About American-Caribbean Experience

Summer Surprise!

Remember when someone in your class at school, a friend or a neighbor copied something you wore or did to your hair? And when you told your parents, their reply was, “Well, copying someone is just a form of a compliment because they liked what you did and want to do that, too”?

When our ACE staff came together to discuss agendas and programs we wanted to implement this summer with our communities and students, a neat request emerged. Our ACE and Galina Breeze employees expressed a desire to have their own children come to work with them and be exposed to “give back” as it’s called here in Jamaica, a term for volunteering.

It’s true – our staff has been so impressed with how American families and youth give back that they wanted their own children to be see it in action, people working for a cause outside of themselves. Wow, what a great unexpected surprise!

Beginning in July, we will have about 20 of our Jamaican students coming to work with their parents but dropped off at the ACE office four days a week for breakfast and preparation time. Then, depending on ages and needs, the Jamaican students will join the American volunteers each day to learn and copy their counter parts in how to give back to their communities… and each other.

We are thinking of calling it the FVT or Future Volunteers Club and would love to raise about $4,300 to cover the costs of t-shirts, tutors, food and transportation. Please consider helping us out to prepare the next generation of difference-makers! And get ready for some copy cats to follow you this summer! It’s really the highest form of a compliment — changing lives and transforming communities, one volunteer at a time.

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Marla’s Minute: How Jamaicans Enjoy the Beach

ACE enjoyed a wonderful spring break with our volunteers. We so appreciate individuals taking time out of their lives in the U.S. to give back to Jamaica.  As much fun as we have with teams, it is a lot of work, so two weeks ago on a Friday, we surprised our National ACE staff with an outing to a beach that no one had visited before.

Jamaicans enjoy the beach differently than most Americans. I know my first order of business is to always scope out the best place to get my lounge chair situated. Then I look for the closest snack bar and find some place where the waiter comes to me versus me parading around the pool to get a drink (do I sound middle class?).

Not our ACE team – they went straight for the tables in the shade and set up their dominoes and got two teams going. Then the girls walked around and took pictures of themselves and tested the pool. No one went in the ocean. Arlene and I loved it… just watching everyone have fun and do nothing. For those of you who forget to celebrate events no matter how small, just find a Jamaican to relax with for a day and you will enjoy even the little moments.  Our staff definitely deserved a day of rest in anticipation of seeing all your smiling faces this summer.

We will be thinking of you all as we celebrate this beautiful Easter season.  I am a lover of painted eggs, but Easter is really about the big fact that separates Judeo Christianity from all religions — the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you don’t believe that part, the rest is all a fun story. The Easter Bunny is all about marketing – great for chocolate companies, and we all love chocolate – but the real gift is the one given by Jesus for all of us. Keep that in your hearts!

Blessings, and Happy Easter!

Marla

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Ever been Caving? (It’s Kinda Scary!)

I have to say, caving and being “captured” in restricted quarters has never been on my bucket list to do. In fact, when I was in my 20’s , I went rock climbing in Colorado with a group of friends. We went to this great place called Red Rock. I was about 20 pounds lighter than I am now and had much more muscle mass.

Going up was great, but when I got to the top I was frozen. I couldn’t climb down. The space was restricted on all sides. If I turned any way, I would fall, or so I thought. Long story short, my friends called rescue and I was helped down by the trained emergency team. What I learned from that experience is one, there are other people afraid of restricted places like me, as they have a number to call for help; and two, we all have our limits of comfort.

The RAMH Boys Club’s trip to Green Grotto Caves pushed all the buttons of comfort for the young students. D’Vaun and Nicalos led the way with hats and flashlights. It was a little scary, they said, when the guide turned out the lights. The boys held on to each other and never lost sight of D’Vaun; even in the dark, they made sure they knew where he was. Afterwards, the jokes and banter began with each student accusing the others of being a scaredy-cat.

As I heard the story and saw the pics from staff, I was quickly reminded of how scary it is sometimes to not know what is ahead and have no vision of what the plan will turn out to be. That’s when Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” I’m so glad for our RAMH Boys Club (by the way, no girls allowed) and how the simplest of adventures always point back to who you trust for your future. I know who I trust. I think I’ll sign up for the next faith adventure (and dress like a boy).

 

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Who does Field Trips anymore?  ACE Does!

Not only do the sponsored students get field trips with ACE each year, but we take the entire grade with us — and this season was no different. Students in primary schools study local community and government just like in the states. Remember when you were young and went on a field trip to the capitol or maybe the police station? Our little ones get the same experience. With ACE providing the means and schedule, our students enjoyed the day in Port Maria, learning all about their local community.

We visited the police station where students received a talk from the sergeant about safety and laws, then the mayor gave the students his undivided attention to answer questions. Another group was addressing letters to themselves and mailing them from the post office. The funny part about this field trip is that our own ACE staff seemed to enjoy it as much or more than the students. We even learned that our grown adults had never addressed and stamped and mailed a letter at their own post office. A real change in times, right? What a great experience for everyone!

After lunch with patties, the students received the finale at the fire station, where they got to climb into the firetruck and hold a hose spraying water. Is it any wonder all our third graders decided they wanted to be part of local government? Jobs like fireman, policeman, and postal attendant were all at the top of their lists, but no one wanted to be mayor! Perhaps it was the big desk he sat behind that looked very large or scary. Either way, we are grateful for our local servants in Port Maria for making the two days of field trips very educational and fun.

 

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Marla Minute – The Purpose of Child Sponsorship

Reading Annetta’s article about her sponsored child brought a big smile to my face. Her feelings and attitude are very natural for all of us who commit to long-term investments in our lives. Sometimes, we feel like it really is a good thing but not that big of a deal until we refresh ourselves by going back to basics, reminding us of why we got involved in the first place.

You see, many people, myself included, forget the impact of long-term investment because, well, it’s not that exciting on a day-to-day basis. Our culture seems to insist that if we are not getting an immediate benefit from what we do, then we should move on to something more “entertaining”.  As I watched Anthony smile with great delight as he sampled his long awaited honey, I was reminded that good things come to those who wait.

Anthony also received his report card – he was number one in his class by a large margin! It didn’t come quick or overnight. It came by setting his mind to achieving a long-term goal. That’s the goal set before all of us: to focus on what is to come and not as much on the here and now. As we move into spring and everything comes alive again, focus on what is alive in you and how you can spread that to others just waking up from the sleepy winter. God has a plan and goal for you to achieve fulfillment and purpose.

Let ACE help you find that purpose. Come on down and jump in! We are grateful for you.

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A note from Annetta, Stateside Logistics Coordinator

I remember decades ago, watching a famous actress’ late-night commercial repeating, “For the cost of one cup of coffee a day, you can help a child in need.” It all sounded nice, and I was glad there were people participating in these programs. It was a distant good deed, something felt in one’s checkbook but not, I didn’t think, deep in their hearts. After all, we are here and they are there; while we know our money can help, it’s not like there could be a true connection.

I was wrong.

I came down to Jamaica in February of 2017 with my first ACE team. During that week, we were visiting a school where one of our team members had a sponsored child. I watched as ACE’s Jamaican Child Sponsorship Coordinator brought a young boy over to him, and they sat together outside a classroom, away from the crowd. My teammate gave his sponsored child a small gift and they conversed quietly with each other. I tried not to stare at this private moment, but I was intrigued.

Knowing I was bringing my family in June of 2017 to serve, I wanted them to experience something like what I had witnessed. I checked with our Stateside Child Sponsorship Coordinator, Dawn, and she matched me up with a five-year-old girl named Denecia. I studied her picture and bio, trying to figure her out from that information. Her favorite color was brown (seemed pretty down to earth), she loved to run and she had the most distinctive, beautiful eyes.

During our June trip, while we were doing concrete work at the very school where our child was, we were tapped on the shoulder and told, “It’s time to go meet Denecia.” The whole family was introduced to this tiny, shy girl, and we huddled around her, all smiles. Denecia was so quiet, almost scared of this strange American family drenched in sweat and concrete, but she let me read her a story. I asked her if her favorite color was still brown. It was. She sat on my lap and took a picture with us, but I wasn’t sure she even understood. I’m not sure I did.

I sent her a letter and a photo from that day and, later that year, a birthday gift, and in return, she sent me a short thank-you note. That was about it.

Eight months later, in February 2018, I was back in Jamaica. This time, there were no projects at any of the schools, so those on the team who had sponsored children all went together to visit the schools or homes of their children. When we arrived at Denecia’s school, I looked through the dozens of kids surrounding the bus, hoping to recognize her, afraid I wouldn’t. When we finally saw each other, she was still reserved and overwhelmed, at age six, but she sat with me for a short time, mostly looking down, more interested in her juice bag. We talked – well, I talked, she whispered – about whether she still liked to run and still liked the color brown. She nodded and, while she was very reserved, sat close to me and hugged me gently when I left. I wondered if she had truly remembered me, if I made a difference at all. I felt a little awkward.

Pictures of that meeting were sent to her, as well, as a reminder of our visit together, along with pictures of my family and my dog. Later, I sent her a small birthday gift when she turned seven. She sent me a thank-you note and a Christmas ornament she’d made. Her writing was improving.

This past February, when I was back in Jamaica, I was prepared to see Denecia, but I was a little disappointed. I was going to miss out on a fun day at another school where the rest of the team was doing PE, because that was the only time to go see the sponsored children. It would probably be another quick meeting, awkward and uneventful. Maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew, trying to forge a relationship with someone I could only see every so often and who probably didn’t even care. I wasn’t good at relating to kids, especially those who hardly knew me. After this visit, I thought maybe it would be better if someone else sponsored her, someone who was more invested than I was, with more to offer than just a monthly donation and a stuffy conversation.

When I got out of the bus at her school, I saw her walking down the hill, her eyes sparkling, with a smile on her face from ear to ear. I’d never seen that smile; it was genuine. She quickly made her way to me and gave me a big hug. I hugged her back, and, as we sat down in the grass, I started with that old standby question, “So what’s your favorite color now?” After establishing that it was now yellow, I asked her again about her love of races and how fast she was getting.

That was when she finally, quietly, said a full sentence to me: “If you want, in March, you can come and watch me; we will have a race here…” Her voice trailed off, but she didn’t have her head down this time. She looked up at me with those gorgeous eyes full of hope, right into mine, and we made a connection. She knew I was in it with her. We had sent letters. We had photos together. We had history. She had a future and was inviting me in.

It was worth more than the cost of a cup of coffee, and she didn’t need stickers or hair ribbons. She needed to know someone was thinking of her, supporting her, praying for her, loving her. It didn’t happen overnight. It took time, bit by bit, as she got older and wiser… as I got older and wiser. I was overcome with peace, knowing that this was more than a monthly transaction in my bank account. It was a relationship. She asked about my family, and we talked about her school, my dog, she sang her favorite song and so much more. When I left, she hugged me tighter than she ever had, and she ran back up the hill with her head high, still beaming.

Having the chance to see my child face to face, even when it was a struggle to converse or I didn’t think it mattered, has been a wonderful experience. I love that ACE combines this program with their mission trips, so that you can serve the community and still leave behind a piece of your heart with someone who knows your name. Relationships are built, child to sponsor, with letters and prayers and the knowledge that a visit is only a flight away, if that’s possible. It’s certainly not required, but what a nice opportunity! I wasn’t able to come back in March, but I can’t wait to hear how she did in her race, and I know she can’t wait to tell me, even if it’s just in letters. No matter how little you think you are doing, every action makes a difference – and, oh, the lives you will touch by simply reaching out and becoming a child’s sponsor. I’m invested, heart and soul.

For more information on our sponsorship program, please contact Dawn Wheeler, ACE Stateside Child Sponsorship Coordinator, at dawn@acexperience.org.

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Honey, Honey, How Sweet It Is!!

That’s right, Green Life Farms is producing honey!

If you have ever visited the ACE Campus, you may remember the security building on the left as you drive into the yard. It’s no longer a security building – it’s the new Honey Hut for Galina Bees Honey.  Thanks to our Bee Master Patrick Haywood and our number one Bee student, Anthony Clarke, 68 pounds of honey were reaped from the hives located on the grounds.

Some of our friends and volunteers were present to experience the reaping and extraction of the pure honey in the Honey Hut. If you have never seen how honey is collected and squeezed out of the comb, you’ve got to put this on your “honey bucket” list. The honey is being bottled and labeled Galina Bees and is part of the Green Life Farm production. Anthony is now beginning to see the benefits of bee keeping. As he receives donations for his honey, it goes into his savings account for school. It really is a sweet deal for everyone. Got any ideas of what we can mix with our honey? One person suggested peanut butter – yum! We’d welcome any ideas!

An ACE donor took the time and money to invest in Anthony and his endeavors, and now we all will benefit. Thank you! Who are you investing in this year? It’s another way to build futures for students who want to learn and build relationships with the senior adults. If no one comes to mind, we have a few suggestions, so let us know if you feel called to invest in the future!

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Winter Has Reaped Rewards

While it is now officially spring, ACE had an incredible winter season in Jamaica. Our 10th annual Men and Women’s Conference turned out to be a huge success, even with many changes taking place.

For ten years, God has provided ACE with wonderful teachers, musicians, and volunteers to set the stage for our three-night conference, a conference that began years ago with only six attendees in a church in Trinity. While numbers are not a true sign of success, we must admit having more than six attend encourages us that we are moving in the right direction. With over a 150 attending this year’s conference, held at the beautiful Galina Breeze Hotel, our theme was “Be Doers, not just Hearers”.

And doers we were! Our regular worship leaders could not attend this year, so that left Allen and Marla to sing and lead worship – just kidding! Actually, as He always does, God came through and provided two worship leaders from the Atlanta area and a young couple already in Jamaica to come together for the first time and deliver three incredible nights of music and worship.

Our wonderful Pastor Helen showed up each evening to deliver a supernatural inspired message to all the women as we crowded into the Henry Morgan room to soak up the atmosphere. And what an atmosphere – very calming, peaceful, and yet energizing at the same time. The men crowded into to the Louise Bennet room downstairs, engaged in the ongoing conversation and teaching of Dave Duff and the other men on his team. Thank you to the long-standing work of Trinity on the Hill and the many individuals who gave up vacation days to volunteer their time and talent! Our 10th Annual Conference was once again a big success and a confirmation that little can be much when God is in it.

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ACE adds Super Student Status!

For many years now, ACE has focused on helping our students and their families push through the barrier and challenges of living in poverty to achieve a higher level of education through the child sponsorship program. ACE is now on its 10th year of sponsoring St. Mary children. We thought we would give you some factual information on how education can impact a student and their families if we make a commitment to stick with sponsorship.

Tahjebe Suer is making the Super Student Status with ACE.  

It’s not every day that a student like Tahj comes along, but when he does we have to highlight his hard work and desire to move forward in his studies. We told you about him back in July’s newsletter. Several years ago, when little Tahj was just in Primary school, ACE began sponsoring him at Water Valley Primary School and then on to high school at St. Mary where he graduated top of his class. Tahj has a vision to become a Ship Captain, and last year in faith he applied to the Caribbean Maritime University located in Kingston. This is a prestigious school with 100% job placement that costs an average of $12K US per year to attend.

Tahj was accepted and worked with ACE all summer to earn money for his books and food. While he was busy helping ACE, we were praying about where the money was going to come from. By now, we should all know God comes through every time when He is brought into it – and, as usual, several men and women who have followed Tahj and his family heard God’s call, stepped up and committed the funds needed to get him through this first year.

Last week, Tahj was given the prestigious award of being the number one student in his class for excellence and grades!!  We are so proud!! That’s why ACE has a created a new level of child sponsorship called Super Student Status – Tahj, this is for you and your family! Look for Tahj this summer as he intends to be working full time with ACE again. Let him know how proud you are. We certainly smile every time we hear that name.

Now, comes year two. We are praying again for the funds to come in for his second out of four years at school. Want to help? Let us know!

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Can we can? You bet we can!

Our famous experienced canners returned to Jamaica again this winter to see how our mothers and staff were doing in canning food since last year. All of our canners from the States were pleasantly surprised to find not only was canning going well, but our ladies had branched out into making preserves.

As the week began, everyone who canned last year got to open their jars from a year ago and prepare for lunch at the Campus. Part of the canning program is not just about canning meats and soups and vegetables but also demonstrating how these sealed jars can last a year or more on a shelf inside a home that doesn’t have air conditioning or refrigeration. Many of our Jamaicans had raised eyebrows as they wondered if the chicken they canned a year ago would be good to eat.

Carefully and methodically, the cans were opened and the food heated and put in with the rice. It was funny to watch as each National waited on the other one to eat first. Of course, our American counterparts dove in and then, everything was okay! Lots of food, lots of laughter and lots of sharing all week in between the new canning. Thank you, ladies, for making a great concept for Jamaica come alive at the Campus.

 

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