.

It is obvious to any businessperson that if Ranfurly needs $400,000 to keep its orphanage open – requiring $20,000 a month to maintain its 24 children – but only has $37,000 in its bank account, then without an urgent infusion of cash, the orphanage will close in under two months.

It is difficult to tip-toe around and sugar-coat the obvious.

But this bold headline of the facts and the urgent need for public support had an interesting reaction from two persons — one the Ranfurly Home president and the other the Minister of Social Services, who quickly realised the difficulty government would face – particularly her ministry – if this essential 58-year-old charity were to close.

After reading Friday’s Tribune about Ranfurly’s financial difficulties and urgent plea for help, Ranfurly president Alexandra Maillis Lynch was “exploding with anger”.

She wanted the children to know that the committee would “fight for them to the end” — which was obvious or she wouldn’t have been in our offices pleading for urgent community support — and that “never has closing the doors been an option.” The figures that she gave The Tribune told the full story. The figures spoke for themselves – unless the public quickly gives its full support to the Home, an empty bank account will determine the option — closure.

The Tribune, which 58 years ago actively assisted Lady Ranfurly in her efforts to start the home, and which remained a loyal supporter over the years, was now being held up as “a typical example of the negative, malevolent journalism that is happening in our country today”. Mrs Lynch wanted it to be known that the Ranfurly Home was “pleading for help from the public, not threatening them”.

However, that “malevolent journalism” brought a quick response from the very quarter from which the Home wanted more financial support.

Fully realising the importance of the Home to the community, Social Services Minister Melanie Griffin, through the columns of The Tribune, announced that government will step in to assist the Ranfurly Home to make certain that it can remain open.

“The organisation is a private facility but the government would not wish to see it close so we will engage them to see how we can best assist them,” said Mrs Griffin. Of course, government cannot do it all — the community has to urgently step up to the plate. This is not a “threat” — it is the unvarnished reality of the desperate need of this essential service in an already troubled community.

For 58 years, Ranfurly Home has raised from infancy to adulthood boys and girls — sent to them from Social Services — who have been orphaned, abused, neglected or abandoned. Many hundreds have gone through the home, and many have measured up as fine community models. It would be helpful, if some of these men and women would come to The Tribune to tell their personal stories and what the Ranfurly Home has meant to them. Today the Home is caring for 24 children between the ages of five and 19.

It was out of a Bay Street fire that the Home was born. In 1954, a year after Lord Ranfurly arrived as governor of the Bahamas, a fire broke out in the General Hardware building on Bay Street. The whole town was threatened. The Ranfurlys were early on the scene with Lord Ranfurly manning one of the hoses. As usual, Lady Ranfurly was at his side, doing whatever she could to help. She became concerned when she saw a couple of young children coming out of back alleyways from buildings in the area.

She enquired and found that in affluent Nassau, these children had no home, and there was no institution on the island to take care of them. This resulted in the establishment of the Ranfurly Home.

On February 23, 1956, the Ranfurly’s six-year-old daughter Caroline laid the cornerstone and on the completion of the Home she cut the ribbon at the official opening on November 13, 1956.

The home was well endowed by both foreign and local residents. For 16 untroubled years, that home flourished without any financial problems – and no call for help.

And then one day, Mrs Rita Toote, the widow of lawyer TA Toote, a tremendous little woman noted for her charitable work, came across to The Tribune. Her home was on Dowdeswell Street just across from The Tribune’s back entrance, now Charles Carter’s Island FM offices. Mrs Toote was a founder member of the Homes. She had come to see Tribune publisher Sir Etienne Dupuch. Not only was she deeply troubled, she was extremely angry. It was about three years after the PLP had become the government that a group of PLP women— two of them, now deceased, wives of then PLP parliamentarians — walked into the matron’s office and demanded to be on the Ranfurly board. It had to be more representative, they announced, and should be led by the new government.

Recalling those days, it is interesting to hear Mrs Griffin emphasise today that Ranfurly Homes is a private institution — which it is — but in the early PLP days these women felt that it should be under the aegis of the PLP government.

In November 1972, The Tribune reported that Miss Frances Hay who had been on the staff for 11 years — the first seven years as deputy and the last three as matron – announced that she was being persecuted by certain members of the Ranfurly committee and had been forced to resign — this was the political pressure for control. She was given two days to get out of the Home. She was paid her passage back to England, one year’s salary and her gratuity.

Miss Hays was a tremendous woman, doing a tremendous job with the children. Indeed she was a great loss. Mrs Toote did not know how she could be replaced.

It was at one of these meetings fighting for Miss Hay’s rights that Mrs Toote suffered a slight stroke. Mrs Toote had planned to hand in her resignation from the board on the day that she died. She had said that she had only remained on the committee to see that Miss Hay received what she felt was her due after 11 years of faithful service to the Bahamas.

It was during this period that the politicians divided the community — they rejected the resident foreigner and a large number of Bahamians. These were the real financial backers of the Home.

By 1975, the Home was crying for funds. “Ranfurly Home needs money to stay open” said the headline on July 12, 1975.

By 1981, the committee sent out a pleading letter begging for funds to stay open. “Do you realise,” said the letter to Bahamian businesses, ”that the only sure income each year is the government grant of $9,000, which is the sum allotted to Ranfurly since its inception.” At that time the letter said an additional $60,000 was needed.

By May 31, 2010, it was reported that the “Ranfurly Home may be facing partial closure as it stared down its hardest financial test in its 54-year history.”

The plea for financial help has been constant since the late seventies, early eighties.

On August 10, 2010, The Tribune reported that “government provided $60,000 towards the operational costs of the Home, which is usually about $300,000 a year, primarily for food and electricity.

“The government, also feeling the economic pinch over the last two years, decided to drop its contribution by $5,600.”

And so, this is not the first time that the Ranfurly Home is facing closure. And no one is “threatening” the public by giving them the full facts without which many will sit back and do nothing.

The Ranfurly Home is in dire financial straights, and if it does not get immediate help, as day follows night, it will close.

This institution is too important to the well being of the community to let that happen. So, please – and this includes our non-Bahamian residents – help to keep the doors open for these homeless children.

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