Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jamaica 6--JRM

Here's the history and purpose of Jamaica Relief Ministries, as I understand it:

In 1989, Hurricane Gilbert devastated the island. Mennonites from the southeastern U.S. periodically went to help and eventually set up a presence near Montego Bay, with the name of Jamaica Relief Ministries.

Over the years they've reached out in various ways but the focus now is on orphans. There's one houseparent/administrator family, Mark and Karen Smucker [no relation] and their four children. Then there are five nannies who take care of five children, all of whom came there from Blossom, the government orphanage that we visited. And then there's Amy, who teaches the Smucker kids, does the bookwork, and helps with the orphans.

Up until now they've been licensed to do foster care. But just recently they've been licensed as a group home, which means they could have up to 20 children, although they don't plan to have more than 8 or 10. So changes are afoot but I'm not sure exactly how it's going to play out.

The mission is located on a mountainside on the outskirts of Montego Bay, in a beautiful set of buildings that once held an Italian restaurant where the likes of Mia Farrow and Johnny Cash ate, in a beautiful compound with big trees and a huge lawn.

(view from the backyard)

Each nanny is in charge of one child, but they all share child-care and housework duties. Sara, for instance, is Kenroy's "auntie," so she gets him ready for church and sits with him at meals and puts him to bed, and so on. But when it's Sara and Renita's day to go to Blossom, then Melinda might do all the cleaning for the day while Erica is in charge of the children.

Sharon, who has been there for 8 years, does the cooking. Sometimes short-termers come as well, like a young man who was there for a few months doing maintenance projects and left the day after we did.

The children are all adorable, but having come from previous emotional neglect, they have various difficulties with communication, screaming fits, frustrated outbursts, and so on--some a lot more than others.

But overall they seem to be doing very well, it is heartwarming to see how they are so very loved and enjoyed now. I mean, they are just very solidly and whole-heartedly loved.

Some of them are in the process of being adopted, and some would be if one parent or the other would sign off on them.

Since, like so many children in Jamaica, they are not true orphans but the products of a culture where so few dads take responsibility for the children they father, and so many mothers keep having babies in spite of it.

If you would like to make a donation to JRM, you can send a check to
Jamaica Relief Ministries, Inc.
2535 Blue Ridge Blvd.
Walhalla, SC 29691

If you'd like to adopt a child, you need to get in touch with the Jamaican Child Development Agency. You won't be able to pre-select a specific child, just so you know. Adopting there is a long, slow process, but it can be done.

Quote of the Day:
--little Ruth Ann, when Amy tried to get her to say my name, and of course we laughed and thought she was adorable, and I wish every neglected child in the world could be so doted on


  1. So glad to hear you're safely home!

    I wish I could snuggle and hold your little Blossoms.


  2. LOL You know I meant your little orphans at Blossom, right?! hehee

  3. Yes, I knew what you meant. Clever.

  4. This contrast stood out: the man from China said you should move there, get good job, good salary, good standard of living. Yes, MAKE A LOT OF MONEY!

    He then showed you a picture of his wife and daughter. He thinks it's sad that with China's one-child policy, so many children, like his daughter, have no brothers and sisters to play with.

    He was amazed that you have six children and said several times, "Six children!YOU ARE SO FORTUNATE. You must be so happy together!"

    I wonder-if he had the choice, which would he choose? Money or children?

  5. JRM is indeed where my cousin's adorable little grandson came from! :)

  6. Jane, that's a good question. I wonder if he ever thought of it in those terms.
    Mary, that is very cool that your little relative came from JRM!

  7. Thanks for your Jamaica posts. I love the picture of Gabe with the kiddies and the dog swarming over him!