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.
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.