Miss P Opens Heart & Home to Allman Town

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Maxene Richards, aka 'Ms P', surrounded by her children

They call her 'Miss P', the 'Mother Hen' of Allman Town, because she has opened her heart and home to the children of the community by transforming her home into a school and community centre. Maxene Richards says she can't help but have a big heart – she takes after her mother, who gave and gave with no reservations; and the children love her for it. They flock to her home in the Woodford Park community in Allman Town, one of 39 communities served by the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP), a crime prevention initiative of the Ministry of National Security. The vintage looking house with traditional fretwork now serves as the Woodford Park Community Centre/cookhouse/youth club/homework centre and refuge for anyone who wants a place to sleep.

Her personal cars are used as the centre transport to take the children around, including on essential out-of-community trips to the Rockfort Mineral Bath, Wynter's Park and other places.

She has a parenting programme, helps the sick and is committed to her little school, operational in rooms that she has stripped of her personal furniture to accommodate.

And things have been this way since 10 years ago when she started with 15 children; now the numbers reach as high as 150 sometimes.

On Tuesday, July 26, the third week of summer school – the Woodford Park Strikers Youth Club Summer Camp 2011 – summer classes are in full session, with over 100 children ages three to 17 flitting in and out of the yard.

On a tour of the house, Richards shows how she converts her bedrooms to classrooms for sessions, and the numerous trophies her kids have won in their various activities over the years.

For indeed, Richards is not just about feeding their minds, they're also involved in track and football, art and craft, dancing and other activities, as she explains, "we take part in everything".

"Sports can take them all over the world," she reasoned.

"I go all out to help the kids," Richards says, while a toddler clings to her legs. "I was born this way. This is my gift to help the people. I don't like people crying for needs I can't fulfil."

The Day it Started

The confessed lover of travelling said it was after returning from a trip to Grand Cayman that she realised she had to do something for the community.

Though she wasn't born in Allman Town, she had a deep attachment, and didn't want to see children in the streets.

It was then that she formed a youth club.

Nowadays the children who flock to the home-turned community centre are taught by trained teachers funded by herself and the Member of Parliament, who also covers food for the kids daily. Others who help with things like transport and supplies include the Allman Town Police and Central Police.

The Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP) of the Ministry of National Security has also stepped in with scholarships for some of the children in high school and college.

And the kids are so happy, that they consider Richards' home theirs too.

"They never leave here, even at nights," she laughed. "I share at least 15 plates of food everyday."

The businesswoman, who was born in Mount Lebanon, St Thomas, moved to her current house in 1989 and immediately got involved in community work.

A lover of "enjoyment", she loves to travel for things like Carnival. But wherever in the world she goes, she always returns to her children.

"Sometimes I run broke but I have to continue," she said. "I think I will do it till the day breath leaves my body. It's my gift."