The Irish springs a surprise - Charity group flies over 4,000 miles to assist abandoned children in Jamaica
Over the years, Jamaicans have become accustomed to overseas missions visiting the island from United States and, to a lesser extent, England. Local organisations and communities have benefited from the generosity of such missions, usually through health and education services.
At the end of October into the first week of November, a mission with a different purpose travelled over 4,000 miles from Dublin in Ireland to Jamaica. The purpose was to assist children at the Mustard Seed Communities' (MSC) location of Jacob's Ladder near Moneague in St Ann.
What was even more unique about the group of volunteers is that it was made up of children and aptly named The Children for Children Charity. It consisted of six children aged 14, who were accompanied by five adults, including several teachers, and who chose to build a concrete pathway for residents in wheelchair at the facility.
The improved pathway now serves to facilitate easier connectivity between facilities within the compound for wheelchair users.
"This is something that the kids really enjoy all of the physical labour. I guess they like to see the fruits of their work, they like to see the end result," group leader Dervilla Gannon told Rural Xpress. "They want to help, and seeing the project completed gives them great satisfaction."
Gannon said after several years of doing voluntary work in Ireland, the group was formalised and incorporated as an official body last year.
One of the group's fundraisers is Charity Cycle. "We run Charity Cycle. Last year we went from Dublin all the way to Paris for the Euro Championships; we brought a hundred cyclists and bicycles from the Aviva stadium in Dublin all the way to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris," she reported.
Another fundraiser, the Mustard Seed Annual Luncheon in Dublin, draws close to 500 people each time. With the group now officially incorporated, they decided to expand their scope and head overseas on their first mission. Jamaica and Jacob's Ladder became their first.
"This (mission to Jamaica) has always been a goal for us in Ireland. Since the very first group of volunteers came together, it has been our goal to start the mission trip programme, which is so successful for the Americans.
"So, the plan and the hope is that this very first group of Irish kids will be the pilot project, that we learn from our experiences here, and that the friendship that they will make and the experiences that they have here will stay with them for generations to come. Hopefully, we'll have that ripple effect - these children will go home, they will tell their friends," said Gannon.
The link with MSC was cemented long before the mission was planned and even before the group's formalisation, when Gannon met MSC founder Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon and executive director of MSC International, Father Garvin Augustine, in Dublin.
"They're both inspirational, fantastic people, really inspirational, and I think what we get from this is more than we're giving," Gannon remarked.
She said the experience was good for the entire group and praised Jamaica's warmth and hospitality. "The love and the welcome and the hospitality of not just Mustard Seed Communities but everybody in Jamaica that we've met, have been so uplifting. Every night we go to bed we're on a high because we've had such a fabulous welcome, a fabulous experience. The whole experience has been immeasurable, fantastic," Gannon declared.