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.
My favorite movie of all time is Mary Poppins – in full color, of course! Some of you who know me might not be surprised as I love work, organization, and using wide imagination to help the “medicine go down”!
As ACE grows closer to our 30th year of presence and outreach in Jamaica, it seems the colors of ACE are not only permanent but vibrant as if it was the first day spent on this beautiful island. You read about our seasoned medical/dental teams being recognized by name from our community healthcare locations. Smiles as teeth get cleaner with less “pullings” and more “savings” through fillings and fluoride. Sugar checks and eye glasses to see better makes seeing an ACE Healthcare volunteer a happy moment in time.
This is where long term commitment pays off in the ACE world. So many volunteers leave their personal concerns and needs at home, to join other professionals in St. Mary clinics and schools. Treating, coaching, training, and praying for students, patients, mothers, and the elderly who truly need a moment of time and care — that’s what ACE Healthcare is all about.
Thank you, long-time committers, for not making ACE another “Poverty Tourism” stop in the passport book but rather a date every year with Nationals who have grown to love you for your long-term stake in their Parish and location. We, too, have something to smile about.
From Marla, Allen & The ACE Team
Remember our little Amber who arrived ten years ago in Jamaica for her first mission trip with ACE?
Most of you know the story: she came with her church from Ohio, wide-eyed and ready to discover God’s best for her life. Amber served in Jamaica with ACE for five years before returning to the states to finish her degree in Christian Leadership and Management. Moving to Atlanta, GA, was a big change. From the simplicity of country life in Jamaica to fast-paced city living in Atlanta, Amber has now been in the states for almost two years. She will tell you in her own words, “It’s been a big challenge readjusting to middle-class American culture after serving a rural community in St. Mary. But looking back, I see God’s hand guiding me along the way and preparing me to fulfill a greater purpose. ACE was a good launching pad for me, and I am truly grateful for all the life lessons, support, and love that flowed out of this ministry. Plus, Jamaica driving was merely training ground for me to handle Atlanta traffic.”
While serving with ACE two days a week in administration, Amber is also working with another non-profit, Blake’s House of Independence, as the Creative Skills Developer. Amber helps to oversee Dreams@Work, which is an innovative, groundbreaking project helping people with special needs define, create and manage micro-businesses to generate income for their livelihood, fulfilling their purpose and ultimately providing them independence. Amber is now living out her vision that she once struggled to discover, while utilizing many skills that God used ACE to teach her.
For all you who have supported Amber through ACE, please know that your prayers and financial support hasn’t gone unnoticed or unappreciated. You have invested in a woman who is investing in Kingdom business. As Amber moves into other areas of ministry, we would like to challenge you to consider shifting your support from Amber to another employee in Jamaica who could use the step up. Please contact our office for more info. Our Jamaican staff at ACE – Lecepth, Dacia, Tracey, Saskia, Foster, Mr. Matthews, Katie, Myers, Lorna – all send their love.
There is no better way to begin the new year of 2017 than with a camp for the ARTS and Jamaica. One of our favorite partners, First Christian Church-Stillwater from Oklahoma, rounded up their best artists, musicians and dancers to come down and teach a fabulous arts camp.
In our rural public schools, the arts are a special commodity in the classroom. If you have ever been around Jamaican children, you will know that they have incredible gifts for dancing, singing, and creating art from nothing. Our friends from FCC-Stillwater had been planning this camp for two years where these young adults could teach our students all about “putting it together”.
Paul Jones from Cokesbury UMC in Knoxville, TN was asked to lead the team in the Music, and our own Amber came down to lead the total team in bringing it together. The goal was to give the newly-elected Mayor a concert, as well as gift for his wall made out of recycled trash found on the beaches in St. Mary. It could not have gone better.
The presentation on the last day was the highlight as both Jamaican and American youth presented the gift with dance and music to our Mayor of St. Mary, the Honorable Richard Creary.
Hey, let’s do it again next year!! I think, FCC Stillwater, you have started something great!
What a headline! We all know and love the children in our Child Sponsorship program, but did you know that our own employees love them too? Dacia one of ACE teachers just could not NOT be involved. Read her story on why she now sponsors a child….in a very real way.
How I Became a Mom
By Ms. Dacia Campbell
Imagine becoming a teacher at a new school, working your hardest and doing your best to impact students’ lives. Well, that was my exact situation in September last year. In the third grade class I taught, there was one little girl that caught my attention right off the bat. She did well with her studies, but she always came to school dirty, without any food or money. She didn’t even have a bag to take her one notebook to school. So, of course, I started to pay for her lunch and break daily, and I saw her blossom from a sad child into an excited learner.
Her mother, who has three children including her, had no means to provide what they needed, so it was a blessing for them to be sponsored. This little bit of help, however, was not enough. Her mother was in a bad place, having run away from home at an early age to live with her dad. She thought she would have better opportunities in life, but she ended up taking care of younger siblings and didn’t attend school at all. As a result, she had no source of income and no birth certificate to get a job. She was being verbally abused by her three babies’ fathers who were almost a non-existent in their children’s lives. I saw where the cycle would have continued with this little girl and I couldn’t bear to let that happen.
I developed a special relationship with the little girl, but this still didn’t change the state of my shock when one day, I was told by her mom, “Take her, no, Miss Campbell?” I thought she was joking, but she absolutely meant it. I agreed to take her home with me for a weekend. She enjoyed the time, and when she went home, she told her mom that she was going to live with me. This reminded me of the scripture in the bible that says we must be like a little child to enter God’s kingdom. She had so much faith and believed wholeheartedly that she would live with me. Of course, at the time, I was adamant that I could in no way afford to take care of a little girl’s needs and send myself back to school in Kingston. That’s what I believed.
She came home with me another weekend and that weekend stretched into eight months. I still have her and make sacrifices weekly to ensure that she has all she needs and that she is happy, confident and comfortable. My parents have become her grandparents and my brothers her uncles, and not a day passes in our house where she fails to make someone laugh with her antics. Everybody misses her when she goes home to spend time with her mom. I know God must have sent me to Mason Hall for this purpose — he must have. I sincerely pray that he continues to help me to provide the love and support that she needs for however long he allows me to be in her life. Keep us in your prayers; we certainly need it.
Can you believe we have 200-plus children who are being impacted by ACE and you, the sponsors in America? We’d like to share two stories among many of where the sponsors not only insure the children get what they need to go to school and learn but get an above-and-beyond gift that is hard to beat.
He’s young, he’s cool, but he was bathroom-less. That’s right. Had to go? Go outside. Need a shower? Go to the creek. Schedule your other business around school bathrooms… until his sponsors decided that everyone deserves at least a toilet. We agreed.
With the funding for the bathroom and a little more help from ACE, this child and his mother now tinkle inside and, well, what can we say other than a big “Thank You” for recognizing this need and making a huge impact on the family life at home.
When you see a face like this, you wonder why he isn’t on the front page of the Jamaica tourist guide somewhere. Tyrick is 10 years old and has never attended school because he was born with no feeling from his stomach down. This means, he cannot control his bowels and must wear a diaper all his life. He cannot walk, but, boy, he is smart, and thanks to his sponsors, Scott and Jill Springer, they decided to do what they could to get this wonderful child out of the wheelchair at home and into the classroom at Galina. We had some hurdles to jump through, though. The school had no way of changing him, and it was difficult getting him to and from school.
That’s where his U.S. family stepped in, along with Lecepth and other ACE staff members who pushed to get the school to take Tyrick; arrangements were made to employ his uncle (who had not been working) by paying him to take Tyrick to school. Now, each school day, Uncle Randel puts Tyrick on his back and walks him about a half mile to school over the coral, drops him off and goes back at lunch to change him. Then, in the afternoon, he goes back again to pick him up and carry him home. Tyrick – for the first time in his life – is now a student and not just a child. He’s thrilled and, quite frankly, we are, too, as are his uncle and family.
It’s not magic; it’s just a God thing. Don’t ever stop caring. It changes these children’s lives and the lives of their families. Thank you, supporters, for helping without hurting.
This year, ACE’s PE program is off to a very active start! Some of you may remember helping Coach at Water Valley as he conducted all six grades of PE twice a week.
This year, Coach is leading the PE for Water Valley – and our new school, Mason Hall Primary – with help from Ms. Kesha Russell, our Educational Administrator, and Digger, our stateside expert on PE development and trainer for our ground staff. We have coordinated the entire required curriculum from the Ministry of Education for each grade to coincide with the practical, and we are happy to report that the students love it!
Coach recorded his first week of activities for you to see how the movement is working. Remember the electric slide? Well, this is the Jamaican version.
Good job, Coach and Kesha, and thank you, Digger! Keep on moving!
People and children are all alike when it comes to meetings and food. In the adult world we call it meetings and in our student’s world, it’s called Summer School.
Let us begin by saying a BIG THANK YOU for all of you who contributed to the 2016 Summer School/food initiative. Thanks to your generosity our kids didn’t go hungry but looked forward to learning with food in their bellies. When Summer school began at 12:30 pm, the children were fed juice and PB & J that our volunteers have left behind after serving with ACE throughout the year. At 4:00 pm they are given a boxed dinner consisting of chicken, rice, and salad to share with their family.
Then there was 2.5 hours of learning about sounds, letters, and themes. Jamaican students like American students love to create. Keeping the theme of literacy is fun when you can design an art piece to show what is being taught.
Did we mention that the school bus is running great??? We were able to pick up all 41 students each day transporting them to school and back. Uncle “Romie” as they refer to him was the driver and the singer all the way to Preston Hill. One of our staff asked Romeo if he liked his job. (He works for Galina Breeze when not driving) He just smiled and said, “Remember I have triplets coming up…, I’ll be driving them to ACE School one day….”
Contact us today to find out more about how you can join us in our mission to change lives and transform communities in St. Mary, Jamaica!
Many times I come across skeptics when they are visiting ACE in Jamaica who share with me the reason they “don’t” sponsor children “anywhere” in the world.
Where does “my” money go?
Is the child getting my letters?
If I come “there”, can I see them?
All I can say is yes, yes and all of the money goes towards the child!
That sounds incredible doesn’t it? It’s true, just ask any of our 200 sponsors who regularly write letters, send monthly support and visit their wonderful child in their homes.
Now, there are some risks involved in sponsoring an ACE child.
Risk #1 – You might fall in love with him or her.
Risk #2 – You might spend more money than you anticipated as the child grows into a better place of literacy, and living
Risk #3 – You might get a phone call after some time that your child’s parent is not fulfilling their commitment to keep your child eligible for sponsorship and is being dropped from the program or for some other reason that just doesn’t make sense to us in middle class America.
Risk number three is a hard one. We feel that our children are as special as the many friends and families that support them. We also have a commitment that our sponsors are as valued as our children. We have to be honest even when the story stinks. If you are some of the sponsors that have been through this, we understand and appreciate what you are doing to make a difference in Jamaica and for sticking with us even through the bumps in the road.
Some of you have been blessed to sponsor the same child for years and can see the changes and the smiles and the growth. We would love to share your stories and pictures on Facebook with the others that are still thinking about the risks.
Living on the edge is a good thing, and more often than not, the results are life-changing.