Who would know more about that than professional canners? With so many of our sponsored families lacking in refrigeration, preserving whole foods is a key ingredient to growth and development in children. Many of our homes simply lack electricity, and when they do have it, it’s “borrowed” from a neighbor. A few years ago, ACE began looking into teaching canning in Jamaica.
As most programs go with ACE, it takes a few years to develop into a full-blown plan. In this case, that’s partly because Jamaica doesn’t know anything about canning food nor does the ACE staff. We all grew up with wonderful grandparents and parents that canned, but somehow our culture didn’t move forward with that expertise. But times are changing – just take a look at these pictures! The men made the shelves and the ladies taught canning. It was wonderful!
We learned to can whole chicken, soups, beets, vegetables… and the best part is they can last up to two years on a shelf! All the mother has to do it open the lid, heat it up, and it’s a full meal for her family and children. Thank you, Castine, Bethel, and Ringgold, for getting us off and running. More next month on our foodbank and how you can get involved.
Many of you will remember when ACE first began the outreach program of sponsoring children in St. Mary. These were children who simply could not attend school because of many economic challenges ranging from no uniform to wear, shoes with holes, persistent hunger and sleeping only on the floor or on a mattress shared by many.
Then something great happened: one by one, child by child, family by family, you – our stateside volunteers – stepped up and said, “We can help!” And help you did. Our “Sponsor a Child” program started with only four students. A decade later, ACE is now changing an entire community with over 230 students attending school full-time and is growing stronger every day, thanks to you, our wonderful supporters, who believe in living simply so others can simply live.
This month, we are highlighting just a few of the impact areas that your continuous investment into ACE has made in our communities, starting with the basics: homes…
“Is that a house or a chicken coop?”
…was what one of the ACE guests asked me when we were walking up to a child’s home. Of course, he was sincere, as I had not pointed out exactly where we were going. “Well,” I said, “it’s going to be a chicken coop as soon as ACE builds them their new home.” Everyone following behind me fell silent as we walked within earshot of the family coming towards us.
With awkwardness, the family greeted us, and – eager to help – began carrying whatever they could to help set up the water coolers and haul the shovels and tools needed to start. One by one, day by day, volunteer by volunteer, a house began to emerge. And the family kept working. Every day when we arrived, mom and dad were the first ones we saw getting ready for our arrival, and when we had to leave, they were the last to say goodbye while putting tools away for the next day.
Many people ask how do we decide who gets a home? It’s easy. The sponsor of the children lets us know that they would like to help with certain projects outside of the normal monthly fee to send their child to school. We get the news from our stateside office, send our construction team out, led by Bullah, and we price out the material, minus the labor. Then we wait…
Generally within a week, we will hear back as to what a sponsor can supply in the way of funds. Many times, ACE contributes through the help of others who want to be a part of the change. And then we start. Our volunteer teams arrive and work begins. This is what happened in January and this month, when teams came down to generously offer their talents of labor and skill.
Already in 2018, we can say thank you for making a huge difference in five families’ lives!
We can dance, we can play, we can sing…. so the storyline goes! With a very successful Christmas party and art camp, ACE finished the year with a bang in Jamaica.
Last year, if you remember, Sondra from First Christian Church from Stillwater brought her team of young adults to Jamaica and launched the first ART camp for students on school break. It went so well that we had to do it again. This time, however, we had another longtime friend of ACE add her team to the mix – Tina and her students from Rebel Ministries. From Art Camp to the Christmas party, we were absolutely in awe as both leaders and teams came together to give our sponsored and non-sponsored students a great week of fun.
Speaking of the Christmas party, ACE tried something this year that wasn’t exactly a spiritual part of ACE – Santa Claus! Here is where middle-class American thinking met Jamaican traditions. When our sponsored students walked in and saw this brown-skinned man with a white beard in a red suit sitting by their presents, hesitation grabbed them. They stood and stared, wondering who this person was and what was he doing at their party.
While the experience went well, we quickly learned that Christmas without Santa will do just fine next year. Let’s keep the reason for the season and not add to the story. It was another learning moment for ACE and our volunteers, and, ultimately, a good time was had by all! Thank you, Child Sponsors, for sending your love. Perhaps you can come down sometime and enjoy the moments you create for your students and us with your support!
It’s true! American Caribbean Experience is thirty years old this year! For some of us, that’s a scary thought – when the ministry grows up, the founder grows older. Regardless of the aging process, life is very good for all of the hard workers God has used to get us to this point. We hope that the passing years have produced wisdom in understanding God’s heart so we can continue to meet the needs of the Jamaican community He has assigned us to serve.
We’ve said this many times before, but turning thirty reminds all of us that ACE only works well in meeting the spiritual, physical and mental needs of the many when volunteers are committed to long-term investment. As a ministry called to help in a developing country like Jamaica, we are very aware how God has used our U.S. and Canadian volunteers to assist us in work where we need the help most – working alongside our National families. Your time and support have sustained us for decades, and we thank you!
It’s going to be a fantastic year! ACE is celebrating with a big event in the U.S. (more to come)! We will see the beginning of some long-awaited programs that have been announced in the past and are now coming into play. We have new faces, new talent, and the same great attitude our staff and friends have had for these thirty years, so celebrate with us! When a wonderful ACE memory comes to mind, share it with us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. We would love to hear from you!
Thirty years doesn’t sound that old – we think we are good for another thirty! And we hope you’ll stay along for the ride!
Feeling younger everyday –
Marla and Allen
We all know what this time of year looks like for most of the U.S., but in Jamaica, it’s pretty much the same day in and out. Until the Child Sponsorship parents started thinking about the day in December. A few years ago, ACE began asking the sponsors of our 200+ students to consider sending ACE a monetary gift for their child so we could purchase something small in remembrance of the holiday and throw a festive Christmas party for the sponsored children. We are so happy to continue that tradition.
Yesterday, Amber went shopping and came back with what looked like a sleigh full of goodies. It’s amazing how far your donations go to provide wonderful gifts for the children. Some of you may be saying, “Well, I could have bought my child a gift and sent it versus sending in funds.” That is correct, but our past seems to define our present decisions in this area. Let’s face it – Americans think bigger is better rather than simple is sensational. We were receiving cameras, bikes, full clothing outfits, and stuffed animals the size of a car (not really, but close), but this way provides each child with a simple expression of kindness and a moment to know that they are all loved and cared for by you, their sponsors.
As we prepare for that big holiday, we certainly don’t want to forget to be thankful for all of you. Thanksgiving is such a great time for reflection. We attached a card we sent out to a few of you. You may wonder what that yellow stuff is on the front of the card – it’s not popcorn! Those are Scotch Bonnet peppers from our farm with boots of our farm employees, boots that a great family donated to our staff earlier this year. With that, we say Happy Thanksgiving! We are all so grateful for each of you and what you continually do for all of us Stateside and on the ground in Jamaica.
Blessings from all of us!
School is now in session in Jamaica. Our tailors who set up their machines in the open air and on street corners have finally gotten a breather. ACE students look bright and cheery as they walk to school with their new book bags in their school uniforms.
With 223 students sponsored by our generous donors, it’s very easy to smile these days knowing that we are making a difference in the lives of these young ones and their families. They may not all get to the educational levels we strive for here in America, but we will however meet the goals of instilling hope and the fact that someone loves them and cares about their family and needs. People in our area know how to manage with very little. They make a go of things with what they have. This coming year, ACE will be focusing on extending that hope to a deeper level per household. The ground team has completed extensive visits to each child’s home to update our files and familiarize ourselves with the situations at home. It’s been exhilarating.
I was reading an article recently by Andy Bannister about what does it mean to be human. As we move forward into our pruning winter months with ACE, Andy lists five things the Bible tells us about this topic.
- The Bible tells us that human beings are designed primary for relationships.
- Human beings have incredible value and dignity
- The dignity God bestowed on us extends to choice. There are real, meaningful choices to be made and the choices we make have consequences.
- The Bible tells us that there is such a thing as love, and that love is ultimately defined by the character of the God who created us.
- The Bible tells us that there is a big story. And that big story is ultimately a love story, a story of how the Creator God reaches toward each one of us, with our hang-ups and our fears.
Our goal for our friends and loved ones we serve in Jamaica is important in all these areas: as Bono of U2 put it, “the goal is soul”.
If you want to get more involved with our ACE vision, please call us, write us, email us, text us. We have a place for you to serve and make a difference in the lives of our friends in St. Mary.
If any of you love growing roses, you will know that it’s not an easy task. When you purchase the rose plant, it’s most of the time a green stick with a thorn or two sticking out.
Over time, the gardener fertilizers it with special fertilizer made just for roses. If all goes well – the sun shines, the rains come, and the gardener doesn’t lose interest – within a short time, the fragile flowers appear, bringing fragrance and beauty to all who pass.
Professionals will tell you that the best time to prune back roses is shortly after the plant blooms its fullest. By cutting back the top part, the base of the plant is allowed to grow stronger so it can produce more flowers and grow resistant to many diseases.
With all this back-breaking labor, it is easy to be tempted towards finding an easier way. As for ACE, we have been growing roses for many years in Jamaica. Our beautiful roses have names and faces, however, and represent the very essence of what all of us strive for in ministry.
ACE has enjoyed being a part of nurturing Dacia and Tracey and watching them bloom in the garden of life. These two ladies have served with ACE in our Educational Department for years. Tutoring our children, overseeing our Quiz Bowl between schools, helping write those thank-you letters, and most of all showing their love to all who come to serve with us as well as to their students.
The sign of a true teacher is the passion to have one’s own classroom of influence. Tracey and Dacia have left us to have their own classrooms of primary students, one in Ochi, the other in Kingston. We thank Tracey and Dacia for being part of ACE, for being the beautiful roses who have provided us so much joy.
We recently enjoyed a going-away party where, as usual, we all had chicken and rice cooked by our staff. Will we see them again? You betcha. When school is in break sessions, they promise to come by ACE and continue to be connected to our larger vision of “changing lives and transforming communities”.
Many of you have already met the 2017 iQuest interns at Galina Breeze this summer. For many decades now, ACE has had a program designed for young adults right out of high school through age 25 to come live and learn about leadership in a hands-on way.
This year however, we were so excited to introduce a new program that blends with the iQuest internship, called the 4S program (Second Story Summer Series). This program consists of our Jamaican National young adults who have come up through the ACE student sponsorship program in our primary schools.
Leadership is such an important tool for individuals to possess going into the world, whether it’s work life, church life, or home life, so ACE wants to equip all of the young Nationals and Americans to face the many challenges of life moving out of school.
For approximately 75 days, we have been fortunate to get to know seven of the most outstanding students in many years. We decided to show you pictures of them in their element. Thank you, Austin, Alvana, Audrey, Hannah, Tajeb, Mallory, and Michael.
This week, Dr. Marie, a Board Member for ACE, gave her time and talent to begin the basic teaching structure for our new school. Everything starts with a vision of what can happen when great minds come together. These stickies are a picture of what the beginning of needs look like for our new school. Don’t strain your eyes, as we will be publishing a list of those needs for the school so it will be more readable. Pray that we get the land we have our eye on adjacent to the Campus that ACE desperately needs.
Dawn Wheeler, aka The Child Sponsorship Whisperer
For ACE this month, we wish to highlight some of the behind-the-scenes people who make ACE great in the view of our donors, volunteers and all around supporters.
Dawn gets asks lots of questions all day long. We thought it would be fun to interview her as if we ourselves were calling to inquire about a child needing sponsorship in the ACE program. Perhaps you may find one of your questions in the following interview. Some of our sponsors are so loyal to their children that they probably already know the answer before Dawn picks up her pen to answer.
Interviewer: How many children are currently in ACE’s child sponsorship program?
Dawn: We currently have 237 children in our sponsorship program. When I began with ACE three years ago, we had just over 100 children in the program. Due to the dedication and hard work of our ground staff, the number of sponsored children has increased each year.
Interviewer: If someone is interested in sponsoring a child, how can they receive information about a sponsorship?
Dawn: Anyone interested in a sponsorship can download our APP on their smart phone, Google Store or iTunes Store. Type in “American Caribbean Experience” and download the app. Or you may go to our website – acexperience.org – and fill out the information form for child sponsorship under the “Sponsorship” tab.
Interviewer: How do sponsors communicate with their sponsored child?
Dawn: Sponsors may write to their sponsored child as often as they wish. All correspondence is hand-carried to our children by a staff member or volunteer who is traveling down. No Facebook, no text, and no hash tags, so letter writing is the best way to do this. That is also, by the way, a great way for these students to work on their writing skills. Everyone – including me – enjoys a letter in the mail from a sponsor and I know our Jamaican students love it too. And, as always, we welcome sponsors to come to Jamaica for an ACE mission trip, where we will make special arrangements for them to visit their sponsored children at their schools or homes. What a great way to feel truly connected – to receive hugs in person!
Interviewer: What is the best part of being the Stateside Child Sponsorship Coordinator?
Dawn: The pay is fantastic! (Just joking!) Actually, what’s fantastic is being able to share in the excitement of a sponsor when they receive a photo and information of the child that they have been matched with for sponsorship. God is in the details – like the time a child who said she wanted to be a nurse was matched with a sponsor who is a nurse, or when a sponsor was matched with a child whose name was the same as her father that had just recently passed. I found out this information after the fact. It is always exciting to see how God guides and directs in this process.
Interviewer: What is the toughest part of being the Child Sponsorship Coordinator?
Dawn: To inform a sponsor that their child is no longer eligible to be in our sponsorship program. The reasons that a child is removed vary from the child moving out of the area to the parents of the sponsored child not fulfilling their part of the contractual agreement (which they sign when their child is accepted into the program). Excessive absences of the sponsored child from school would be a reason for ineligibility. Our ground staff does a fantastic job of contacting the sponsored children’s parents by phone calls, home visits and warning letters. They give the parents plenty of opportunities to correct the problem before terminating a child’s sponsorship.
One thing I appreciate about ACE is that we come alongside the parents to help and encourage them to become more proactive in their child’s education. This is done through parent meetings and training classes that ACE organizes. We don’t just hand them a sponsorship; they must do their part. This is “tough love” but a love that is often necessary.
ACE is truly changing lives and transforming communities – one child at a time.