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Loudoun Welcomes Dignitaries from Jamaica

AUGUST 31, 2022 (Leesburg, VA): Loudoun County elected officials welcomed a distinguished delegation of government officials from Jamaica to Leesburg today at a special reception hosted by INMED Partnerships for Children and INMED USA. The event was part of a three-day strategic planning session between INMED and Jamaica 4-H Clubs, a program of the Jamaica Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, to promote climate-smart agriculture for community development.

INMED has been strengthening food security, climate adaptation and sustainable livelihoods in Jamaica since 2002. Earlier this year, INMED expanded its work in Jamaica by launching the INMED Aquaponics® Social Enterprise in partnership with Jamaica 4-H Clubs to provide training in climate-smart agriculture to youth.

Minister of State in the Jamaica Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Franklin Witter, J.P., M.P. and high-level representatives of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs took the opportunity to tour the site of INMED USA’s future community aquaponics garden at the Leesburg Mobile Home Park (LMHP), where the reception was held. “We are excited to offer all the support and services we provide at our Sterling Opportunity Center–and globally through aquaponics–to the residents of the Loudoun Mobile Home Park right in their own backyard,” said INMED U.S. Programs Director Jennifer Lassiter Smith.

A community aquaponics garden planned for the LMHP will provide fresh, all-natural produce to the families year-round, supplemented by nutrition education, wellness workshops, fitness classes and other resources the families need to narrow health equity and food security gaps. “Kids in the mobile home community will also have the opportunity to collaborate with members of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs to learn about and practice sustainable agriculture at the community garden or in their own home gardens,” added Smith.

The LMHP community is home to 130 low-income families that have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and sky-rocketing inflation. INMED USA has been working closely with the new property owner, David Gregory, to improve conditions and opportunities for the community.

Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall toured the site and welcomed the distinguished visitors, including Dr. Ronald Blake, Executive Director of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs and Technical Advisor – 4-H Regional Council (Caribbean & Latin America) and Collin Virgo, Vice Chairman of the Global 4-H Council, Regional 4-H Chairman for the Caribbean and Latin America and Chairman of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, in addition to Minister Witter.

The Jamaican dignitaries also received a warm welcome and an official proclamation from Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk.

“From the Jamaica Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, we are very excited to explore opportunities to extend our partnership with INMED and meet the local authorities where INMED is headquartered,” said Minister Witter. “We are proud of the work we’ve accomplished together with aquaponics in Jamaica thus far and see tremendous opportunity.”

Aquaponics is a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture in a closed symbiotic system that consumes 90% less water, 75% less energy and no chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides while producing up to 10 times more harvests than traditional farming. Resilient to severe climate events, INMED Aquaponics® allows farmers to produce year-round regardless of geographic conditions. Women, youth and people with disabilities are prospering with INMED Aquaponics® on three continents, thanks to partnerships with the public and private sectors as well as organizations like Jamaica 4-H Clubs.

“Our partnership with INMED started out as a local project in Jamaica, and I’m happy to say that from this current engagement, it is morphing into a regional and global project,” said 4-H Clubs’ Collin Virgo. “This visit to INMED’s physical office has been an eye opener for our entire team. We had no idea the broad scope of work that INMED does and the fantastic things they are achieving in the communities in which they work. We are eager to expand this partnership.”

For more information about INMED USA, visit https://inmedusa.org. For more information about Jamaica 4-H Clubs, visit https://jamaica4hclubs.com.

Photos available upon request: nbaker@inmed.org.

The Power of Partnerships Transforms Leesburg Community

Sunday, May 1 marked a special milestone for the residents of the Leesburg Mobile Home Park (LMHP). It was the first community-wide picnic organized by the development’s new owner, David Gregory, and local nonprofit INMED USA. “We have a lot to celebrate,” said Jennifer Lassiter Smith, the US Programs Director for INMED Partnerships for Children, the parent organization of INMED USA. “It is a community we have been serving for many years, but now there is a new feeling of optimism and hope.”

Over the past year, the LMHP community’s fate has been in limbo. Facing displacement under a potential property buy-out, residents pleaded with the Town of Leesburg and Loudoun County for a solution to keep their neighborhood in place. When the deal fell through earlier this year, Joe Serafin of Serafin Real Estate worked with local philanthropist Gregory to preserve and protect the tight-knit community. Gregory bought the property outright. “So many of us want to keep the community stable and where it is,” said Serafin. “Together, we took the Town of Leesburg and the residents off of what could have been a collision course. Dave is going above and beyond to make sure the residents have a great place to live.”

As a partner of INMED USA, Gregory reached out to Smith to help him engage with residents on their hopes and dreams for their community’s future. “INMED already works with many families in the park, and we are honored to build the support network to help the community thrive moving forward,” said Smith. “As we learn more about their needs, INMED will bridge the gaps and work with the residents in programs that build a sustainable future for the families.” But first, they celebrated!

Participants in INMED USA’s entrepreneurship program served homemade pupusas, beans and rice from their startup catering company. Children who attend INMED’s after-school and teen programs dressed in colorful attire to entertain fellow residents with traditional dances and hip hop numbers, while proud parents and neighbors clapped and snapped photos on their cell phones. INMED staff and volunteers doled out frosty snow cones, popcorn, pizza, and cake and painted the upturned faces of children and adults alike. Music and laughter filled the air. 

INMED community partners also set up tables to share information about helpful resources. BCT-Bank of Charles Town, for example, has been working with INMED USA to provide free financial literacy classes for low-income adults. “BCT is proud to continue our outreach to the LMHP community,” noted Alice Frazier, President and CEO. “Our solutions will allow them greater access to financial services, creating an environment of financial inclusion for all.” 

By far, the most popular attractions were the games and activities led by Leesburg Diversity Commission and the Leesburg Police Department. “Our officers had a lot of fun with the kids, especially leading tours of the inside of a police car and taking pictures with the families,” said Sgt. Wael Abilmona. “Most importantly, we got to know the community and they got to know us. With the assistance of Officer Castro, who translated our message to everyone, we stressed the importance of developing a partnership with the police and the police having a positive partnership with the community.”

Building trust is a priority for the community moving forward, said Linda McCray, Chair of the Leesburg Diversity Commission, which serves as a liaison for the Leesburg Police Department and other local agencies. “Our mission is to help foster diversity and inclusion within the community at large. The event truly embodied the spirit of inclusiveness, community and what is possible. We loved it!” So did resident Cesar Frias.

“It was wonderful to celebrate together as neighbors and as a family with food, drinks, music, activities for the children and so much fun. We’ve never had an event like this before,” said Frias. “We really appreciated that the police were there to let us know that we can count on them. I’d like to thank Mr. Gregory for this act of kindness towards the residents of Leesburg Mobile Home Park, as well as INMED and everyone else who helped make this event happen.”

For more information about the programs and services of INMED USA, please visit https://inmedusa.org.

Photo captions:

  1. INMED-LMHP picnic: Children enjoyed games, food and fun at the Leesburg Mobile Home Park community picnic organized by INMED USA.
  2. Wael Abilmona and his fellow officers tossed footballs with kids in the LMHP community at its recent picnic.
  3. Residents of the Leesburg Mobile Home Park celebrated the new ownership of the property, which will keep their community intact.
  4. Many countries, one community.
  5. Children in INMED USA’s after-school and teen programs entertained the crowd with traditional dancing at the LMHP community picnic.

Another Outstanding Report Card for Healthy Families Loudoun

STERLING, VA (February 21, 2022): INMED USA’s Healthy Families Loudoun continues to be a top Healthy Families Virginia (HFV) programs to prevent child abuse and neglect, according to a recent quality assurance assessment.

Healthy Families Loudoun is a three-year child abuse and neglect prevention program that helps at-risk, first-time parents build a foundation for self-reliant families and raise children who enter school ready to learn and succeed. The program includes intensive case management, regular home visits, parent education classes and support groups, access to critical resources and mentorship. INMED USA has facilitated the program for 24 years, improving the lives of thousands of families throughout Loudoun County.

The evaluation, conducted by a representative of HFV and Prevent Child Abuse Virginia, examined family files, supervision documentation, training records and outcomes for healthy births, well-baby care and parenting skills development. In addition, group discussions were conducted with home visitors, assessment workers, program management, and a host agency representative, as well as a home visit of a participating family.

“The INMED Healthy Families Loudoun team is a group of highly professional, competent and committed individuals, each determined to give their all in serving families and maintaining a culture of excellence,” said Hope Schutte, who conducted the independent assessment.

The team and participating families achieved a 100% success rate for babies having medical providers and up-to-date immunizations and a 90% success rate for well-baby visits. The HFL team also scored high marks for expanding access to vital resources for struggling families.

Thanks to INMED US Programs Director Jennifer Lassiter Smith’s outstanding program development and community collaboration skills, “the resources available to HFL parents and community members at large have also grown significantly since last year—from diapers and non-perishable food distributions, to personal hygiene items, baby strollers, perishable as well as non-perishable food distributions, free refurbished and new computers, and even rental assistance for ‘non-traditional’ renters, such as families with no signed lease,” noted Schutte.

Through a partnership with Inova Cares Clinic for Women, at-risk pregnant women and new mothers are referred to Healthy Families Loudoun for free critical support to ensure healthy birth outcomes and prepare the way for optimal child development. The HFL team also supplies clinic staff with diaper bags to distribute to families willing to be referred to HFL—with a 94% acceptance rate.
Yeny Ventura is one of those women referred by the clinic to the Healthy Families Loudoun program. A single mom of newborn twin boys, she was overwhelmed, but INMED Family Support Specialist Yesenia Abrigo was by Ventura’s side to help her build parenting skills and confidence.

“[Yesenia] showed me how to believe in myself as a single mother and to ask for assistance. She taught me how to spend quality time with my children and has given me the tools and ideas to continue working on their development,” Ventura said. “She also gave me an opportunity to learn about finances. I am very grateful to be part of this great program.”

INMED USA also has expanded its Parent Education Group program at its Family and Youth Opportunity Center in Sterling–facilitated by Healthy Families Loudoun and free for all Loudoun families. The program helps parents practice good physical, mental and emotional health via workshops on COVID prevention and treatment, weekly Zumba classes and wellness and support groups for mothers. Last year, INMED USA introduced a basic computer skills class to help parents access community resources, including their children’s teachers and online

“I am extremely proud of our Healthy Families Loudoun team and the hard work of the program participants. This has been a flagship program for INMED in Loudoun for decades,” said Dr. Linda Pfeiffer, Founder and CEO of INMED Partnerships for Children, the parent organization of INMED USA. “Complying with the national and state-wide program standards is highly complex—with intensive case management, rigorous record-keeping, tracking of processes and outcomes, extensive training requirements and regular reporting and accreditation.”

For more information about Healthy Families Loudoun and other INMED USA programs, visit https://inmedusa.org.
For more information about Healthy Families Virginia, visit https://www.familiesforwardva.org/.

Photo caption: Pictured left to right: HFL Program Manager Gester Pino, Tania Frias (Family Support Specialist), Paula Callaghan (Community Educator), Yesenia Abrigo (HFL Supervisor), Nancy Ordonez (Family Support Specialist) and Tanisha Cox (Program Development Coordinator).