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!
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.
Some of you may remember ACE building Kal a home in the Galina area a few years ago. During that time, one of his peers who was working with ACE then, Lecepth, ran into some challenging problems where he, his wife and two children were living. Lecepth asked if he could rent the house ACE was building for Kal until he could get his home built right next door.
Kal and ACE agreed, allowing Lecepth to rent his home for approximately $28US a month. Many of you and your churches helped complete what is now the prettiest house in the neighborhood.
Lecepth and his family are now safely in their home next door, and Kal is finally in his! Needless to say, Kal is quite happy. For the first time in his life, he has his own water meter in his name and, soon, his own electric meter. Why is that a big deal? In Jamaica, many people “borrow” electricity from the power company. We used to see in the paper where people were electrocuted weekly. Unfortunately, it hasn’t stopped and many times, church people are guilty of the very same thing. But Kal officially owns his own utilities, and this speaks volumes for who he is. He may be deaf, but he knows that part of ownership is taking responsibility.
And he loves the colors Marla picked out for him! All he needs now, he says, is a swimming pool in the back yard! Congrats, Kal, for a growing up and becoming independent.
2018 has started out for ACE with a big BANG!! Or maybe I should refer to it as Big Bees!
Besides the canning, the homes being completed, and children being sponsored, our own second-story student, Anthony (or, as he likes to be called, “Junior”) is learning to make honey for Galina and ACE…
With the help of his sponsors, Anthony had the opportunity to work with two professional bee masters last week, collecting his bees and learning about how to make more bee hives. I personally had no idea how complex bees were until Anthony began teaching me some of the trade. For those of you planning on coming to see us this year, Anthony will be here to teach us all the art of making honey.
Galina Bees Honey will not only be a sweet deal but also another way to teach a young man that he can sustain himself and his family in micro-business. Thank you, sponsors! We are truly grateful for all the investment into the lives of our students and families.
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!
The infirmary has always been one of my favorite ways that ACE is able to minister to the forgotten. We are there as a staff every week and are able to build relationships with the residents. Many of them aren’t able to communicate clearly, but we find our ways. One of the residents that I have gotten close with is Cassandra. She is one of the bedridden residents that can’t really speak clearly and doesn’t seem to have mentally developed completely. Nevertheless, I always share a smile with her and help her with the soup and water that we serve each week. She has started to call me Mummy, and I’m learning different ways that I can communicate with and understand her.
Over New Year’s, we had a team here to put on a music, dance and art camp for the local students while they were on holiday from school. The infirmary residents always seem to liven up when music comes to the infirmary, so we didn’t miss a chance to bring some guitars and drums while we were serving at the infirmary. When the musicians arrived to the women’s ward, I was helping one of our volunteers serve Cassandra. As we were listening to them sing for another resident, Cassandra began to say Hallelujah. I smiled and asked the guys if they knew Hallelujah? They did, and so did Cassandra. She wasn’t so familiar with the verse, but once we got to the chorus she was singing along… Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!
I was moved to tears and had to walk away for a minute. Looking back at the lyrics now, I’m struck by this line: “I’ve seen joy and I’ve seen pain. On my knees, I call your name. Here’s my broken hallelujah.” Truer words cannot be said for Cassandra and for the rest of the residents at the infirmary. These are people who have seen terrible pain and they continue to experience it, and yet there they are bringing joy to myself and hundreds of others.
I will never forget hearing Cassandra singing the chorus for us that day. Needless to say, she still calls me Mummy… and sometimes she calls me Hallelujah.
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
Summer is here, and we have started our field trips each week with the infirmary residents to the Galina Breeze Pool for physical therapy. This is always a spectacular day for everyone. I had no idea how cherished it was until recently, when we were painting the outside of the men’s ward at the Centre. Christopher, who some of you may know, asked if he could help. With some hesitation, he was given a paint brush and a little paint.
Before long, several other residents joined him in their request to paint. Soon, we were looking like salt and pepper hitting a massive wall of color. It was hard work but fun as we saw so many of our golden children participating in painting “their” wall. At the end of the day, we were all covered in paint.
That’s when Christopher handed me this simple note, as I was leaving for the hotel: “Thank you for the field trip.” At first, I thought it was the pool therapy he was referring to, but he had not been to the pool yet this year. That’s when I realized that, sometimes, field trips can be right in the yard of the infirmary. It was actually his day of painting on his wall that broke up the monotony of the day, and fresh purpose was created. It made me smile and enjoy the moment of play.
Yes, summer has begun – come play with us at ACE! It brings out the kid in you again and certainly gives all our golden children at the infirmary purpose.
Marla and Allen
If you think farming is just a yard hobby, you haven’t been to the Green Life Farm with ACE. We are amazed at how just a few farmers from our community are able to turn a profit with scotch bonnet peppers. This month, our peppers are popping! So are the parents from child sponsorship programs.
One of our U.S. Volunteers noticed, when he was on the farm last year that our local staff didn’t have boots to work in while farming. Talk about meeting a need! This month, he came packing with boots, after inquiring about sizes. When the staff arrived for work, they were greeted with new boots! Instead of tattered sneakers, they now are ready for the farm — thanks to a volunteer who noticed there was a need and followed through to fill it.
Now what about the rest of us??? I’m a size 9? (smile)