Nov 9, 2010

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I, along with my friends Grace and Hannah, am going to Jamaica in January for a month-long stay at Jamaica Christian School for the Deaf

My friend Sarah (Grace and Hannah's sister) went to Jamaica for a week this past summer and ended up visiting this school for a small portion of the day. After learning from her about the school, seeing pictures, and contacting the headmaster, God put a clear burden on my heart to go there and serve. God has truly been working in my life the past few months. I've been doing the Experiencing God bible study at my church through which I have learned that God is always at work and our responsibility is to find out where He is at work and join Him. I truly believe that is what we are doing. 

First, a little background about the school...

JCSD is a residential school that has about 34 students currently enrolled. All of the students are either deaf or hard-of-hearing and some have slight learning disabilities or are developmentally disabled. Over the years, the school has actively sought out deaf children in the area and have attempted to bring them to the school and give them the opportunity to receive an education. JCSD is one of the only schools in Jamaica that has any kind of special education program.

Although some may see Jamaica as a beautiful vacation island that isn't far behind America in societal progress, many parts of Jamaica are truly suffering from poverty, drugs, and disease. Much like America in the early to mid 90's, children born deaf in Jamaica are often thought of as mentally retarded and unable to learn. JCSD gives these children the opportunity to learn that most of the public schools in Jamaica do not. Some of the children go home to their families on the weekends and some only go home on holidays or summer vacation. Many of the children come back after summer vacation extremely malnourished, evidence of some pretty bad home situations.

In the past couple of months the school has struggled greatly, having gone through some severe storms and hurricanes that have left them with limited electricity and availability of getting to town for supplies and food. You can read about their struggles as well as updates here. The school relies wholly on volunteer financial support to stay up and running. Because there are limited resources, we are even having to pay a weekly amount to the school to stay there. 

Some other great things about the school? They've started a vegetable garden in an attempt to become more self-sufficient. I love that this also gives the children opportunity to work and gain that specific kind of experience. Agriculture is a huge part of the workforce in Jamaica and the better equipped the students are - the better.

The school also gives the students the opportunity to be involved in extra-curricular activities like dance teams and academic clubs. Recently, the school has set up a vocational program in which the students who are close to graduating can learn specific skills to help them in the work force.

A tour of the facilities...
Entrance to the Campus
Classroom Building

Miss Sophia Reid, the school administrator standing in the computer lab.
Student Dorms

Staff Quarters
Laundry Facility
The van that was finally fixed and given a face-lift. Surely a blessing to the school!

Our part....

Because the school has limited resources and makes changes as funds come, there are always improvements that need to be done. The  following are a few areas in which we plan to help:

1. Painting
2. Cleaning
3. Food Preparation
4. Grounds work
5. one-on-one influence with the children

Aside from our work at the school, we are hoping to do some work with Tammy and Cletis Titus, missionaries that live a mere 20 minutes away, on the weekends. 

As you can see from the computer lab picture, the school's computers are extremely out of date. Recently an electrical outage has blown the computers and the school is now in need of new ones. In an effort to help the children keep up with technology and learn using specific computer programs, the school desperately needs new computers. Our goal is to be able to raise enough money to cover our costs as well as give a love offering to the school so they can use them to buy computers or whatever else they need. We are also praying that used computer laptops will be donated so that each of us can bring one in our checked baggage to give to the school.

My part....

When I first read about the students and their brief information I learned that not only are the students deaf, but several have been diagnosed with autism, a mild developmental disability, or a learning disability. My degree is in Psychology and for the last year and a half I have been working one-on-one with individuals that have been diagnosed with an intellectual or developmental disability. This, along with my passion for the deaf community and my experience as the daughter of a deaf father, really hit home.  Jamaica does not have such an extensive service for the same individuals in their country. Many of the volunteers teaching at the school have not had any such training or experience. 

The school administrator that I have been in contact with has expressed their need for two teachers and their lack of funds to adequately pay them. The Lord has given me a strong desire to be able to teach or tutor one-on-one with some of the children during my time there. It is my hope that in addition to our work as a group at the school, that I can assist the children and the school academically, as well. 

I'm so excited about this trip. My heart feels like it's been in Jamaica for awhile now. I'm ready to go. I truly know God is using that school to not only educate these students and strengthen their future, but to provide them with a Christian education and the opportunity to hear the gospel of Christ. We are praying as a group and as individuals that God would prepare our hearts for the work that needs to be done and the things that we will see. 

This past weekend we held a benefit concert to try and raise money for our trip. God blessed so much and we were able to meet our halfway mark! We have two months to raise the rest and we're taking a step of faith and buying our tickets in the next couple days (with a leave date of Dec. 31st and a return date of Jan. 29th) without having the money raised to stay at the school. We know God has called us and we're trusting Him to provide.

If you're willing to pray, please do. If you'd like to give, use this link from PayPal(my e-mail = krgunter@liberty.edu) to donate or contact me about sending cash or checks.

 But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus -Phil 4:19



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