Faces of Jamaica
Editor’s note: missioner Hannah Hagarty reflects on the people and experiences she’s encountered in Jamaica through a series of photographs.
Here is a collection of photos of people who I have connected with so far during my time in Jamaica. These photos show my typical week during my time on mission in Jamaica.
- Every Sunday, Tim and I accompany boys from Matthew 25:40 to Holy Trinity, the National Cathedral of Jamaica, for mass. Matthew 25:40 is a Mustard Seed home that houses boys that were born with HIV. Kenny is one of the boys that I have grown close with. He loves to show me his drawings in his sketchbook.
- After we leave Matthew 25:40 on Sundays, Tim and I walk to Bethlehem, a home for children that Father Ho Lung and the brothers from Missionaries of the Poor (MOP) started here in Kingston. Bethlehem home was opened in 2001 for children with severe mental and physical disabilities. There are currently about 60 children living there. This is Martin. His body cannot move from this position. I always try to feed Martin. Although he is nonverbal, we have a connection. When I first started coming to Bethlehem, I was nervous and uneasy.I think we both were. Now, I have gotten it down how to feed him most effectively. He cannot suck on the bottle, so I have to gently put the bottle into his mouth, squeeze in the formula while rubbing his throat and verbally encouraging him to swallow. It takes him about an hour to take one bottle. I catch his gaze and am able to hold eye contact for a minute or two. That is new within the last couple weeks. Martin is a little angel from God.
- On Mondays, I serve at Alvernia Preparatory School. As part of our living arrangement with the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, we spend time at a few of their 7 schools that they founded throughout Kingston. I discerned that I would work in Grade 2. This Is Dominic. He and I became especially close this school year. He was extremely disruptive with his anger and temper tantrums. I took him on as a special project. He became responsive to me and instead of reacting when he was mad, we worked on having him come back to my desk to calm down. It worked most of the time!
- This is Shae-Alee from my grade 2 class at Alvernia. She is the sweetest, most loving, helpful, intelligent little kid. She liked to hang out around my desk and draw me pictures, ask me questions about America, and tell me about her family. As you can see here, that smile and dimple just steal your heart.
- This is Tyler-Jon, also from my grade 2 class. Tyler-Jon was the top academic performer of the year in his class. He is a little genius! He is so creative, and likes to draw his own comic books and share them with me. He also is so mature and can help control his class. He loves to give hugs and tell me jokes. His mother is the grade 5 teacher at our school.
- On Tuesdays, I hike up the mountain to another Missionaries of the Poor home called The Beatitudes on Mt. Tabor. to help with the morning feeding. Father Ho Lung and the MOP brothers formed a home for older boys who are severely mentally and physically disabled. There are about 25 young men living there. After the boys grow out of Bethlehem, they are sometimes moved out of the city and up the mountain to the Beatitudes home. Pictured here is Daniel, who is blind and Charles, who has down syndrome. Daniel used to sit in the corner, pull his shirt over his knees, put his head down and rock himself. All day long he will stay in this position. I didn’t even notice him the first few times I went to the Beatitudes. One of the caregivers asked me if I would like to feed him one day. I agreed, and we connected immediately. I ended up spending 4 hours with him! I had him smiling and laughing and he kept grabbing for my hands and loved the stimulation and physical contact. Since that day, Daniel and I are buddies.
- Here is a close up picture of Charles. He is nonverbal, but he loves hugs and coloring, but his absolute favorite thing to do is to smile. I think we all have something to learn from Charles. He is always the first one to come out of the gate when he sees us coming to come and greet us. He helps with the laundry, he helps feed the other boys, he lets me know who still needs to be fed and who needs juice, he always makes sure everyone eats before he takes a bowl for himself. He is selfless and happy. He is a beautiful human being.
- Malcom is another resident of the Beatitudes home that I go to visit on Tuesdays. He loves to have his picture taken, play with my backpack and is involved with everything that is going on with everyone in the home. He has the greatest smile and loves to laugh, play, and color pictures. Malcom’s legs and left hand are non-functional. He can use his left hand and his left arm. Both of which are extremely strong. There is a shortage of wheel chairs that are working, so he spends most of his time on the ground and can pull himself around with his left arm very well!
- On Wednesdays, I head back to Alvernia. This is a picture of 3 of my girls. Left to right Peyton, Kaysia, and Maressa. We took this “selfie” after lunch while we were waiting to start Mathematics. Maressa’s mother is a teacher at St. Francis Primary School, where I go on Friday, and she recently was accepted into a program in North Carolina for an abroad teaching program. Maressa and her family are migrating to the US this August. I will miss Maressa next year! Kaysia and Peyton are both beautiful little girls with awesome, fun loving personalities. I loved to be around them just as much as they loved to be around Aunty Hannah!
- On Thursdays, Tim and I help cook, serve and clean up after a soup kitchen. Pictured here is Jerome, the chef and leader, who works for the brothers of the Missionaries of the Poor. Every week we serve between 40-60 people. The soup kitchen is downtown Kingston at Jesus the Redeemer. The senior brothers live in this house. They also have a hostel where groups stay that come to serve in Jamaica with MOP. We get to meet a lot of really neat people that come for week long service trips, lots of high school and college kids that are excited about their faith. I like to hear their reflections and see how they have been impacted by their time in Jamaica.
- On Friday, I join Tim with his crew of boys at St Francis Primary School, which is another school that the sisters founded. Tim has identified with the help of the teachers 6 boys that are very behind in reading because of ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, or other learning disabilities. These boys are not diagnosed with these conditions, therefore they are not treated. Tim has identified these behavioral traits in these boys and in doing so, can more effectively and efficiently cater to their learning styles. He has been extremely successful. Tim makes up lesson plans and pulls these kids out of class and tutors them on phonics and reading three times per week. I come to help Tim and spend time with the kids on Fridays. Pictured here is Christopher. After the lessons are over, the boys love to prove how macho they are and push up contests. Tim has discovered that Chris has some dyslexic tendencies after working with him for almost 2 years.
- As a reward, the children are given a fun day. They have giant inflatable bounce houses, inflatable obstacle courses, a big inflatable water slide and pool, a foam machine and pool, and other activities. They get KFC brought in for lunch and a fun time is had by all. These three girls found a spot in the shade and we spent some time dancing together and taking pictures.
- As many or all of you know, my younger sister Madeline was born completely deaf. Growing up I learned how to sign exact English and a little bit of American Sign Language. Thanks the the University of Iowa, Cochlear Corporation, and amazing technology, Madeline can hear almost normally with normal speech because of her cochlear implants. When she is wearing her processors most people do not know she is deaf. When I arrived to Jamaica, I was introduced to a woman named Jeanne Croskery. This woman is one of my biggest role models for a life of service. In addition to many other service projects, Jeanne runs a camp called Sign and Speak Camp in the summers. The idea is to integrate deaf and hearing children in Jamaica. Last year Tim worked at this camp without knowing anything about deaf culture or sign language. This year, he wanted to be more prepared. On Saturdays, Tim and I signed up to take a Jamaican Sign Language Class. We learned a lot about Jamaican Deaf Culture, and I learned some differences between American Sign Language and Jamaican Sign Language. This was very helpful when Tim and I were counselors at Sign and Speak Camp July 14-19! Pictured here is one of my favorite campers Dillano. He is deaf and non-oral. We loved communicating back and forth. I like to practice my sign language and he helped me learn! He and 19 other campers had a blast at camp playing games, doing crafts, eating delicious food, and swimming in the river.
- Since I spend most of my time in Kingston, a couple months after I came to Jamaica, Tim was ready for a vacation and took me to the North Shore of the island to a town called Port Antonio. Pictured here is Everton. He runs the AirBnb we stayed in called the Moon Rise Hostel. We became friends and he took us all around Port Antonio. He also is a Rastafarian. It was a spiritual experience to listen to him talk about his life, his culture, and his beliefs. He also took an interest in our mission work and introduced us to a few families that we could work with as a ministry outside of Kingston. That is still in the brainstorming stage, but we may go visit again in August.
- This is a picture of 4 of my colleagues from Alvernia Preparatory School. After the last day of school, the principal took us on a staff appreciation surprise trip. She told us to bring our bathing suits and get on the bus. We ended up going to Ocho Rios, which is a beautiful part of the island. This is where most tourists go when they come to Jamaica on vacation. The principal rented out a beach club for us, food and drink provided. We had all day to lay on the beach and swim in the Caribbean sea. It was such a relaxing day. We also, of course, had to do a photo shoot! Pictured here from left to right is Ms. Bancroft-Grade 2 teacher that I have been partnering with, Ms. May-Kindergarten teacher, Ms. Hudson-administrative secretary, and Ms. Thompson who keeps the school looking clean and fabulous.
- On Good Friday, we went up to Mt. Tabor to participate with the brothers in their Stations of the Cross. We joined the brothers and about 40 other people from the community around Mt. Tabor. We started at the bottom of the mountain and processed up. Each brother taking turns dressing as Jesus and carrying the cross. In between stations, the brothers had instruments and we were singing and making our way up the mountain.It was a very moving experience. I felt like I was climbing up to Mt Calvary. We ended at their chapel at the top of the mountain and had the traditional Good Friday service. It was the first time here in Jamaica that I felt a pang of missing my family. I was in this completely unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people, but yet everything about the service and stations was so familiar. It was the same mass that I had been attending since I was born. Even though I felt alone in an unfamiliar place, the traditions of the Catholic celebration of Easter was a huge comfort for me.
- During the month of July, I worked at Alvernia Summer school for 3 weeks helping with Movement morning and Physical Education. While I had all the students in the school during these classes, I spent my downtime in grade 2 with these kiddos. From left to right- Jonathan, Aviel, Samariah, Mia, Kimora—Lee, and Jhaenissia. Not pictured from grade 2 is Levar and Azaria. Also, when I was not teaching at Alvernia or helping in the grade 2 classroom, I walked over to St. Francis Primary school and helped Tim with his summer school class. It was a busy July between summer school and Sign and Speak Camp! During the month of August, school is on break and I will be able to take some time to rest and resume my normal ministry schedule. School will start again at the beginning of September.
Reflection: In what ways do you find God in the faces you see everyday?