ACE has been sponsoring students for almost eight years now. We started with a few kids in the neighborhood that really needed help with food, clothing, books, taxi and shoes. Speeding forward, we now have close to 250 elementary and kindergarten students coming out of our communities of Hampstead, Galina, Water Valley, Mason Hall, and Heywood Hall.
The one-year commitment we originally made has quickly turned into a lifetime of learning and relationships between Jamaican families and their American sponsors. Even Allen and I have developed a special relationship with the families of our sponsored children, especially one in particular. Tahjebe, son of ACE’s own Lorna from Green Life Farms, is now on his way to the Caribbean Maritime University, a prestigious college in Kingston that has a 100% placement rate. Watching Tahj grow from a skinny little boy in Primary school to a skinny college man (smile) is a great marker to how this program prepares our students for future academic success.
This is Tahj’s last summer with ACE as he is preparing to enter the University and live on campus next month. Lorna, Tahj, and I were sitting around the kitchen table a few nights ago, reminiscing about Tahj as a child and how proud we are to be part of his life. Of course, his mother started crying and then Tahj got embarrassed – a typical mother/son relationship. She has always had big dreams for him, and now he is ready to find them for himself. Tahj wants to be a Ship Captain, which seems very achievable to me.
For those of you who sponsor students with ACE, we’d love to know the stories behind your child and how your stories have impacted your lives. Allen and I, while we don’t have children of our own, truly feel like we have a whole bunch of kids around us growing up fast. We are all making a difference in young lives, some here at home and some right next door.
What’s your story?? We would love to know!
~ Blessings, Marla & Allen
Yes, it’s that time of year again – Vacation Bible School! Each week in July, teams come down to Jamaica to help ACE facilitate VBS in the four communities we serve. Most of the time, the VBS location is the local public school where our Child Sponsorship Students attend. We find that by holding this one-week-a-year Spiritual Outreach program in a public environment verses a church, we attract more children and can refrain from being “branded” in a community as being “those church people”.
Many times, people who live close to ACE-partner schools have been hurt in some way or know of a family member who has been hurt by someone who has attended church, leaving a negative connotation of religion and a bad taste for any Biblical programs. ACE has been successful in reaching these families through this annual program. By not being affiliated with a church yet teaching Biblical principles, ACE has had a great response to the VBS programs we operate, thanks to our ACE partners in the States. Thank you, July VBS teams, for making this our 30th year of outreach!
ACE sponsored the high school boys’ volleyball team at Oracabessa High School last year. Following a close win for first place, Mr. Moncrieffe, our PE/Education teacher for ACE, introduced volleyball to our primary schools with the hope that some will be promoted to a higher level of competition when moving to secondary education.
Just learning to serve has its challenges, but with Mr. Moncrieffe leading the team, everyone gets charged to learn. Get ready for some competition when you visit us for PE. We are ready to SERVE!
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”.