4:30 p.m., March 21)
students return from eye-opening trip to Jamaica
By Fred Sherwin
Jeun'Espoir Jamaique leader André Clermont poses
with the recipient of one of the two homes the
group built during the March Break. Photo supplied
the past 11 years a group of students from Garneau high
school in Orléans have spent their March Break
doing humanitarian work in one of the poorest neighbourhoods
in Jamaica under the banner of Jeun'Espoir Jamaique.
year's group of teen missionaries included seven Grade
11 students and three Grade 12 students. All but one of
the participants was female. During a six day period they
built two small homes, each for a local senior, visited
a home for the aged, an orphanage and a local school.
They brought with them energy and youthful enthusiasm
and brought home a sense of what is truly important in
life and a deeper appreciation for the blessings they
was blown away by how open and friendly everyone was.
It was completely opposite to here," says Isabeau
Morin, 16. "They are so happy and they have almost
nothing. Here people have everything and they are still
unhappy. It's all about getting the latest app."
in past years, the Jeun'Espoir group stayed at a local
Franciscan monastery near Trenchtown. Each day started
at 7 a.m. and ended at just after 5 p.m. The group was
separated into three smaller groups so that at any one
time they were in three different locations. At the end
of the day, they ate supper together and then had a group
discussion about what they had done and seen.
seeing hundreds of photos from previous trips and talking
to past Jeun'Espoir participants, nothing could quite
compare this year's group of young people for the bombardment
on their senses that awaited them in the streets of Kingston.
sights, the sounds, the smells. Poverty everywhere. It
was almost overwhelming at first, especially the smells,"
says Greg Garber. "There's an overwhelming smell
of burning trash, exhaust from all the cars and trucks,
dogs and people doing whatever when nature calls... it
was hard to get used to."
most rewarding part of the trip for both students was
completing the small homes the group built for two eldely
women, one of whom was a double amputee.
moment Greg will always remember is when they got to hand
out several soccer balls to some of the local children.
40 or 50 kids showed up because they wanted to be one
of the lucky ones in the neighbourhood to get a ball.
They were so happy. They were just beaming and you knew
they were going to get overused," says Greg.
group took one day off for a side trip to Ocho Rios which
is a popular tourist destination.
was a total shock on the system after spending so many
days in Kingston, but I'm glad we went because it showed
there was more to Jamaica than just the poverty we experienced
in the capital," says Isabeau.
the long days and hard work, the week passed far too quickly
and before they knew it they were back in Ottawa, trying
to process what they had just experienced and put it all
into some kind of perspective.
made me grateful for everything I have, but at the same
time I realize that I don't deserve it anymore than they
do. I was just lucky to be born into it. It's just a huge
injustice and it's hard to process," says Isabeau,
who wants to return to Jamaica when she gets older.
logistical mastermind behind Jeun'Espoir Jamaique is teacher
André Clermont who took over the group in 2001.
His wife Michele is also very much involved with the group,
as is his 73-year-old mother Mimi who has become somewhat
of a celebrity in the intercity neighbourhoods of Kingston.
first invited his mother to come with the group shortly
after his father passed away several years ago. She enjoyed
the trip so much she took her involvement to an entirely
different level and now spends about two months a year
absolutely loves it," says Clermont. "She's
like a little dynamo."
over 100 students have been involved with Jeun'Espoir
Jamaique over the years. Many past participants have gone
to study social sciences and start careers in government
aid agencies and NGOs. This spring, prospective members
will get to watch a slide show and listen to an oral presentation
delivered by the group's newest graduates and the circle
Students with Jeun'Espoir Jamaique have been
spending their March Break doing humanitarian
work in the island country's capital for over
10 years now. Photo supplied
story was made possible thanks to their generous support
of our local business partners.)
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