Filed under: Donations, Friends, Jamaica, Kids, Life, Love, Photos, Positive, Travel, Volunteer
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While on our trip to Jamaica, we contacted Chef of http://www.chefsjamaicatours.5u.com/ for a day trip to Blossom Garden Orphanage. First, let me say that Chef is an extremely personable man running a tour business in Jamaica. He was kind enough to not charge us for this trip as we were there to donate much needed school supplies. This was a very generous offer as gas prices in Jamaica are equivilant to ours here. We did pay for the gas and tipped Chef as well for his generosity.
As for the orphanage, I was pleasently surprised to see that the center was located in a middle class neighborhood in Montego Bay. The house was rather small for the sheer number of children residing at the center, which at this time is 60 children and currently at capacity. The home is for children ages 1 day to 7 years old and the children at the center were placed there through children’s services. After the age of 7, the children are moved into all girls or all boys facilities until they reach 18 years of age. Once the children are moved into an all girls or boys facility, they are however, mainstreemed into the public school system. At Blossom Garden, the schooling is done by the ladies that run the place and only for ages 5, 6, and 7.
We were told that siblings who enter the system there are immediately separated from each other. In one case, Andre (little boy in the red t-shirt) is a twin, separated from his twin and 7 other siblings. This is done immediately as they enter the system as it is usually impossible to keep siblings together. The theory is that the sooner they are separated, the easier it is on the children. Nonetheless, it is heartbreaking that they are separated from what was left of their families.
The center is quite health concious, very clean, but extremely basic. We were immediately sent to the rest room to wash up before we could visit with the children and receive a tour of the facility. We met a lot of the children. When we were first taken to meet them, we were introduced to the toddlers. The babies were having a nap, so we could not bother them, just take a quick peek into their room.
The toddlers instantly come up to you with their arms up, wanting to be held. It brought a smile to your face knowing these children, even in their situation, came to you with a huge hug and endless smile. Of course, they are toddlers, and a little pushing and shoving by a few to get picked up first, did occur. I just wanted to hold them all and tried to. I found it hard though as the one I was holding never wanted to get down for me to pick up the next.
We were then moved on to finish our tour of the center. All the children’s basic needs are met, food, clothing (although boys wear girls and girls wear boys clothes sometimes), shelter and a bed. Toys were minimal and the ones they had were very well used. The most commonly needed items at this center was for pampers, baby wipes and lotions. All of which are very expensive in Jamaica.
As for their needs, you immediately got the feeling that one thing these children needed most and probably don’t get enough (as most kids need a lot) are hugs and kisses. Being that there are so many children and only so many caregivers, they do seem starved for that extra bit of affection. All of the children were very outgoing and just loved to be held and cuddled. This was an easy task for me and I didn’t want to stop passing out hugs and kisses.
The center/house was comprised of quite a few large sized rooms. There was a dining area with a kitchen off to the side. An infant room loaded with cribs side by side by side. A room for the younger toddlers with rows of beds and a few more cribs for the 3 children there who were bed ridden with serious physical disabilities. There was a room for the older girls with bunk beds galore and one as well for the older boys. There was 1 classroom, sparsly decorated, but room for the children who receive instruction. I could see that the school supplies would go to great use!
All the beds had sheets, but there were no blankets on any of the beds. Mind you there is no air conditioning at all, so blankets are probably never necessary in Jamaica. I am sure they do have them, as the linen closet was quite large and stacked with clothing, shoes, sheets, etc.
We were then escorted us to the addition that is in the process of being added to the home as a multi-purpose room. Construction in Jamaica is as slow as molasses going uphill during February in Canada. It could be a while before this room is finished. However, there is a big yard where the children can run and play outside. The play equipment is sparce as you will see in the above photos, but we all managed to have a great time.
While we were visiting, there was also a group of teens from Houston, TX. They were spending a part of their summer break helping at the center and playing with the children. We ended up spending a few hours with the children and visiting, but alas, my heart started to break and I needed to leave. I really wanted to bring Andre (6), Ricardo (3 0r 4) & Makayla (3 or 4) home with us. I couldn’t and didn’t want to let the children see me cry, which I did, so we headed back to our resort.
The photos above are just a few of the many we could have taken. We had so much fun with the children, we didn’t take too many. I have the information where you can contact the head mistress of the center if anyone is interested in helping them. If you are interested in that information, please let me know and I will be more than happy to forward it to you.
I know that we will never forget these kids, especially Andre, Ricardo & Mikayla. They have touched our hearts. We will be looking into how we can send some other needed items to the center until we can visit again.
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