On February 21, 2008, I boarded a plane for Montego Bay, Jamaica, excited for what God had in story for me. Little did I know that I would leave part of my heart in Jamaica. During the eleven days that I served in Jamaica, I witnessed poverty and wealth, joy and heartbreak. I did not travel to Jamaica for a sunny vacation filled with beaches, coco bread, and exhilaration at hearing the utterance of ‘ya mon’. While I did enjoy these pleasures, the purpose of my trip was one that made it more memorable than any vacation.
In Jamaica, deaf and disabled children are ostracized by society. These helpless children are physically beaten, starved, or left on the streets by their families. While faced with a world of hatred and abuse, there is one place on the island where these children can find a home and hope for a better future. Jamaica Christian School for the Deaf was built fifteen years ago by a few faithful hands spurred by the dream that the deaf children of Jamaica could finally find a place to live and an education that would allow them to find a job upon graduation. The dream of these founders, which is now a reality, is the current home of thirty-two deaf and mentally challenged children. It is because of this school- because of these children- that I went to Jamaica.
My team went to Jamaica in order to teach Bible stories, crafts, and computer skills to these children, but more importantly, we went to show love to these children. I personally was assigned to crafts, meaning that I had the privilege to work with every child throughout the day. My classes spanned from a deaf preschool class to a high ability deaf class to a hearing class comprised of severely autistic boys. Each class presented its own difficulties, whether lacking the ability to sign or communicating the lesson to mentally retarded children, but I can say without a doubt that I was blessed through each class and each child. I personally fell in love with one of the classes that had four mentally disabled boys- I spent every free moment playing duck-duck goose and kickball with Derval, Semajh, Romario, and Kevin. The joy and love that radiated from those four boys brings a smile to my lips even as I write of them now.
I came back from Jamaica with a completely different view of not only the deaf community, but also of perseverance through hardship. I am truly in awe of so many of these children-of their motivation, strength, and forgiving spirit. The kids at Jamaica Christian School for the Deaf have a dance team and won second place this past year. That’s right, a group of deaf children won second place among entirely hearing high school dance squads. To me, this feat is the product of what I consider the epitome of determination. These children, despite their inability to hear, are brilliant and are capable of many of the same things that American high school students do everyday. Yet, because of their disability, many of the students are unable to get a job and provide for themselves as adults. In the face of such discrimination and hopelessness, these children show love to everyone around them. They truly are an inspiration to us all and I will never forget them. I said that I left part of my heart in Jamaica, and these children are the reason why. In my opinion, next year cannot come quickly enough.
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