Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Spreading Christmas Joy

 Day three of the island food drive. I was well enough to join the group for a day of spreading great joy. In this photo, we are jammed into our packing station which is now filled with mattress and boxes of pillows donated by the cruise ships which will be distributed after Christmas.

This was, without a doubt, the most meaningful thing I have ever done. Don and I have participated in food drives and community outreaches in East St. Louis many times, but never was it more amazing than this.
The people we visited around the island were some of the poorest of the poor. They truly have nothing. So many without work (and no welfare system here), so many children who had no toys, so many families without food. There was such excitement when our caravan pulled into a community. Word spread quickly and children came running when they caught a glimpse of Santa driving his pickup truck.
Nidia had Santa's list, a book containing names of families in desperate need. In each community she had worked with a contact person in organizing this event and in working out a schedule. There were approximately 1000 bags of food distributed and in every community there were disappointed people whose names were not on the list. We felt so bad that we didn't have more to give.
 This was our first stop, in an area tucked up behind West End's beach road. This boy was very pleased with his new ball. We were so thankful that at the very last minute of loading the vehicles, Abraham received a phone call informing him that a couple of boxes of balls were enroute. This was a real blessing. We had just been discussing how we had precious few toys for the boys. We also had 1000 goody bags containing candy, chips and cookies for the children.
                                       A very happy mama and child. Her smile says it all!
 The little ones were thrilled to get a stuffed animal to hug and love on and which could obviously double as a hat. 
 Next stop: Flowers Bay to visit with a group of senior ladies at the Universal Church of God. I love how colorful they are, each dressed in her best for the occasion.
Some of the ladies posing with Santa who is wearing his Caribbean santa pants and sandals. He was a big hit wherever he went.
 Our third stop was a section of Coxen Hole that I didn't know existed, tucked way back behind other buildings. We had to walk in and carry everything with us crossing little streams and following a muddy path way back. We left our armed security guard behind to watch the loaded vehicles.
Our fourth stop was our favorite, tucked way up high in the hills. These children were literally jumping up and down and squealing with delight when they saw us approaching. As the news spread, the children came running, clapping their hands with joy. They were just precious. Each and every child thanked us, often throwing their arms around us and squeezing tight. We had tears in our eyes. I thought about how grateful they were to receive one small toy and a little bag of candy and could not help but contrast that with Christmas in the United States where many children receive a pile of presents.

Stop number five was in the Swamp section of Coxen Hole. We were approached by people not on the list, begging for some bread or a toothbrush. Thankfully, we had a lot of bread generously donated by an island bakery. I was the tooth fairy at every stop, handing out up to three toothbrushes per family.  I ran out of toothbrushes before we finished here. Some of the candy bags contained a child's toothbrush, but not all. I never before thought about toothbrushes being a luxury item, but when you have nothing, they are.

 Our sixth and last stop of the day took us up Brazil Hill which overlooks the airport. There was no contact person to call and alert in this community so Nidia walked up the road announcing our arrival. The houses were more spread out. We were struck by the realization that there were no toys, bikes, balls or playthings of any kind anywhere. These little girls in pink caught my eye. They were standing outside the community center where some children were practicing for a Christmas program.
We also noticed that a number of the children had distended bellies, probably full of worms, a common ailment here. By this last stop, we were down to the bottom of the toy box and really had very little to give them. We had two balls left for the boys to all share and basketballs at that; not a hoop to be seen. The stuffed animals were gone and we had only two dolls left to hand out. The others got the odd and ends: a pair of child's gardening gloves, bangle bracelets, a pair of shoes, a small puzzle. The candy bags had likewise run out, so these children only received 3 or 4 small pieces of candy. We were also out of toothbrushes. We were really, really wishing that we had more to give them, but they seemed happy with what they got.

There's not enough room here to show all the photos, so here's a link to Picasa Web Albums where you'll find more pictures.https://picasaweb.google.com/jetgartner/FoodDrive2011?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCLCn7v_p68XqRA&feat=directlink

1 comment:

  1. wonderful pictures! What a great Christmas! the Cat