I was talking with Father Jason earlier, and he told me, quoting a scripture, that “there are two things in life. There are the things that we enjoy with all of our hearts, and the things we enjoy for a little while, but then move on.” As a group of 21 Ridley Students and chaperones travelled to Jamaica on behalf of Missionaries of the Poor, this quote held true. We left for Jamaica at 3:30 in the morning on Thursday February 17th to help out children at a local orphanage. We arrived in a gated monastery where we were staying with monks, or “brothers”. None of us really had any idea of what to expect, but from the moment we drove into the orphanage, everything became real. Walking into a dim-lit, gymnasium sized room, there are cribs lined up all along the room with aisles to walk down. We were given 5 minutes to take it all in before we started to diaper, change and feed the children.
You could hear about these kids and you might see a couple of pictures, but nothing will do them justice until you see it for yourself. They have been abandoned by parents who either don’t care, or can’t afford to take care of them. All of them have either mental or physical disabilities. It’s impossible to describe in writing the feeling that you get when you see the children for the first time. I stopped at one particular crib that read Cavena. She might have been around 9 or 10 years old, but had the body of a toddler. Her thighs were smaller than my wrists. She suffers from cerebral palsy. Cavena will never be able to walk, or talk. She could only move her eyes to look up at me as I gently stroked her arm. The only thing she had to do to make me fall in love was smile, and that’s what she did.
This was the turning point of our trip. All of us started to realize that this is their reality. This is how some children have to live, and most of them won’t live long. They have absolutely nothing, yet they are so happy just to feel human contact.
The night before we left, Dr. Cowherd, one of our chaperones, asked us a question. He asked who was really served–even though we diapered, clothed, and fed all of them—we were the ones who received the service on this trip. The children may never remember us, but they will be with us forever.
As told by Jillian Robinson ’11 from Canada
Last March my sister Britteny went to the Missionaries of the Poor in Kingston Jamaica with her school. At the time I really didn’t know very much about the organization, but after listening to what my sister had to say, I knew instantly that spending time at the missionary was something I really wanted to do. After sharing my sister’s experiences with Father Jason and together learning more about the organization, it wasn’t long before he expressed interest in taking Ridley College to Jamaica. The Missionaries of the Poor (M.O.P.) is an international monastic order of Brothers dedicated to “Joyful Service with Christ on the Cross” to serve the poorest of the poor. The order was started in 1981 by Father Richard Ho Lung and has now grown to over 500 brothers around the world. Father Jason worked his magic and I contacted Brother Rameil at the Missionary. We started with fundraisers and successfully raised $7000. Our next step was to encourage students to sign up for the trip, which again was very successful. Father Jason spent much of his time making travel arrangements and talking to students and their families, for this we are all truly thankful.
Bethlehem Home was the first orphanage we visited. The children who reside here were either abandoned in the hospital or in some instances left on the Brothers doorstep. At the orientation we were told that the majority of the children were confined to cribs and were disabled but I really didn’t appreciate what that meant until I saw it for myself. Of the 62 children in Bethlehem, only 6 can walk, the other children spend the majority of their day in a crib. Many of the children are also blind, and most are so crippled that it is very difficult to clothe and bathe them. Feeding the children is also a challenge; it is difficult for them to open their mouths; they cannot sit up; their chewing reflexes are under developed making it difficult for the children to swallow. It is overwhelming to witness the work the Brothers do. They love and care for the children unconditionally and pray for them throughout the day. Through their love and prayer there is so much life in this home and for that the children are truly blessed.
The second orphanage we visited was the Beatitudes Home, a home for young boys who although are very challenged, are not confined to a crib. The journey to Mount Tabor was magnificent. We past many small neighbourhoods, markets, street vendors, grocery stores, gas stations, goats, chickens, stray dogs and lots of people.
The view at the top of Mount Tabor was breathtaking. The land and the original building, which is used for retreats, was donated by a wealthy local. Three other facilities have been added over the years. The church and Beatitudes Home was built by a group of people from Atlanta Georgia, and the brothers built the farm. Approximately 40 young boys live at the orphanage. Some have minimal disabilities while others are more severe. This home was very different from Bethlehem. It felt strange when they came to the gate to greet you. While we were there we spent time with the children and after they were fed we walked up to mountain to visit the farm. We saw 200 rabbits, 3 dairy cows, tons of pigs and chickens, goats and sheep. It was so much fun, I didn’t want to leave.
On Sunday morning we went back to Bethlehem and helped get some of the children dressed for church. Regardless of your denomination, going to church in Jamaica is an experience, one that you will never forget. I am so glad that our Ridley family was able to participate in such an event. After mass it was time to say our goodbyes, which was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
I think I speak for all 21 of us, when I say that our Jamaican friends truly touched our hearts. We created a special relationship with the children. They may not be able to see or understand one word that you said, but they knew you were there. They felt your touch and heard your voice. You could just tell they were happy and content. I will always cherish my time with them and I will be back soon.
As told by Victoria Purcell ’11
For more information about Missionaries of the Poor visit: