Our organization started in 1993 as an off-shoot of Hibiscus United Kingdom that was founded by Ms. Olga Heaven, a Jamaican social worker. Ms. Heaven worked in the female prisons of that country for several years and in the early 1990s it came to her attention that the majority of newly incarcerated women were Jamaican drug mules.
As a Jamaican, Ms. Heaven decided to use her training and experience to assist these women and their families. Thus, the first mandate of Hibiscus Jamaica was to inform the relatives of the incarcerated women that they had been imprisoned. The organization offered their families economic, social and psychological support with the primary focus being facilitating the continued education of the children of its clients.
By the late 1990s, when many of the women were being deported at the conclusion of their prison sentences, our mandate changed to that of facilitating their reintegration, resettlement and rehabilitation. This led to the offer of skill training in various areas, facilitation of business grants and general welfare support. These efforts had mixed results owing to the low level of literacy and numeracy among our clients as well as the lengthy duration of the training programmes.
Our focus was again adjusted when in December 2012 we became the Jamaican overseas partner of the Refugee Action’s Assisted Voluntary Return Programme (AVR).