Mission Jamaica - My Family Travels
me in Jamaica

Superman, Spiderman, and Batman all risk their lives to save the world. Although average teenagers cannot fulfill these impressive tasks, help can be offered in minute ways. “We can do no great things- only small things with great love,” stated Mother Teresa, a Catholic missionary.  She spent her life helping those less fortunate.  Today, many individuals model her by participating in missions.   During spring break of seventh grade, I attended Mission Jamaica, a vacation with a purpose.  Although I did not want to go on a mission because I considered it boring, my parents insisted participation would support my personal growth.   Mission Jamaica not only supported my growth but also made me realize small acts of kindness matter.

Jamaica fits a travel brochure’s description of a paradise. When arriving, I viewed the crystal aqua blue waters, swaying palm trees, and bight yellow sands. Soon Jamaica turned into a different place.  The contrast was instantly evident as the mission group departed from the airport.  Jamaica became a country packed with people and full of filth.

Emotions of fear and excitement ran through me upon reaching Westhaven Children’s Home, an orphanage for children with mental and physical disabilities. My pale, white skin stood out in a sea of black faces. Many children navigated wheelchairs and others walked with limps. No toys were visible, and education was not provided to the youngsters.

Since I was a youth, my job was to play with the children.   What could I do that would possibly be worthwhile?  Over the three days, I entertained them by painting the girls’ nails with shiny nail polish, and just talking with them.  The girls excitedly grabbed at my long, blond hair.  They had a strong curiosity about its smooth texture, and they would spend hours stroking it.

My most vivid memory was picking unusual fruit from a tree.  The fruit on this huge tree resembled a red pear, which the residents called “apples.”  The task of picking an apple off a tree would appear easy, right?  No! I was terrified of climbing trees.  One child, Marlin, with a large tumor growing in his stomach and who required a wheelchair, loved this fruit.  Marlin was a picky apple eater, though; the apples I chose must be the ripest of the ripe and the reddest of the red. In fact, Marlin requested another apple instead of the one I had given him. 

I remember thinking, “Anne, are you seriously going to go up that tree again just to get a riper apple?” In the end, I climbed the tree swaying the branches, trying to find another apple.  Finally, I returned back to solid ground presenting the apple to Marlin like a first place trophy.  Marlin grinned widely thanking me causing it to be impossible to be upset with him.  

Just one small red apple made the day for the children of Westhaven.

Even now, I still dream about returning to the children at Westhaven and the fruit tree. What I thought would be a boring spring break became one of the best experiences of my life.   

Picking a single apple made me finally realize how much I take for granted and how fortunate I am to live in the United States where I can get an education and have endless dreams for my future.  I also understand that the simple joys of life can make the most difference to a child.  I did not save the world during my spring break, but I built friendships and created happiness for others.  Simple acts can still have a great impact.

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