Continuing our celebration of Creators of Hope’s awesome volunteers, today we feature our volunteer Lee, who joined us on our January mission trip.
Lee has been a repeat team member on our mission trips. Like our volunteer Ashley, featured in our last post, Lee has enjoyed getting to know fellow team members, and has made firm friendships both in Wisconsin and in Jamaica through his work with Creators of Hope. He’s found it inspiring and satisfying to work together with friends to help the people who need it most.
His highlight moment from the mission trip, Lee tells us, was seeing “the smiles on the faces of the families when the keys to the house we just built are handed over to them.” If you’re a homeowner, you probably remember the first time you got to hold the keys to a house you’d bought. You remember how exciting it was to unlock that door and step into the space that was now all yours. Now imagine for a second that you’d once thought that home ownership, having any kind of place to call your own, was out of your reach…but then you got to watch your own actual house being built, and you got to help, and then you were presented with those keys. How amazing would that feel?
Building houses has its challenges, we have to admit. Lee remembers the work of “carrying materials up a very steep hill” – if you join us for a trip, you’ll get your exercise! But there are plenty of people there to help, and Lee also remembers watching a physically handicapped man finding tasks he could do on the job site because he was determined to be part of the process. The heart of Creators of Hope’s mission is the idea that everyone, no matter who they are or how much they have, can help out. Everyone can come together to make a difference.
When asked why he thought other people should consider joining a Creators of Hope mission trip, Lee talked about Creators of Hope’s track record in Jamaica and how much the organization has done there for the people who need it. He also stressed that all of us are “called to help,” that we’re all part of a much bigger community of people and we owe it to each other, and ourselves, to make life better for all of us. The feeling of helping out, Lee said, is a huge reward, and he got “as much or more from the trip than the people we are serving in Jamaica.”
Working with terrific friends. Giving the keys to a new homeowner and making a cherished dream come true. Feeling the joy of knowing you’ve made a difference. Doesn’t this sound like a great adventure? If Lee’s experience inspires you, learn more about our mission and see how you can join us!
Happy May! Creators of Hope takes time this month to celebrate our amazing volunteers. Check out their experiences. Maybe they’ll inspire you to join us on an upcoming mission trip!
Today we feature our volunteer Ashley, who joined us for our January mission trip and was a terrific member of the team.
Ashley is actually a second-generation Creators of Hope supporter. Her dad went on two of our earlier trips and shared his wonderful experiences with her. She also had the chance to see what mission trips are like when she took a separate trip to Springfield, Illinois. With all of that info to get her started, she couldn’t wait to join us this year.
One of her favorite parts of the mission trip was being part of the crew. Our team has members both from the US and Jamaica, and Ashley loved getting to meet and work side-by-side with so many energetic, devoted people, all working toward the goal of making families’ lives better. Taking part in a Creators of Hope mission trip lays the groundwork for friendships that last a lifetime.
Ashley also told us how special, and how important, it was to her to know she was making a difference for people who needed her help. How many times do we get the chance to give real, concrete, hands-on help to people who truly need it? The toughest part of the trip for her, she said, was “wishing we could’ve helped more people!” She talked about having a tough time leaving Jamaica, knowing that so many people still had very little, and needed support to help build better lives for themselves and their children. At the same time, she knew that she and the rest of the team had done so much to help Jamaica’s families, giving them a start and a resource they’d never had before.
When asked why she thought other people should consider joining a Creators of Hope mission trip, Ashley told us that her experience “was really eye-opening.” She stressed how powerful and moving it was to meet people who had so little, but still had so much happiness and love to share. It gave her a different perspective on what’s important, and showed her how strong and resilient love and happiness are, and how strong a foundation they can be in people’s lives.
Using your time and talents to help people who need it. Meeting terrific friends. Getting a whole new view of what really matters in life. Doesn’t this sound like a great adventure? If Ashley’s experience inspires you, learn more about our mission and see how you can help out!
This month, Creators of Hope will take a look at the environment and how it shapes life for Jamaica’s rural poor. We’ll also consider the other way around: the effects that poverty can have on the environment.
As an island nation, Jamaica is especially vulnerable to environmental and weather-related events. In this way, it’s similar to those parts of the coastal U.S. where low-income neighborhoods can be at the mercy of the elements.
When we think about the impact Hurricane Katrina had on New Orleans, especially in the poorest parishes that experienced the worst flooding from Lake Pontchartrain’s failed levees, we can see how poverty increases the chances that extreme weather events can destroy a community. Storms of Katrina’s size and strength can wipe out entire districts of houses and businesses.
When communities don’t have the resources to rebuild, the damage becomes permanent, and those districts are abandoned.
Jamaica’s position in the Caribbean makes it vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms. Rising sea levels hit small island nations hard and fast. The kinds of extreme weather events we’ve seen happening more often, from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 to the East Coast’s “Snowmageddon” of 2016 and beyond, have the greatest impact on island communities with not much infrastructure and few resources.
In addition, Jamaica’s poor live mainly in rural areas. What income they make, from the crops they can grow, depends on the right weather and climate conditions. When the weather becomes dangerous and unpredictable, crops fail and whole communities suffer.
One of the biggest problems facing communities of rural poor is the lack of resources. Recovering from environmental events is difficult to impossible when people are barely making it from one day to the next. Jamaica’s ingrained cycle of poverty, generation after generation caught in the same trap, adds to the problem.
We can also see how the homeless are hit hardest by environmental problems. Without a home, people have no place to take shelter, no way to control their surroundings, no way to keep themselves and their families safe when the natural world turns dangerous.
At Creators of Hope, we want to help Jamaica’s most vulnerable break the cycle of poverty, and build the resources to protect themselves and control their surroundings in the face of changes in the natural world. We build homes to give people the opportunity of reliable shelter, a foundation that they can build on.
Learn more about us and consider donating to support our work building homes for Jamaica’s rural poor!
Last time on the blog, we started looking at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We considered how homelessness affects Jamaica’s children, when they’re born into environments in which poverty and struggle replace security and stability.
When we look at the diagram, we can see how basic needs of physical safety form the foundation for any person’s self-actualization. As people, our ideal is to live fully, using our gifts and abilities to build lives we love.
But for kids who are born into environments where basic needs aren’t met, exploration and growth are very difficult. It’s hard to build a better life out of a constant struggle with uncertainty. This is how cycles of poverty and homelessness often get perpetuated from one generation to the next.
Now let’s consider what happens when kids do get to experience a home environment where core needs are satisfied. This takes us up from the bottom tiers of Maslow’s pyramid to the top three.
Kids in stable homes have a chance to feel the comfort of having people they love around them. Think back to when you were little, and how exciting it was when family and friends came over to celebrate a holiday or a birthday. At Christmas at my grandparents’ house, when the family all sat around the dining room table to share roast turkey and stuffing, I remember how safe and happy I felt. The world was a hundred percent secure. That kind of experience has a lasting impact on a young child.
Another aspect of home for kids is the chance to take pride in a place that belongs to them. Sure, when we were growing up, our parents had a big say in what our rooms looked like. But we had our decorations, our posters, maybe the rug and curtains we picked out, maybe a plant on the windowsill. Remember how it felt to have your room, where you could go to read a favorite book or snuggle with a stuffed animal? If you were like me, your room was your anchor, a safe and welcoming spot whatever happened in the outside world.
All of these pieces – physical safety, the satisfaction of togetherness, and pride and a sense of ownership in a home – all of them together get us up to the top tier in the pyramid. This is where, in an environment that feels secure, and with a solid foundation under them, kids can grow fully as people. They can develop their interests and use their imaginations. When they have a chance to become the people they want to be, they can shape the world around them.
We at Creators of Hope believe every child should have a home in which they can grow up safe and secure. Help us fulfill that dream by learning more about our mission, and consider volunteering with us on our next mission trip.
This week, in the last installment of our series on the impact that building homes can have on a country, Creators of Hope takes a look at how combating homelessness among Jamaica’s rural poor strengthens the economy of the country.
When we build homes for the individuals and families we work with, we don’t see it just as creating a structure where people can live. It’s the foundation of a better future. With roofs over their heads, families can focus on finding secure and sustainable ways to bring in income. For the rural poor, this often means finding better ways to make their farming work sustainable, and finding ways to bring their harvests to market to sell to the public. Eventually we plan to provide more professional services and support for entrepreneurs, in order to diversify local business.
When families are able to earn money to support themselves, this increases the health of Jamaica’s economy overall. At present, much of the economy depends on the tourist trade. With more families able to run their own small agribusinesses, however, local business grows. People who earn money are able to spend it, supporting other local businesses. The money goes around the circle, and meanwhile, people aren’t as dependent on what small aid the government can provide.
For a country’s economy to thrive, it has to be built on solid foundations. A baseline of prosperity has to exist, such that the basic needs of the citizens are met, and they can make money, save money, and spend money, particularly on local shops and industries. People who can sustainably take care of themselves and their families also have the leisure, time, and resources to diversify their work and bring new types of business and industry to Jamaica. This kind of diversity also leads to economic strength, because the country isn’t dependent on any one particular type of industry.
We at Creators of Hope know that when we build homes for Jamaica’s rural poor, we are helping to grow and strengthen the economy of the country as a whole, improving conditions for generations of families to come. Find out how you can help us, and especially learn more about our mission trips, in which we get volunteers on the ground to build homes for the families who need them. And be sure to visit the blog again in March, when we’ll highlight volunteer stories and photos from our most recent trip!
This week, Creators of Hope takes a look at how building homes for Jamaica’s rural poor improves individuals’ productivity and ability to support themselves financially.
We’ve talked about the ways in which homelessness makes poverty even worse and harder to bear. We’ve talked about the stressors of having no safe place to call your own, and how in communities of homeless people, crime can escalate because of people’s desperation, and illness can spread quickly because of the harsh living conditions. We’ve also talked about how building homes can reverse both of these trends and make communities safer and healthier.
Now let’s look at another significant piece of home ownership: home as an anchor, investment, and motivator.
First of all, home is a literal foundation for the life of an individual or family. With the basic human need of shelter met, people can look ahead to what they would like to do next to build a life. They have something on which to build that life, roots that they will be able to strengthen.
Second, a home provides physical safety and stability. It’s a place where people can rest, take care of themselves and each other, and marshal their resources and energy. When life isn’t a day-to-day struggle against constant insecurity, fear, and stress, people are better able to focus their attention and energy on finding and keeping good employment. They want to build on the anchor that their home has given them.
Third, home is a motivator. When you have a space of your own, you want to take care of it, keep it in good repair, and over time, improve on it. Creators of Hope has seen this vividly with the families we’ve helped over the years. The homes we build are simple, designed to fill a family’s needs with the minimum of expense, but the families themselves work to build on these simple shelters and make them beautiful. When you have a place of your own, you’re no longer in a position where you have nothing to lose. You have an investment in your future, and you will work hard to keep your investment strong and growing.
We at Creators of Hope know that when we build homes for Jamaica’s rural poor, we aren’t just “giving something away” – we’re helping people to better help themselves. We believe strongly in the value of supporting people as they improve their circumstances and build better lives, both for themselves and for their communities as a whole. Find out how you can help us, and visit the blog again next week for one more installment on how building homes changes a country’s future.
This month, Creators of Hope explores four ways that our work building homes for Jamaica’s rural poor strengthens the country as a whole. Our focus for the first post in this mini-series is on crime: how does combating homelessness help reduce crime?
First we need to think about why crimes happen. They can happen for all kinds of reasons, some more understandable and some less so, and we’re not here to excuse illegal behavior. Let’s consider, though, what can motivate someone to commit a crime.
A person has to feel they have nothing to lose in order to risk the consequences of going outside the law. They have to feel desperate enough to get something, and have to feel that there’s no other way to get it, if they’re going to break our social contracts, run afoul of the legal system, and risk the consequences. That’s why crime thrives in environments where poverty is high. People with limited or no financial resources reach a point at which they have desperate needs and no clear way to meet them. These people often also feel they have nothing to lose. If they’re caught, it doesn’t matter, because not much worse can happen to them anyway.
Creators of Hope seeks to change the lives of people in these circumstances. Building homes accomplishes three main things:
Creators of Hope believes strongly in the value of helping people to improve their circumstances and build better lives. Find out how you can help us, and visit the blog again next week to learn more about how building homes changes a country’s future.
Today we have the final installment of our tribute to Jamaica’s history, looking at how the Jamaican culture that flourishes today had its origins in the sugar-plantation system of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. While that system led to lasting economic inequality, which Creators of Hope works to change by building homes for the country’s rural poor, we can also see the courage and determination of a people who forged new connections and sustained one another through the darkest times imaginable.
Last week we saw how folk traditions evolved, creating a new cultural heritage by blending the traditions and languages of many parts of Africa, and also drawing on European elements. Today we’ll share one more traditional Jamaican song and will take a look at how music, in particular, created and sustained bonds between people from many backgrounds.
Music is and always was a way for people to communicate. In the colonies, where slaves were forbidden to practice their own traditions, and where as much as possible they were kept from connecting with each other, music became a way to share experiences and spread comfort and hope. “Digging-sings,” or work songs, used in the cane fields, kept the people together and working in rhythm, but also let them speak to what was happening to them and respond to the truth of their experience.
Music also gave slaves an outlet to honor their religious beliefs and hold onto the stories of their pasts. To plantation owners, music often seemed like a harmless kind of entertainment, but it communicated much more to the singers. Folk songs let the people tell and share their stories. The songs also affirmed, and helped build, the emerging language, the patois that all the people could share.
Folk music remains a strong tradition in Jamaica today, thanks in part to the work of individuals determined to recognize the songs and the language. Louise Bennett, for example, was a poet and teacher who documented Jamaican folk songs and helped preserve the Creole patois as a nation language. Her work in particular has won worldwide recognition for Jamaican folk music.
We at Creators of Hope celebrate the memory of the displaced people who created a new sense of home, and a new identity, for themselves out of the great losses they experienced. Our final featured song is “Moon Shine Tonight,” a dance tune. It’s performed here in 2015 by The Banyans, showing how strong folk culture remains in Jamaica. You can find an English translation of the patois lyrics here.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this month’s glimpse into Jamaica’s history and culture, and the musical samples we’ve shared. If you have, please share this post, help us raise awareness about Jamaica’s people, and read more about our mission and find out how you can help Jamaicans today!
[p.s. Bonus: you can also check out Jamaican Song and Story from 1907, the earliest known compendium of Jamaican folk tales and music.]
Welcome back to Creators of Hope’s New Year’s tribute to Jamaican history! Over the past two weeks, we’ve looked at the struggle that transplanted African people faced when they were brought to Jamaica, and other Caribbean islands, to work the sugar plantations. This week we’ll begin to see how Jamaica’s own unique culture grew out of that struggle and the strength of people hailing from different backgrounds and traditions.
As we saw last week, plantation owners did all they could to force their displaced slaves to forget the places and traditions they came from. Looking back, though, we see how the strength of those people won out over all such efforts.
Imagine, again, what it would be like to find yourself in a totally unfamiliar and hostile place. You have no roots, you’ve lost everything that defined your life and your sense of self, and you can’t communicate with anyone around you. What do you do?
You might hold, as tightly as you could, onto the few things you had that couldn’t be taken from you. Your memories. Stories you were told as a child. Songs and prayers your parents taught you. These sacred things helped you hold onto your sense of home even when you knew you would never see that place again.
In Jamaica, slaves gradually built a shared culture. One of the most important elements of that culture was the growth of a new, shared language, built out of the dialects from different parts of Africa and using elements borrowed from European languages, especially English. Over time, this mixed language became the patois spoken in Jamaica today.
Stories, legends, and musical traditions also helped form the new culture that bound the displaced people together. African gods and heroes found their way into stories being shared in the new world. Anansi, the legendary spider-trickster-storyteller of African folklore, is still a major figure in Jamaican folk tales (and also inspired some of the Br’er Rabbit stories told in the US). In music, the melodies of Africa found their way into the new songs being sung in the colony. Warm and lyrical tunes, reaching back to roots in many regions of Africa, were used to accompany stories about everything the displaced people found and dealt with in the new world. All of these things helped to forge a new sense of home in a people who desperately needed it.
This week’s featured song is “Mango Time,” a celebratory tune about the mango harvest. Like last week’s “Chi Chi Bud Oh,” this tune may have originally been a “digging-sing” or work song. You can find an English translation of the patois lyrics here.
If you like what you hear, please share this post and help us honor Jamaica’s history. And please read more about our mission and find out how you can help Jamaica’s people today!
Welcome back to our New Year’s tribute to Jamaican history! Last week we looked at the deep roots of Jamaican culture: the experience of the people brought from Africa to work the sugar plantations in the Caribbean. We thought especially about what it meant to those people to lose their homes, that core element of safety and stability, and find themselves in a strange and frightening world.
This week we’ll dig a little deeper into that experience, getting ready to explore how a new culture came out of that dark time. We’ll also feature another song from the Jamaican folk tradition.
From a plantation owner’s perspective, it was dangerous to allow transplanted slaves to honor, or even remember, the places they came from. As a result, plantation owners did many things to force slaves to let go of their heritage.
One major thing was that slaves from the same parts of Africa, villages or towns or even whole regions, were kept separate by design. You didn’t want to let people from the same hometown, who shared the same language and culture and memories, live or work together. That would keep the memory of home alive in them and could lead to rebellious ideas. So people hailing from the same parts of Africa were sent to different plantations to put them in enforced isolation.
You also didn’t want slaves practicing any traditions from home. So even if the slaves managed to communicate with each other, using a shared African language or the developing mixed African and European patois, social and religious observances were strictly forbidden. Dance, music, and stories from home were also forbidden (unless they were seen as harmless entertainment).
All of this amounted to attacks on the very personhood of these displaced people. As much as possible, life was reduced to bare survival, to force the people to forget who they were and where they came from. Personhood itself was dangerous to the plantation system.
At Creators of Hope, we know how the constant struggle for survival can lead to despair, when it seems that a better life isn’t possible. That’s why we build homes for Jamaica’s rural poor and give them the foundations to create a better future. That’s also why we honor the people who were brought to Jamaica and found a way forward despite everything they had lost.
This week’s featured song is “Chi Chi Bud Oh,” a call-and-response tune about Jamaica’s birds. This kind of song, involving a leader and a responding chorus, might have originally been a work song (or “digging-sing”) or a dance tune. You can find an English translation of patois lyrics here.
If you like what you hear, please share this post and help us honor Jamaica’s history. And please read more about our mission and find out how you can help Jamaica’s people today!