|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.