From December 7-10, 2012, I journeyed with a team of missionaries (Bibi and Mehendra Achaibar, Sonia Blake, Stafford Lue, and Juana Wilmot) to Jamaica to bring Christmas cheer and gifts to children in three Children’s Homes (Granville Girls’ Home for Safety, Falmouth, Trelawny; Clifton Boys’ Home, Darliston, Westmoreland; and St. Monica’s Home, Chapelton, Clarendon). Children from these homes identify a gift which they desire for Christmas. Members of Holy Sacrament choose a tag bearing a child’s name, age, and home, and the gift he/she desires from an Angel tree. The members then purchase the gifts which the missionaries take to Jamaica.
An annual trip for over 10 years, it was my first to the land of reggae, the homeland of Bob Marley. It was an important trip for me for two reasons. First, most of the members of Holy Sacrament Episcopal Church, Pembroke Pines, Florida, call Jamaica their native land. Second, it was an opportunity for me to see where they call “home.”
After arriving at the Sangster International Airport, Montego Bay, we had lunch at Scotchies Restaurant, and then Stafford Lue, our incredible chauffeur and tour guide, drove us to Granville Girls’ Home for Safety, Falmouth, where we delivered their gifts. On the way, we passed Rose Hall Great House, the home of Annie Palmer during the early 19th century. The history about this home and its owner is that Ms. Palmer, a white plantation owner, married several times, including to slaves. However, her husbands apparently died mysteriously.Granville Girls’ Home for Safety was an interesting experience for me since our missionaries have been making visits to this home for over a decade. The Home has 52 girls but the number is constantly changing since girls leave as a result of better home conditions, have reached the age of 18, or simply run away. I received a tour of the facility by Superintendent, Michael Murray. The girls rear chickens and eggs for human consumption in the Home. While in Falmouth, we also visited St. Peter’s Anglican Church, St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, and the home next door to the Catholic Church at which Holy Sacrament missionaries stayed many years ago.
Then it was off to Clifton Boys’ Home in Darliston, Westmoreland, a 2-hour drive from Falmouth. We travelled a very hilly terrain, with winding roads and many shops along the way. The number, types, colors, sizes, of shops became a highlight of our trip. We were getting out of breath identifying every time we saw a shop. The moral of the story is if you want to start a business in Jamaica, start with a shop. The people of rural Jamaica are industrious and entrepreneurial. I can now call Jamaica, “The Land of Village Shops.”
Clifton Boys’ Home, Darliston, is one of three homes owned by the Anglican Diocese of Jamaica, the other two are St. Monica’s Children’s Home, Chapelton, Clarendon, and Worthley Home for Pregnant Girls in Kingston. Clifton Home, which Ms. Irene McDonald has managed for over 30 years, houses about 30 boys between the ages of 9 and 19 years old. One fascinating aspect for me was that the boys were very well-behaved, respectful and mannerly. I could not believe it. These boys of this Home are to be highly commended for their good manners and personality….no doubt the credit needs to go to Ms. Mac, as she is affectionately called. Every Sunday the boys worship at St. John’s Anglican Church, Darliston, and before they go to bed they end the evening in prayer and song.
We traveled from Darliston to St. Monica’s Girls’ Home, Chapelton. On our way, we stopped by St. John’s Anglican Church, Darliston, which was in walking distance from the Boys’ Home. Next, we passed by the home of the grandmother of one of my parishioners, Dr. John Williams. We saw the lake in which he swam and the bus in which he rode to school …LOL…
Our day’s drive was made slower due to heavy downfall of rain for lengthy distances of time. The drive took us through places like New Market, Middle Quarters, and Santo Cruz. When I heard the name “Santo Cruz,” I was expecting a Hispanic community. However, a busy downtown Santo Cruz was filled with Afro-Jamaicans. Next, it was on to Peppers, Spur Tree Hill and Mandeville; the latter is a pretty affluent area because of its bauxite industry. We had a delectable lunch at the home of Stafford’s friends, Max and Fay Bell.
After lunch, we passed by the Suffragan Bishop of Mandeville’s residence. Presently, there is no resident bishop. From Mandeville, we drove through Porus, May Pen, the main city in the parish of Clarendon, and then into Chapelton, where we retired for the night at St. Monica’s Children Home, after giving gifts to the children and staff. Myrel Moss (Sister Moss as she is familiarly called), had managed the Home for the past 40 years.
St. Monica’s started in 1953 and will be celebrating its 60th Anniversary of existence in 2013. Although, primarily a home for girls, boys live in the home until age 12. The girls live in the home until they are 18. Currently, there are 19 children (11 girls and 8 boys) and 8 staff members.
On Sunday, December 9, we began the third leg of our mission trip as we traveled to Kingston, the capital of Jamaica. Before leaving Chapelton, we first visited St. Paul’s Anglican Church, where Holy Sacrament missionaries once worshipped years ago. The congregation and their priest, The Rev. Elizabeth Roach, received us warmly. But an amazing feature was that one of our missionaries, Sonia Blake, and Rev. Roach had previously worked together in their earlier days at one of the government departments in Kingston. They were overjoyed to see each other. A statue of “Cudjoe,” a Maroon, is erected in front of St. Paul’s Church. He and other Maroons were rebellious against the British. They lived mostly in the parish of Clarendon.
We then drove to May Pen to visit Sister Moss’ husband, Wesley. Then we continued on our journey through Old Harbour, Spanish Town, Ferry, and into Kingston. While in Kingston, we passed some important landmarks, namely the American and Canadian Embassies, King’s House, home of the Governor General, and the home of Bob Marley (now a museum), located next door to the Governor General’s residence. Other places included the University of Technology (U-Tech), United Theological College of the West Indies, and the University of the West Indies – Mona Campus Hospital. The majority of these landmarks are located on Hope Road.
With two young women who were once residents of Granville and St. Monica’s Children’s Homes, we visited the Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Center, a hospital for physically challenged children, where we delivered supplies and played with the children. These children, all under the age of 13, have various challenges – mostly the inability to walk.
From Sir John Golding’s Hospital, we went to Jack’s Hill, one of the beautiful scenic parts overlooking Kingston. Then it was off to have late lunch/early dinner at Stafford’s friends – John and Erla Junor.
In the late evening, after checking into the Wyndham Hotel in Kingston, we went out for dinner as well as visited Emancipation Park, at which entrance stands a nudist statue of a man and a woman. This statue caused great controversy and displeasure, particularly from Jamaica’s religious leaders about 10 years ago when it was first erected.
On the final day of our mission, we visited the Bustamante Hospital for Children, a 283 bed facility that was once a British military Hospital, and gave supplies to the hospital. It is the only specialist pediatric hospital in the English-speaking Caribbean and caters to children from birth to 12 years. We shared conversation with one of the senior pediatricians of the hospital. From there we went to Devon House, where we had a light lunch, and then made a few stops before going to Port Royal, a 16th century-built city at the end of the Palisadoes at the mouth of the Kingston Harbor, in southeastern Jamaica. Once called “the most wicked and sinful city in the world, it was famous for its booze (the Kill Devil Rum), its pirates and prostitutes. The city sunk as a result of the devastating 1692 earthquake. We visited the museum and had dinner at a popular restaurant in the town named, Gloria’s, known for its fish delicacies.
From the restaurant, we drove to the Norman Manley International Airport, Kingston, for our trip back to Fort Lauderdale.