Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Trip Report 2014

Today is #GivingTuesday. What better way to give that to fill all of you in on our big give to Jamaica. It was big alright. Epic maybe.

Trevor packing the suitcases.

Kellee Cook and her mom, Konnee, helped with our luggage. They met us at the airport at 4:30AM! Checking the bags would have been a much harder task without them.

Our flights went just fine. We landed, gathered our 10 checked bags, 4 carry-ons, 2 kids, and made it to the customs line to leave the airport. When the agent saw our 10 bags she started asking questions as to why we had so many checked bags. We told her we were giving things away, and she sent us on to another line to be further screened.
Once in the new line, we waited. And waited and waited and waited. We were then asked to open, inspect, and close our luggage. Put them back on the cart, go here, do that all over, and go back there. It was just.not.fun. The boys were tired, thirsty, hungry, and ready to be done. Trevor and I were ready to be done. And then customs asked us to pay a tax for all the 'gifts' we were bringing into the country. You see, you can bring in 5 like items, but once you reach 6, it is considered 'for resale', and you must pay a tax. (Never mind all the locals I saw bringing in backpacks full of cheap jewelry to be resold in tourist shops...) We went round and round, and it was decided that we must pay a 'reduced tax' of $210. Sigh. Just one more thing. Trevor and I were ready to be done and just leave everything there at the airport. We'd already paid to purchase a lot of the school supplies, spent hours sorting, packing, and getting it there. And then to get slapped with a tax when the people of Jamaica could so use these goods we were bringing. While waiting to surrender our luggage, I started talking to a man from the States who was living and working in Jamaica. He was also running into some trouble with the same customs agents who were working with us. He finally gave up on his. When I told him about ours, he didn't hesitate, and offered to pay our tax in full right then and there. He was appalled that we were being given so much trouble from a country in such need. It really was a great moment for us. Thank you Everett.

Thank you so much. After finally clearing customs
and getting our luggage loaded into
the waiting car, we were off!

Tuesday afternoon I started to unpack our 7 extra suitcases. We'd crammed in 91 pairs of adult athletic shoes, 1 pair of soccer cleats, 182 pairs of brand new socks, and about 150 pounds of school supplies. I started with the shoes. I lined the walls in our hotel room with pairs of shoes, and covered the bed with socks. Each person would receive 2 pairs of brand new shoes to go along with their new-to-them shoes.

Word spread quickly throughout the resort, and a couple of times I think we had over 25 people in our room, trying on shoes and getting socks.

It was a wonderful site. 91 people were able to walk away from our room that afternoon with a new pep in their step. Literally. I love that we impacted 91 lives that day. Immediately. And in such a positive way.

It was also really cool to see shoes from trips past still being worn and used. Still making an impact.

Pair 92 went to Omercye. He is in charge of fitness at the resort and makes a living out of wearing athletic shoes. I wanted to make sure he had a sold pair, so my parents purchased him a brand new pair.

Pair 93 went to Yanique, the woman in charge of the kid's programs. She wasn't able to make it to our room when all the shoes were being given away. I always bring down a pair of shoes for myself to run in while I'm there, so the night before we left I gave her my shoes, which fit perfectly. Yanique, like most of employees of the resort, spends her days on her feet. I was happy to pass them along to her.

Ryan received a pair of soccer cleats. They were too small for him, but he was going to pass them along to his brother. He informed us that these were really sweet cleats, a big deal.

Wednesday we headed to Brown's Town Infant School. When we pulled up to the school, the children were washing their hands before lunch at the sinks outside the school. Their water is on a well. While there, we heard the children talking about how the well had run dry for the day, and only half the kids were able to wash their hands. Sadly, this is common at schools all over the island. There are efforts to raise money to purchase water tanks for the schools to prevent this from happening. Tanks run about $500US. Perhaps this would be a goal for another trip...

While at the school we were able to give them about 150 pounds of basic school supplies like crayons, pencils and pen, glue sticks, colored pencils, scissors, bulletin board decorations, books, and hair bows. Lots and lots of hair bows. My friend Lisa makes hair bows and dropped off a large box. The little girls were so excited!

We toured the school, checking out each classroom, the library, and computer lab. Each classroom has 30 kids and they are crammed into a pretty tight room. The teacher is in charge of feeding each child breakfast and lunch, teaching, and recess duty. No prep time.

The children are given computer lab time. It is a small lab with pretty old computers, but they do the best they can with what they have.

The library is nice, open, and full of light. There are two sides to the library. The central government provides books on loan to the school to use, and they are kept on one side of the library. Teachers use these books, and children can look at them while they are in the library. These books must remain at school. The other, smaller side, are the books owned by the school. These books are also used by teacher and students, and students can check these books out and take them home over night for more reading opportunity. The books we provided the school with will stay in the school side, and increase the school's own library.

The children saying thank you!

Trevor and I would like to thank all of you for your support. It means so much to us. From the giving of your shoes, new socks and school supplies, to your time; it all adds up. Your support reinforces that I'm not crazy to take this on each trip. But mostly, it means the world to those on the receiving end. Your shoes impact lives, in a big way. Your school supplies impact entire schools. Thank you for all that you do to help us make these trips happen.

Share your shoes, share your love, share your world. 

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