We arrived Friday afternoon and got to spend some time with the kids at the school before they left for their Easter Break. I immediately saw Clifton (the little guy I sponsor) and his smile lit up the sky! I was so excited to find Shenicia (the girl sponsored through your generosity towards my Swim for Shenicia Event last year). Our eyes met and she suddently got all giddy and started signing - "I know you! You and I write!" (we've been Pen Pals all year) :) About three of the kids remembered me from the picture I had sent of me swimming - their memories are incredible and it absolutely made my week to see their faces and have there be a bond of familiarity between us. What an awesome time. This, being my fourth time on the trip, felt a bit like I was coming home again...
I brought a huge bag filled with the shoes you, my Valeo-ians, donated. THANK YOU! The variety of types and sizes was perfect and the best part was seeing Glenford, one of the deaf workers on site (the "Tool Guy") snag a pair right away. What a gift for us to give and him to receive!
Each day was filled with good, hard work - we built a soccor goalpost for the kids, did cement work with a few of the Jamaican workers on site, built scaffolding, put up soffits, and painted up a storm. It was fun to see the progression of our work - and the conversations and bonds created between the team members was fun and meaningful.After a full work day, the afternoon was ours to play! I was able to connect with some of the soccer guys on the trip and Coach Smith (leader) and I ran from the school back to the place we were staying each day. It was a fast 5-mile downhill route through the villages and 'hip strip' of Montego Bay - the Jamaican's thought we were "crazy, mon!" for running in the hottest part of the day (I'd have to agree on that one)...but the good workout and cultural experience made it well worth it!
We hit the beach after work and got to soak up the gorgeous creation - snorkling, laying out, even taking a day to climb a waterfall -what a blessing to experience. Our evenings were filled with delicious food, great converstation and laughter, hilarious games and incredibly powerful singing and converstation. It was a week of being broken and vulnerable for many, and a week of refreshment and restoration for all. I feel like I've got 29 close friends who, just a week earlier, I barely knew. This trip was a reminder of God's goodness and my thanks back to him!