Friday, December 28, 2012

Children's Books from Jamaica

It is a few days after Christmas, and we're still suffering from "Christmas Hangover". You know what I mean, right? The house is still a cluttered mess while trying to find homes of all the new goodies. Toys are spread out all over the floors, and little bits of wrapping paper still show up from time to time.

My boys got a few books this year, and I thought I'd share two of them with you. I saw them while we were in Jamaica, and loved them.

The first one is called One Love and the other is called Every Little Thing. Both are by Cedella Marley, the daughter of Bob Marley. Both books are based off of Bob Marley songs, and have wonderful illustrations. They are hardback, although you can even get one in boardbook style for the littlest of readers called Three Little Birds. I love being able to have a little piece of Jamaica to read to them each night before bed. While we may not be in Jamaica physically right now, we can be there in spirit.

Check them out on Amazon and tell me what you think.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Got Books?

The title says it all, Got Books?

A friend of mine from high school, Shelbi, teaches high school English and Journalism in a lower income school in the Portland, Oregon area. A few years back funding cuts caused the school to lose the librarian. Things have just gone down hill from there. Shelbi has resorted to keeping books in her classroom for her students to read. While most books are returned after the student reads them, some do grow legs and never come back. The students are mostly from lower income homes and don't have huge access to books, so whatever Shelbi can provide is greatly appreciated. She says books like The Hunger Games and Looking for Alaska are always well loved, and she ends up buying new copies of those books every year.

Along with providing access to books, Shelbi teachs Journalism, trying to produce a school newspaper and yearbook. This class has an extremely limited budget, which means no money to provide digital cameras to her students to use. How can one have a yearbook or a newspaper without pictures?

And this is where you come in...

Shelbi is always seeking books for her students to read. These books would have been published in the past 15 years or so, and would be considered mainstream reading. You know, the best sellers list that you see at Barnes and Noble or on Amazon. She's not looking for old cookbooks or How-Tos. They don't have to be aimed at kids or from the Young Adult section. Just in good shape and able to be passed around from kid to kid.

She is also seeking digital cameras, still functional and working. They can be the point and shoot style or something more fancy. They can come with cables, battery chargers, memory cards, cases, or none of that (although it would be helpful.) She can dig around to find the correct cables and such, as long as she has the cameras to connect them to.

Can you help the students who want to read?

If you have books or cameras to send to Shelbi, let me know and I'll get you her school address. Shelbi can provide tax receipts from the school if you'd like one.

Just to give you an idea about how little this costs, I sent a bankers box full of books from Kansas to Oregon and it costs less than $15. Mailing media mail is an inexpensive way to ship books.

Monday, December 10, 2012

One last pair of shoes

On the day we left, as we were putting our last bits into our suitcases for the flights home, I went to go put on the sneakers I'd worn down there, and was planning on wearing home. Once again, just like last March, I had one pair of sneakers, and a need that I knew was great. So, you guessed it, I dug out a pair of flip flops, put them on, and left my sneakers in my room, knowing that a member of house keeping would get them and use them.

I gave the first pair of shoes in March of 2012.

I came back and gave 60 pairs of shoes in November 2012.

I gave pair number 62 on the day we left. Happily. Knowing I'd made someone's day. And I'd do it all over again.

61 pairs of shoes. 120 pairs of new socks. 125 pounds of school supplies including a video projector. Other odds and ends like baby and toddler clothes, books and toys, and a candy sucker I'd forgotten about in purse. This was a good trip. A very good trip indeed.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

School Supplies Delivery Day!

Last Thursday, November 29, we hopped a taxi cab with our hotel nanny, Tamara (who is also who directed us to Servite Primary) and headed into the hills of Jamaica to Brown's Town. Our final destination was Servite Primary School, serving 700+ children in their 19 room school. (Think an average of 37 kids per classroom!)

We arrived a little after 9:30 and watched as the children were setting up their desks outside in the common area between buildings for an assembly. They were there to see us give gifts to the school and then continue their day with a major sports all-school competition.

 The school's main entrance

Seeing the children get ready for the assembly

We emptied the taxi of supplies and headed up to the front part of the school to be introduced to everyone and present them with all our gifts to them.

 Unpacking some of the goodies we brought for them

So many smiling faces, all excited to see us

 Doing "Twinkle Fingers" as a sign of excitement

More kiddos

Mrs. Crawford, the Principle, had the children sing some great songs. She then introduced Tamara, and thanked her for  helping us pick Servite as the school we would help on this trip. Next she introduced us as Americans who'd come a long way just to see them and give gifts to the school.
Mrs. Crawford introducing Tamara

Mrs. Crawford introducing us to the crowd of kids

Sharing with the kids what we'd brought; books for their library, crayons and colored pencils, pens and pencils, wall decorations for their classrooms, scissors and glue, and notebooks.

 Saving the best for last - giving Mrs. Crawford the surprise video projector she'd asked for, but I'd told her would be impossible due to cost. It was donated to the school and we were thrilled to deliver it.

After we presented the goodies, Mrs. Crawford called up the head boy and girl from the school to receive everything on behalf of the students. The head girl then thanked us so very nicely.

 Trevor with the head girl

Melissa with the head boy

Trevor and Melissa with some of the younger students 

The head girl thanking us for coming and bringing so much for them

A few days later Tamara came into the hotel carrying a bag that she handed to me. Inside was this lovely thank you card, and two gifts. Mrs. Crawford had picked out a set of Jamaican drink coasters and a bottle opener as thank you gifts.
The front of the card.
Her lovely message to us.

You're welcome, Servite Primary School. You are so, so welcome.

Shoe Delivery!

On Wednesday, November 28 we handed out 60 pairs of shoes. All 5 of the suitcases had been packed and were holding shoes, socks, and school supplies. We'd packed the shoes and then filled in the cracks around them with socks and supplies, so we had to unpack all the cases, sort the contents, and get it all ready to hand out. Our friends on staff there helped as well, but it took a little while to get it all organized. The shoes were tagged with sex and size, so that helped some. Once everything was sorted, we started handing out shoes and socks.

48 women, and 12 men received shoes and two new pairs of socks. 

In singles and pairs, women would come into our room to look at the shoes, try on a pair, and leave happily with their goodies. It started out with the house keeping/nanny staff, and then when my husband Trevor saw a cook walking around with poor shoes on, we invited the kitchen staff to come get shoes. The men's shoes and socks were loaded up and taken to the men on the maintenance crews who couldn't break away from their work to pick shoes out, but were still in need.

We saw so many smiles and received little thanks here and there throughout the rest of our stay. It was wonderful to be able to help so many people and make such a huge difference in their daily lives. 

 Janice showing off her new shoes
 Shoes in action - she'd had them for about 20 minutes
Shoes in action!

Loraine, with my son Ollie, after receiving shoes

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

We Are Home!

We are home after a long day of traveling yesterday. I think we pulled into the driveway around 11:45pm and didn't get everyone settled till after 12:30. So.darn.tired.

I'm hoping to get a post up in the next day or so sharing pictures and stories of the trip, and show you just how thankful people were.

I haven't been home a full day yet, and I'm already working in my head when we can go next, how much we can bring, and what school should we help out. On travel day I thought I was crazy, trying to take 5 extra, HEAVY suitcases with us, but I tell you what, 700+ singing, smiling, cheering, excited kids erased all that. In an instant. When we left I'm not sure who had bigger smiles, us or the school kids.

So once again, I offer you my thanks. For so much. For believing in this and me and believe that the need was there. We didn't fill it completely, but we sure let people in Jamaica know that we know of their need and care enough to try and fix it.