Monday, July 26, 2010

If I"m hungry...

FEED ME. Seems basic. He was walking the streets of Kingston at 6AM on a Saturday. I saw him approach with the umbrella catching some of the rain. He was holding his pants up with one hand, shoeless. He approached me and begged me some money. I slowly shook my head "no". He looked me in the eyes and says, "please". I walked on. He was no older than 13 or 14.

Feed me when I am hungry.

Hunger sucks. I sucked at that moment. After a long walk through the streets of the war torn town, 12 murders in the previous 48 hours, I was able to slack the mango mans thirst with enough money to buy some breakfast..where is the 14 year old?

Feed me when I am hungry.

I looked away after 25 months on this island. I have created an impervious shell around me. The pain is too much to face everyday. Will the hungry boy be in Kodiak, Texas, San Diego? I hope I am capable of healing and saying, "yes" next time.

Feed me....


Sunday, June 27, 2010

end of service moments

Our time here in Jamaica is winding down. CRAZY to think about. Has it really been two years? Yes. Yes it has. How can I tell? Because the young woman who just came to my house (she says she is 15), who lives in the neighborhood, most likely in the close by "captured ground" (government land)....... she just came by to beg me some money....... so she can take her 9th grade exams, she says. Sounds like a good reason, right? I've seen this girl around. Very personable, and articulate, and has a look in her eye that tells me she is a leader, for better or for worse has yet to be determined. But a leader! Until someone convinces her otherwise.........

She came by the yard one other time to say hi. I thought it a bit strange because I didn't invite her in, nor did she admit to any motive for stopping by other than to "check in". Not the norm around here, unless you are invited. "Yard" rules - not "my" rules. But she left as fast as she came, leaving me a bit perplexed. So when she came back today asking for money I wasn't surprised. That's when it happened. The reality of living in a place for two years. All my cognitive/emotional/social challenges experienced during these past 2 years - personal feelings of understanding, intolerance, clarity, perplexity, unconditional love, skepticism............ came to surface. And suddenly everything felt real. And I spoke from my heart, uninhibited by second guessing, and interested in only caring for this young individual in front of me, so full of life and capability......... and who also was in need of something real.

I never would have had the courage to have the discussion we shared two years ago, and rightfully so. I had no time here. But the courage to be real, developed through integration that only comes with time, is one of many things this Peace Corps experience has helped me to develop.

Monday, May 24, 2010

JA update

For those of you who are wondering what in the world is going on in Jamaica:

We are fine. The island here is tense because the US pressured JA into signing extradition papers on one of the world's most powerful gun/coke traffickers, "Dudus", who resides in Kingston. But the story is complicated. Since the 70's both political parties have been accused of hiring professional gunmen to guarantee votes for their party. Over time these gunmen, through coke and gun sales, have made more money and gained more power than the very people who created them. Now, the man Dudus, who basically runs big areas of Kingston, has many big politicians in his back pocket including, they say, the Prime Minister. A further complication is that Dudas provides food, education, clothing, etc. to the poorest of the poor in Kingston. Modern day Robin Hood but way more evil. He provides with the left hand while undermining/oppressing his country with the other. Long story short the police are having a hard time retrieving Dudas because the very people he has provided for have bigger and better guns than the police. And unfortunately these guys are going on the offense. Needless to say Kingston, the capital, is in a "State of Emergency" and the whole island is a bit tense. Many feel the US is being a bully while many more are demanding reform. Civil unrest is often necessary for change, yes. And too many times violence is a nasty byproduct of this change. So that's where we are right now. The police are attempting to get the guy tonight. In the mean time we have to stay put in our community and wait and see what happens. We will keep you posted.

Rest assured we are safe. The Jamaican people who are overall peace loving, and more like me and you than this chaos is portraying, is in need of some prayers tonight.


Friday, March 19, 2010


He came to me today, in my yard. He had 5 limes and a soursop. He wanted money for it. I turned him away. The look in his eyes haunt me. His gray hair and articulate speech we are familiar with. He is one of the 6 or 7 men that walk the street in front of our yard. There is "Working Man" who struggles, he doesn't have social security. Gladstone is so smart he would be wealthy anywhere else, but he has many demons too, all being managed by this and that.

I never know what to say or do. I hate poverty!


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Second Bill of Rights

Yvonne and I have been contemplating our post Peace Corps work.
Would you like to join us in working towards FDR's Second Bill of Rigts?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I'm Hungry!

I'M NOT HUNGRY! But one of my students is. I love to sit on the steps of my school at lunch and watch the boys and girls play. It is play unlike any play I have witnessed before. They run and skip and all boys and girls. The only evidence of "playground equipment" are a few jump ropes. In fact, I gave a chid some excess wire that was trash last week. First I saw it around someones neck...choke-playing. Then about two weeks later I was some children had fashioned a jump rope out of it.

So I am watching...loving the moment...taking it all in. The internal turmoil I experienced last year is not so present anymore. I love my school and it seems normal to me. It now takes visitors to comment in order for me to remember how I viewed it last year.

J. is a good boy. He looks old for his 9 years; like he has seen a lot. Maybe more than a 9 year old might need to see. He looks wise and acts wise, not often acting like a 9 year old. He doesn't say much and shows improvement in his reading when I work with him.

I am watching the children play and J. sneaks up and stands by my side, says nothing. I ask him, "J. You all right?" In a very reserved manner he answers, "I'm hungry."

Negril has been a special challenge for Yvonne and I. Many people beg from us and it is difficult at times to separate the people in need from the ones that are in need of things we don't support. Our choice. But, my man J. WAS hungry. No question.

We have been thinking about all the people we have come to love and really care about in the few months since we have arrived on this island. We want to some how stay connected. My thinking now there some way for the hungry school children to be fed?

We are returning to our land of plenty. Hopefully from our hands will flow our excess to J. and all his friends, maybe, through some sustainable lunch program. We will be talking about it on our veranda for the next 10 months. Come and join us and help us come up with a plan.

All the best-One Love

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Modeling Teaching

I was wondering about teaching styles. I have learned so much from the JA teachers this last year. You know, I was very linear about observing and not judging last year. Well, I would debrief at night with Yvonne. But I really feel like I am in a position this year to share with the teachers a few things that I believe in:

This I do Believe:
1. Each child is capable of learning.
2. That teaching should be student centered.
3. That positive reinforcement works better in most cases.

I believe a lot more than this. But my challenge has been to convey these beliefs to the 10 teachers and principal that I work with.

I think I have some credibility now--in my second year. Last year I modeled these behaviors. I remember more than once teachers watching me teach; focussing on the student, praising where deserved, reprimanding when needed. I really felt that I was doing some good.

So last week I was scratching my head again, why do the teachers insist upon humiliating the students? What I think is that they feel it will motivate the student. So one of my colleagues calls me over to a little grade 1 student she is testing. The teacher wants to show me how the little girl doesn't know her alphabet. I am dying for this child. She is silent, can't ID any recognizable letters. I want to cry, but say to her. "It's OK honey, we will teach the letters and together with your teacher, mother, brothers and sisters you will begin to learn to read." AND then the teacher picked up on the new encouraging theme and tells the little sweetheart, "yes, baby, we will all work together."

What works for me is modeling, I know other volunteers use other styles. Each person needs to find that technique that works for them.

I also want to say how much I love these teachers. They work hard and love the children.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

He says, " I sell weed and food"

Back in Jamaica after a very emotionally rewarding AND draining trip foreign. We were unaware until our return to our Jamaican home and friends JUST how emotional visiting family can be: GOOD by all measurements.

So upon my arrival I stop in to see Ali, he says, "I sell weed and food. " This does not seem significant other than I thought, "that makes perfect sense." It made me realize that we are as about as culturally adjusted as we will ever be.

We both look forward to getting back into our routines. We have been working hard planting our winter gardens, the best time to grow here. We have cleaned and arranged and slept. We have spent time with our good yard-mates, Bobby and Dabi. We missed them!

So now we wobble back into our school years. I have that familiar feeling of excitement and melancholy, stoked for the new school year and also knowing the great unforgettable summer of 2009 has come to an end.

Enjoy our pictures from the summer by clicking on the links on the top right of this page.

All the best!


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Can't Choose Who You Love... Love Chooses You-JK

Love , chose Yvonne and Brian, officially, on July 21, 2005. Won't you celebrate with us!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Nevilles Rapid-Grand Canyon

So Y tells me how she was holding on like normal in the very high position on top of the kayak in the stern, and then hears fear in my voice "Hold On", and instinctively knows to hold on tighter....". never saw it coming" she says. She then tells me that she held on the whole time with both hands and the force of the rapid pulled her 6'2" frame out of the raft into a horizontal position, sort of an arrow of a body pointing downstream to the next hole lurking and waiting for another HIT on Deacon Blues, the hole that Meg calmly announced with, "Dad, there is another hole." "I made the fatal mistake and was worried about her" is all I could say later when J-dog asked about the incident. How funny that would come to us as we watched another amazing sunset in the west of Jamaica. Sometimes I am overcome with grace bestowed upon us!

I will always treasure the time on the Grand and also know that we will all go again multiple times.....we have to.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Everything Has to Eat

Awesome trip to the Cockpit Country and the Windsor Caves. Meg-Erin-Con in tow. Highlights are ALWAYS the people. Dango the unofficial guide of the caves, is becoming my spriitual advisor. This was my second trip there. We travelled to Falmouth-stayed with our buddy Andrew, he wasn't there but we stayed with his host family. Then off to the caves with our PCV friend, Nick.

Nick and I are sitting around the campfire after a very cool night in our hammock and tent respective. Dango is there. I am talking about how the insects are eating my garden. Dango says, "Everthing has to eat". Starts to laugh and rolls another splif. If you don't come to Jamaica to see US then come and see Dango. A real Rasta.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Learning to Love

Father Jim, from Cincy, was talking about loving harder and better yesterday. I have been challenged in many ways here. One way has been to love in situations that I find very difficult. Adjusting to a new culture, one that often times challenges your thinking, has made me a non-lover at times. Thank God we are here, learning new ways to approach others.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Thanks for all the support on Dwayne's house. We had 10 volunteers show up and we worked one afternoon lending Dwayne and Robbie a hand on the new cabin. Dwayne is a good man and appreciates all the help. He wants to write to his benefactors. Hope you like the pictures. BC

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Consider Lending Some Help?

For anyone who has ever wanted to help someone in need but was unsure of how to go about doing it, look no further! I would like to introduce a couple of inspiring young individuals who attend the Theodora Foundation (where Brian and I work). After reading their stories you feel inspired to help in any way, we can make that happen!

Inspiring Young Woman

I would like to introduce a young lady, age 24, who exudes inner strength and beauty. Despite personal strife and struggle growing up she feels she has been blessed with a loving husband and two beautiful children. Her husband is a locally respected carpenter who is willing to take on any job in order to provide a family income. She takes care of the household duties and shares in child rearing responsibilities. This lady also has dreams of soon attending Jamaica’s government funded vocational training center (HEART) where she hopes to gain credentials as a certified seamstress (a must if she wants to contend in Negril’s competitive service industry market). For this reason she currently attends Theodora Foundation to improve her math and english skills so that she may pass the HEART entrance exam (and she is soooo close to passing!)

Unfortunately, due to the global economic slump and a low tourist season, her husband is struggling to find work. Making ends meet is getting harder and harder. If this young lady cannot find a way to help supplement her family income, her future at Theodora is questionable. Because she already possesses strong seamstress skills she would like to offer seamstress services from her home in the evenings and on weekends to earn an extra income. While the income would be small, every little bit would help. The problem? Her sewing machine handed down from her grandmother no longer works and the replacement parts are no longer produced. A new machine is simply out of her family’s financial reach. Unless…….. what if a few donors out there, looking for a worthy cause to contribute to, read her story and wanted to help? We have priced a new industrial sewing machine at $600. We currently have $50. Any contributions towards this machine would be so very appreciated!

Inspiring Young Man

This young man, age 26, has endured a turbulent youth. Living on his own from an early age in the streets of Kingston he was faced with every possible street life challenge imaginable including brushes with gang violence as well as the law. Tired of inner city street life conditions he moved to Negril hoping for employment opportunities and a better way of life. Sadly, when you read at a primary reading level and possess modest math skills, your options are limited. As expected money grew scarce so he turned to what he knew best – hustling tourist on the beach. When this lifestyle left him spiritually empty and financially unstable, he tried a different path. He discovered Theodora Foundation and put time and energy into bettering himself as a whole. After three years he is now up to a fourth grade reading level and his math skills have improved dramatically. Equally important, his self-concept and self-esteem are developing and progressing every day. Unfortunately, he is still financially unstable, but with a renewed sense of self and spirituality, members of his community are turning to him for “handy man” type labor.

The problem? Because this young man has struggled for so long, in every way, his living arrangements are beyond minimal. Brian and I, along with another Theodora staff member, made a home visit the other day. Basically, this individual lives in a one room shelter made from local branches, cardboard, and scrap tin. He has no running water, bathroom facilities of any kind, kitchen facilities, nor electricity. The gaps in his walls as well as his roof let in everything from rain to mosquitoes. While it is true this young man’s life is improving through pure determination, dedication and perseverance, we thought it would be great if we could get a work party together and spend the day making small improvements to his shelter. The improvements we hope to make include purchasing materials such as plywood to build a new floor and new shelves. This young man also hopes to cut additional wood from the nearby forest, debark it, and with our help apply it to the existing walls for reinforcement/filling in of gaps. May not sound like much but we are estimating a price of close to $500 dollars. Any help to raise this money would be GREATLY appreciated. We hope to start work over Thanksgiving weekend.

You Can Help

So…….. like I said, if any of this sounds like something you want to be a part of, please let us know. Brian will be adding a Donate button to our BLOG this weekend. By clicking on the “button” and following the simple instructions, you can directly make a positive impact on two struggling, yet infinitely promising, young Theodora students in Negril. Thanks for reading their stories! If you are not able to provide financially, then please keep these two, and all the students we are working with, close in your heart.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

New Pictures

New pictures of the round house added. Click the link on the right.

Yes We Can!

Yes we can! Jamaica is alive with excitement following Tuesday night’s election results. The entire island is bustling with Obama mania! Brian and I woke up early Wednesday morning to attend a PC meeting. On our way out the driveway we were amazed to see a picture of Barack painted on the outside wall of a nearby restaurant – the paint still drying! How is that possible?! The artist must have stayed up all night.

Everyone is talking about the significance of Obama’s win: the taxi driver taking you to work, the Rasta selling oranges on the corner, the neighboring town’s principal sitting next to you in your meeting. The exhilaration in the air is intoxicating. A reporter for Jamaica’s newspaper The Gleaner summed it up well in his editorial.

“Yesterday’s emphatic win by Barack Obama of the US presidency is nearly as much a victory for the world as for the man himself and the people of the US. Indeed, it is less than half a century since the civil-rights movement, the Selma demonstration and the march on Washington. Undeclared apartheid was in Mr. Obama’s lifetime. In that context, his election to the presidency is a significant and profound part of the narrative in the emerging American story.

America is much closer to resolving its internal contradictions and making whole the ideals of the founding fathers.

…. But as imperfect and exasperating that we, too, often found America and Americans of the gum chewing, loud talking, arrogant variety, there was still something decent and noble we thought about the US. The country might be drunken on its success, but there was a clear moral compass in America that forced us, against the grain it seemed sometimes, to express admiration.

Then came the lot who have run things these last eight years, unilateral marchers in hobnailed assertion of sole superpower status, articulating doctrines of preventative strike and regime change.

The world was designated as old and new – the supposed old order being of those who believe talking is the first order towards resolving conflicts – and that not only the powerful ought to have a place at the table, and that morality can be as potent a force as mighty armies and superior technology.

It is the hope the Mr. Obama will rebalance these ideas – not that he will be weak and effete – that make the world excited about his presidency.

America should remain muscular and strong, but the hope is that a moral core will return to Washington and the rest of us not viewed as mere pawns.”

Another reporter wrote, “While the election was not necessarily a referendum on race, positive race relations will be the beneficiary. It is also a testament to the people of the USA to have the courage to unshackle themselves from the cultural reality of their historical experience, to elect a black man as president, only a mere 40 years after assassinating the dreamer. Martin Luther King’s dream has been realized due to the awakening of a new generation. The world will be better as a result of this comprehensive victory by Obama. We join in our prayers for and with him that he will lead with the courage of his conviction.”

And an Obama supporter in Jamaica said, “The 2008 presidential race surpassed skin color as people were looking at the issues affecting the US and the world at large.”

I guess what I am most impressed by is the genuine interest not only shown here in Jamaica but from the world as a whole in our presidential race. When your only source of news is from countries other than your own, it really opens your eyes to the connectivity of our world. What we do as a country truly impacts the world as a whole, for better or for worse. The world is listening to us. I hope we have the insight to listen to the world.

Love to all. YVSC

Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Give Until It Hurts"

How much do you give to a street dweller? We have a buddy that lives on our street. He LIVES on our street. His eyes look like Chris McCandlis (sp) from Into the Wild. K. is a smart man, some say he was well integrated and productive until he took to "theiving" and then some folks put some vodoo on him. Doesn't matter. He is hungry, but never alone in a country that values community.

How much do we give? A sandwich? Money? A bed? A "morning" in passing? Some say you give not from your excess, but from what you need, give until it hurts. We come from a "bootstrap culture". How much do you give? Our actions are shaped by our past experiences. Is it possible to re-program? Is it possible to "Give Until It Hurts"?