advocacy for hope

One Woman Trying to Make a Difference

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Jamaica here I come!

Posted on June 22, 2013 at 3:45 PM

July 22 is my official return to Jamaica!  I am so excited!  I will be bringing my son, Steven and my mom.  The trip will be led by my favorite priest, Father Paul and I will be joined by my project manager, Natalie.  On this trip we will officially dedicate the COL School and computer center (Steven's Place).  We will build a playground at the school, celebrate in Barbaras Village, feed the homeless at Poor Relief, hug the children with aids and disabilities at my Fathers House, love and hug the forgotten seniors at Christian Care and Golden Age and on this journey we will rejuvinate our spirits! With your help we will present music instruments to a village as part of my Jeff's Band project.  This week I shipped out 2 more van loads of soccer gear to Ellersie soccer complex, Barbaras Village, COL School, and Food For the Poor Jamaica soccer team.  I still have a huge load to ship this week. 

Donations Shipped!

Posted on March 8, 2012 at 5:20 AM

A big thank you to Coach Mike and First Coast Soccer players for donations for my 5 soccer projects in Jamaica!  Before leaving on a recent personal vaceation, I shipped 9 boxes to Jamaica.  Soccer shoes and t-shirts went to the Barbaras Village soccer team, coaches bags and socks went to the FFP soccer  team, soccer shoes and soccer goals went to the Celebration of Life School, soccer shoes went to the Steph's Place Schools, and soccer shoes, uniforms, shin guards and socks wernt to Ellersie Soccer Complex.  Running shoes for Barbaras Village runners was donated by a local runner and science books were donated by a local tutor. These gifts came from the heart as individuals shared the tools of a common passion, with the poor.  We are all actually more alike than we are different.  If you love to run, sing, play an instrument, plant a garden, learn, read, you could be one of many of us.  If you smile, dance, hug, believe in family and have faith, you are my soul mates, no matter where you live in the world.  These are the traits of the poor I call family in Jamaica.  

New Projects and Completed Projects!

Posted on March 7, 2012 at 7:40 PM

On December 17, 2011, I graduated from FSU with my Masters of Social Work Degree and my lifetime commitment to the poor of Jamaica only became stronger.  I know this is my destiny!

On my last trip to Jamaica in July 2011, we built the Celebration of Life School.  As I completed by educational journey and as a social worker, access to education for all children became even more a priority for me.  Upon completion of the school building, it was a necessity to continue this project with the addition of a computer center, playground, community garden, storage unit and security fencing-Phase II. Between my graduation and my 57th birthday (Feb. 18), a match period for all donations to this project was initiated.  The goal was to raise all funding during this period.  On Feb. 19, I received word from FFP we had met that goal! Yesterday I received another $500 donation that exceeded our goal!

Anyone who knows me knows I always have numerous projects on the back burner waiting to start.  As soon as I complete a project, I announce a new one.  This time I am announcing 2!  Hope Village and Jeff's Band. Never under estimate the things that I can do! 

Jeff's Band is a project I actually started a few months ago, but have upgraded it to a major project with a fundraising goal of $50,000. The original project was to provide instruments for one village in Jamaica.  After discussing the needs with the FFP project manager for Jamaica, I was challenged to provide 14 villages with instruments and I do love a challenge.  I am a believer in anything is possible if you are willing to work hard enough for it!  This project is to honor my fellow CVS finalist, Jeff Madewell, a musician, whose passion is his one man porjects for  the Rosebud Indian Reservation in the Dakotas.  To link this project to his passion, I am now branching into new territories, with instruments going to 7 villages in Ghana, where American Indians have settled.  As in Jamaica, they are desperately poor with similar living conditions.  So it looks like my travels in the future will include a new 3rd world country-one of the poorest!

Hope  Village was the name I originally chose for my first village.  It was the Jamaican people who decided to name it Barbaras Village.  I always knew that someday I would build a 2nd village and name it Hope.  I truly believe this is the time!  As I moved full time into fundraising for my music project and having spent the last year concentrating on schooling, it was important to me that the need for housing not get lost in importance.   In addition to all the other projects I will initiate in the future, housing is my lifetime commitment to the poor of Jamaica.  I do not own a home and probably never will, because I will continue to build houses for the poor of Jamaica for the rest of my life. It is a pronise I made them at the opening of Barbaras Village. This project will fund the building of a village of 25 homes in Jamaica with a fundraising goal of $75,500!

Sound impossible?  Not to me!  They call me Crazy Barbara because of my passion and Unstoppable Barbara because I will make it happen whatever it takes.  Quitting is not an option! I believe in miracles and I will continue to fertilize the grarden of the poor with seeds of hope.

The journey 2011

Posted on December 11, 2011 at 11:45 PM

As I looked out the window of the plane and the island of Jamaica came into view, I was once again overwhelmed by emotion.  I was "home" again! My 2nd home.  Our first stop was Christian Care where all my "boyfriends", age 70 and up were waiting for their Barbara hugs! We laughed as we remembered one of my  painting projects from several years ago and viewed my paint job-a blue bathroom. where paint is still on the floor.  Their rooms are still the bright pink, purple and green from the love of those who traveled with me that year.  Lots of pictures were taken before we continued to Immaculate, the peaceful retreat run by nuns, my favorite place to stay on my journeys to the poor.   

Day 2 began at Food For the Poor Jamaica, where I embraced old frineds and they gave me my own yellow Jamaican FFP shirt.  I noticed as we toured the warehouse the shortage of food and this disturbed me, as the poor so need these donations. Our next stop was Jerusalem, a village of all children and a favorite stop of every mission trip.  We spent our time there at My Fathers House where all the children, age birth -10 years have aides.  We played with them, blew bubbles, and gave lots of hugs.  It is always hard to leave these children. The rest of the day was spent at Barbaras Village.  This year was the 5 year anniversary of this dream, which began with my wanting to fund and build one house.  The village has become a peaceful community that the residents are proud of.  They have joined with a neighboring community to have their own resident governing body.  There are 2 stores now and another new baby boy has been born.  In honor of the anniversary, combined with my passion for race walking, I held the first 1 mile Barbaras Village run/walk.  Over 100 kids and adults showed up to run through the village, accompanied by Sunny Runner (the mascot of the Jacksonville Runnig Company) who had made the trip with me and was carried by one of the children in the race.  I had medals designed which were presented to all finishers.  I wore my Florida Striders racing singlet and showed them how to race walk as I participated with them in the event before presenting the awards.  There were no fancy running shoes and no paved course.  Many were barefoot and we ran down a dusty gravel road through the village.  They asked that this become an annual event.  We shared food, music, lots of hugs, and yes, I did a lot of dancing.  We played soccer with the kids and the residents invited us into their homes and gardens. It was a day of celebration.  I destributed clothes to all the men in the village and soccer balls and school supplies were given to all the children.  As we were preparing to leave some of the boys came running up to me and said,  "We need a Barbaras Village soccer team!"  I told them, "You form it this year and I promise you the team will play at the Ellersie soccer complex (another of my projects).  Like me, the residents of Barbaras Village are Unstoppable.  Within 10 minutes the boys had formed a team, had a coach and had given me a list of shoe sizes.  When I got back to Immaculate, I went through the soccer supplies I had brought for Ellersie and was able to put together enough practice jerseys for the new team to be delivered after I left.  Soccer project #2-Barbaras Village team!

Day 3 we headed to a construction site.  When we arrived I noticed the foundation was larger than the average FFP  house.  I turned to the project manager and stated they must have many children.  She told me."They have about 40! We are building your school today.  At the last minute the rest of your funding came through to complete this project.!" I was so overcome with emotion.  The tears began to flow and my son, Steven, and my friend, Pam, were holding my hands as I cried.  I was once again speechless, as I was the day they surprised me with the land site for Barbaras Village.  Those who know me know I am rarely speechless!  When I could speak, I tried to explain to the new pilgrims traveling with me the emotional journey this, as all my projects had been.  I had so badly wanted to have funding completed before the trip, but with the economy and my hectic schedule I had not done many speaking engagements to raise the funds.  We grabbed our tools and in tht one day, we built a school!  The Jamaican construction crew and even the CEO of FFP Jamaica worked side by side with us as we put up walls and hung doors!  The principal, teacher, children and the people from the village lined the walls and watched.  The school is surrounded by shacks.  My idea is we cannot build the families each a home immediately, but we can educate a community and plant this seed of hope.  The school is across the road from Jerusalem.  After a day of building, we took a walking tour of the community.  My heart broke as we visited families of 5 living in one room shacks the size of a walkin closet.  They were happy though and so grateful for the new school being built

The afternoon was spent at the Ellersie soccer complex (my soccer dream-now 3 years old). We got to watch a soccer match and I did soccer activities with the kids. The people sat on the fence and surrounded the field to watch the match. They relayed to me that the donated lights at the complex make them feel safe at night. We shared sweets to celebrate the 3 year anniversary. I distributed the soccer equipment and balls I had brought, donated by Coach Mike and his First Coast soccer teams from Jacksonville, Florida. This was my original soccer project. I met with soccer officials from the Albion soccer Club and began planning a soccer camp with combined coaches from Jamaica and the US-my soccer project #4! The camp is scheduled for 2013. I also met with soccer representatives from FFPJamaica to receive an update on their soccer team. This was a team of men who work in the warehouse, and many who live in the shacks surrounding Ellersie. The team was originally formed to play one match against the Albion soccer team for my trip last year, but they had remained together as a team and were now competing and winning, but of course they need supplies. I had brought enough equipment to give them some uniform parts and balls.-Soccer project #5! These players and coaches have volunteered their time to assist with the upcomoing camp. As I predicted during the years I fought for this complex, it is a beautiful sport that brings people together and now it is a reality.

 Day 4 we returned to the school site for painting day.  What color paint had been chosen was my question.  Yellow of course as this was a Barbara project and yellow is my color in Jamaica!  Yes, Barbaras Village is yellow!  After a few strokes with the paint brush, the children( ages 2-6), as this is a primary school, and I were not allowed to paint anymore.  I am known for my painting accidents in Jamaica.  I spent the morning doing my Dog Meets World project with the children as I am an official dographer for Jamaica, just another of the hats I wear!  The goal of the project is to take pictures and print them on site in 3rd world countries and give them to the people, who without access to mirrors have sometimes never seen themselves or had a picture.  So we had school picture day with Barbara.  An older resident of the village came walking down the dusty road in her  Sunday best and stopped .  She said "I heard you were taking pictures today.  Could you take my picture as I have never had my picture taken."  She was 75 years old!  While at the school site the principal and I discussed my vision for the future-Phase 2 and her needs for the children.  The list included security fencing, a storage building, a computer center, uniforms, a playground to include soccer goals and a garden. The teacher requested small soccer balls and shoes for the children and I launched my primary school soccer project, which will include Steph's Place schools-My soccer project #3! 

Our next stop of the day was Poor Relief,  the homeless shelter in downtown Kingston.  I love this stop and see many dear friends.  I sang, gave lots of hugs and we fed the residents rice and a little meat and watered down hot chocolate. I wore my yellow Beach Diner shirt and they named their dining area Beach Diner Jamaica! It was just like being at  home as the waitress in me came out, as in my normal style back home, I served and hugged!  It was an emotional moment when I was told one of my favorite residents, Ms. English had passed since my last visit.  It is always hard to find out someone has died since my last visit.  I can only afford to travel once a year and I look forward to seeing the same people at our stops.  They so enrich my life and are all my family.

Our final stop of the day was Golden Age, two clusters of senior citizens, most with the minds of children.  They are part of the throwaway population, who depend on their wonderful FFP caregivers and the visits of us from the US to give them love.  Waiting at the roadside and in the courtyard area were so many familiar faces.  I held crippled bodies, kissed wrinkled cheeks, held hands with some who only knew by this brief human touch someone was there.  The one thing they know about Barbara in Jamaica is I am the donor who will always come back and will never stop loving them. I found my friend I always sing with and we again sang Moon River and some revival songs.  I laughed with my ladies who just sit and laugh all day.  They are locked in their own world, but it is a simple happy place and they just sit on a bench and laugh all day. I went from wheel chairs to hospital beds to the floor where severly crippled bodies lay all day and I said "I love you" to each of them. I never have enough time at this stop and it is one of my favorite stops.

Again I traveled with a wonderful group of people, some old friends and some new.  Led by Father Paul, as I will travel with no other leader, it was another enriching experience.  As usual the week passed too quickly and I did not want to leave.  Leaving for me always brings tears.  There is a piece of my heart I leave in Jamaica every trip/  There is a connection with the poor there I cannot explain.  All I know is they are my family and I will be forever connected to them.  It is a lifetime comitment to change their lives and I wll travel there for the rest of my life at least once a year.  I would invite anyone reading this to join me on a mission trip as I guarantee your life will never be the same.  You will become a better richer person.  The next trip is scheduled for August 20-27, 2012.  Contact Nancy Clark in the FFP Missions office to make your reservation.  My goal for next years trip is to have Phase 2 of the school project completed so we can build the playground and open the computer center on that trip.  I plan to have the Jeffs Band project completed so the music instruments can be distributed to a village on that trip also.  I am also working on a Hope van project for Poor Relief to provide transport to the shelter and street outreach to the homeless in Kingston.  I have to get a van donated first.  As usual I have numerous projects in my head and heart  and as soon as I complete one project I kick off another one.  I know I probably drive them crazy at FFP, but I am one ordinary, unstoppable crazy woman who is just trying to make a difference.  As I always say. "If we could all find something to get passionate about, we could change the world!" My one ongoing project is housing and I will continue to raise funds and place families in homes, one family, one village at a time.  I will commit to financing out of my tips 50 houses in my lifetime and I've paid for 4 so far.  If as a single mom and waitress I can do this , you can help.  All donations are tax deductible and can be made directly from this website.  I need your help!      

Leaving for Jamaica July 18-Join me!

Posted on June 11, 2011 at 10:36 AM

It is not too late to join me on my annual mission trip of hope and love to the poor of Jamaica-my 9th journey.  My son, Steven will be joining me again this year as well as some good friends.  The trip will be led by Father Paul, my favorite priest who has an undying passion for the poor of Jamaica.  Our trip will include the 5 year celebration of the opening of Barbaras Village with food, music, dancing and activities at the village.  I will be taking my Dog Meets World project printer for picture printing at a school and the village.  We will be building or visiting a school. We will feed the homeless at Poor Relief in downtown Kingston.  We will hug the elderly and disabled at   Golden Age.  We will love the children at Jerusalem.  We will cheer on the soccer teams from the Ellesie community at the soccer complex.  We will hug, laugh, cry, pray, and love, planting seeds of hope at each stop.  Our lives will be forever impacted during this week, as with every journey to the poor.  There will be first time pilgrims and returning pilgrims making this year's journey.  There is a spot for you and you will be connected for life with not only the poor but all who have made this journey, as the experience is one only understood completely by making the journey.   Barbara 

Jamaica 2010

Posted on October 6, 2010 at 10:49 AM

I recently returned from my annual trip to visit the poor of Jamaica and check on my projects.  As usual it was an awesome experience and my spirit was rejuvenated!  This year was a different  trip, as I traveled alone with Susan James, Jamaica project manager for Food for the Poor.  In the past I have always traveled with a group.  I hugged my way across the island!  I had the opportunity to visit all my favorite spots and visit my "Jamaican family, as I refer to the poor."  In Jamaica there are many throwaways; the poor, the elderly, children, those with aids, those with disabilities, both physical and mental. They yearn for human contact and so look forward to visitors who come on these mission trips from the US.  Families leave their elderly family members on the side of the road.  Children are left at the gates of orphanages and babies are thrown over the wall  into one community, a village of all children-Jerusalem.  


On the way from the airport I spent my 1st day with the elderly at Golden Age and Christian Care. I hugged, held crippled bodies in my arms and said I love you a lot.  I laughed .  I sang  and I listened.  One lady had just been dropped off at one of these facilities by her family who will never return.  She was very sad and I held her and told her now she has me as family and I will come visit her every year and I will never stop loving her!  This explains my relationship with the poor of Jamaica.  I see the same faces every year and meet new ones.  They remember me and many call me Crazy Barbara!  


Day 2 began with a stop at Food For the Poor-Jamaica, where they gave me my own official pink FFP Jamaica shirt .  I hugged my way through every office, interrupting meetings and they said Crazy Barbara is back on the island!  I saw old friends and visited the agriculture greenhouse, barefoot of course.  The rest of the day was spent in Barbaras Village.  The residents were all there to welcome me, many wearing yellow, known as the Barbara color in Jamaica, due to a painting accident with yelIow paint I  had my first visit to the island.  This was the 4 year anniversary of the opening of Barbaras Village.  They had a cake for me that said Welcome Home Barbara.  I did the Dog Meets World project there and they loved it.  Check out the photos on this site in the photo gallery.  I gave lots of hugs and learned to Jamaican dance-what a workout!


Day 3 started at Poor Relief, my favorite homeless shelter, where the waitress in me always comes out and I serve them every year as if they were in a restaurant.  I sing to them, give lots of hugs and listen to their stories.  One man there had the song, "I'm so Crazy" on his cell phone which he played and we sang and danced to letting everyone  know Crazy Barbara was back!  Some of the residents there have lived there for years.


The next stop was a visit with a priest at a boys school.  He had told me about a very talented soccer player who needed soccer gear.  Coach Mike, my son, had sent uniforms, shoes, a bag, a ball and other gear from his players for this young man and it was all delivered that day.  He had the talent.  He just needed the tools.  That's what Advocacy for Hope is all about-planting seeds of hope.  


Our next stop was Alpha Boys Home, where I spent the entire afternoon with 50 boys ages 7-12, who have absolutely no one.  They were excited when I produced the DMW printer and began taking pictures.  These young men are in protective custody so their pictures cannot be shown, but Susan took a picture of me with each young man, giving him a hug, with the FOTO dog, which they named Max. We then printed the pictures on the portable printer for them to keep and everyday they will have a picture of a loving lady from the US hugging them and they will know they are loved.  For some of the boys it was very emotional, as nurturing is something missing in their lives.


Day 4 we spent the morning visiting basic schools.  They were in communities of shacks.  I even met one woman whose shack had burned down and they were living under a tree, but her granddaughter will be starting school this month at the new basic school being finished in their community.  The children who are given the opportunity to go to school start at age 2 and all are required to wear uniforms.  Details for my Celebration of Life School project were finalized, to include a garden, playground, fencing, and later a computer center will be added.  The goal is to complete funding on this project by the end of the year.  In the areas where schools are being built, there has never been access to education.  I talked to family members, teachers, priests and children and they are all so excited.  Access to knowledge gives them hope for the future and I want to be apart of that with my school project.  


The next stop was Jerusalem, a community of all children, those with severe physical disabilities, children with Downs Syndrome, children with mental health issues, teens living in independent cottages, Dare to Care, the house for  the babies and  youngest children with aids, and a new community of cottages for teens with aids called Marthas Village.  Some of my favorite kids live here, especially my boys with Downs Syndrome and they always come running with great big hugs when I arrive, grabbing my hand to drag me through the village.  I had the opportunity to meet Father Gregory, the phenomenal man who continues to start communities for all children, not only in Jamaica, but other 3rd world countries, specifically targeting children with Aides.  He told me he will continue to build and take in children.  No child will ever be turned away. 


The evening was spent at the Ellersie soccer complex, where I was a spectator and special guest at the first game I had attended at my dream facility.  Not only did the community come out of their shacks to support their team, the Albion soccer club, but the FFP Jamaica staff came out in force to support their team, mostly workers from the warehouse, also part of the poor.   It was a great game, and the Jamaican children laughed as Crazy Barbara screamed, gave high fives and led the citizens in cheering.  When the Albion soccer player scored the first goal of the game he ran off the field to pick me up and hug me.  At half time l presented balls, donated by the First Coast Soccer Club players in Jacksonville, Florida, to the children who play on teams a this complex. Solar lights had been added since the opening of the complex last year and one mother said it makes them feel safe at night in their homes which line the field.  At the end of the game I presented soccer equipment to the team and then went and made a presentation to the opposing team.  All items were donated by youth soccer players who play for Coach Mike.  I announced a partnership between Coach Mike's First Coast soccer teams and the Albion soccer club, with the relationship being continued support of donated soccer items.  I also presented Wyoming soccer hats to the coaches, donated by the main financial donors of this complex, so Wyoming will always be a part of this complex.


As usual, my time with the poor was too short.  I did not want to leave, but I feel I need to come home and continue to tell their story and more people will want to get involved and together we can change their world-giving them hope.  I will be back.  My 2011 mission trip is planned for July25-29, 2011, so contact Food for the Poor and take this journey with me.    

Inaugural Soccer Game is Played!

Posted on October 29, 2009 at 11:17 AM

On October 18 the vision became a reality.  The inaugural soccer game was played at the Ellersie soccer complex.  The match was played between Ellersie and a rival community team in St. Catherines.  The match was dedicated to a young man from Ellersie who had been shot and killed by a gang from the rival community.  On Oct. 18 these 2 communities united at the Ellersie soccer complex to share their love of this beautiful sport. The goal of this project was to give HOPE and an alternative to violence.  It's working!  Many games will be played for years to come.  This community takes great pride in this new facility as it is on the level of the field in their national stadium.  This soccer complex has brought governmental and media attention to this community.  I can't wait to get back to Jamaica and celebrate on the sidelines of a match.  Pictures from the match have been added to this site.  I wish to take this opportunity to thank the players of First Coast Soccer Club and Coach Mike in Jacksonville, Florida for their continued support of this project.  Balls, shoes and uniforms for the Jamaican players have been donated by these Jacksonville players in a drive spearheaded by Coach Mike.  By the way, someone also donated a riding lawnmower for the complex!  As the children come out of the shacks that surround the field and line the fence I am sure they are quite excited to see this mower keeping the fields groomed for the next match.    

Welcome

Posted on August 13, 2009 at 3:22 PM

Friends and visitors:  I would like to take the opportunity to welcome you to this develping site.  As you follow it, you will be updated on both my international projects, as well as my community projects.  This site is about ordinary people making a difference.  In the My Friends section I have highlighted other CVS finalists and their projects.  The other 3 sections are organizations I personally work with in my community and internationally.  I am a phodographer for Dog Meets World, linking the children of Jamaica with children in other 3rd world countries.  I am an active volunteer and advocate with GRANDS, linking grandparents raising grandchildren with services in my community.  I am a member of the team at Clay Habitat for Humanity, serving as an intern.   Upcoming fundraisers and new projects will be announced on this website. I have a 5 year plan in place for my international projects, so tune in for status reports, completion dates and announcements of new projects.  My next trip to Jamaica is scheduled for the end of summer 2009.  The photo gallery will be updated on a regular basis.  I have already received requests to add more pictures of my community projects.  This website was created to be a tool to bring awareness to my international projects in Jamaica and to raise funding to complete these needed projects.  The mission of the site is to plant seeds of hope, by linking citizens in my community to resources, completing and intiiating projects both locally and internationally that will change lives, to motivate others to find their passions and to confirm it is never too late for an ordinary person to make a difference.  It is not about money.  It is about love. Barbara


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To Donate:

Hope Village
SC# 085315

www.foodforthepoor.org/
barbara

                                                                              Checks should be made out to:

Food For the Poor
6401 Lyons Rd
Coconut Creek, Florida 33073

SC# for projects should be noted on checks

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Barbara Gilbert

[email protected]

(904) 806-4070