Monthly Archives: January 2014

No Chili in Jamaica

ochi rious town squareWe went to the city of Ocho Rios last week. Ocho Rios is where Christopher Columbus first landed when he came to Jamaica.grocery shopping in ocho riosDave took advantage of one of the large grocery stores there to buy supplies to make a chili supper for the Beachs- our Jamaican hosts. He could find all the ingredients he needed except…………. the chili!  Later we looked in another grocery store in Ocho Rios and three in the Runaway Bay area. No chili powder! There was jerk sauce with chilis and chili sauce but no chili powder. Dave improvised with a variety of other spices and his signature chili was still delicious. cruise ship in ocho roosOcho Rios is a popular stop for Caribbean cruise ships. Although one was in dock when we were there we didn’t see many tourists in town. yam seller ochi riosThe local vendors complain that while the cruise ships used to let passengers just roam the town now they encourage them to take packaged trips to swim with dolphins or visit Dunn River Falls so that means the local merchants in Ocho Rios don’t benefit from the tourist trade. orange vendorThis vendor was peeling oranges for customers.selling sun fishAnd this fisherman was trying to sell his fish to passersby. houses in ocho diosWe spent time just wandering the streets ocho riosand trying to get a feel for the place. Because we seemed to be the only tourists there people were trying to sell us souvenirs at every turn. With the tough economic times they’re experiencing I understand why. 

It was interesting to see Ochi Rios, but I don’t think I need to go back. 

Other posts about Jamaica

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A Church and a Bar on Every Corner

moving church of GodAccording to the Guiness Book of World Records Jamaica has the most churches per square mile of any place in the world. I believe it. Here in Runaway Bay there seems to be a church in every neighborhood.  Our host Tony says there’s a church and a bar on every corner in Jamaica. people in church runaway bayOn Sunday the streets are full of people heading off to church-the men in suits, dress shirts and ties and the women dressed fashionably.

united church runaway bayWe attended the United Church last Sunday. The Resource Centre where we work is located in the Church Hall. Almost all the hymns were familiar.  The worship leader or pastor would just launch in with a hymn and the poor organist was left scrambling to try to figure out the key he was singing in and slide into that key on her instrument after experimenting with several.  organ surrounded by gatesThe organ was surrounded by iron grating to prevent it from being damaged or stolen during the week. choir runaway united church jamaicaThere was a choir of five elderly women who wore matching tops and sang two numbers. They marched in and out of the sanctuary in solemn procession before and after the service. 

church in jamaicaThere were several rows of children in attendance- all dressed beautifully- the girls in colourful fancy dresses and the boys in long sleeved shirts and pressed pants. There was a short children’s story for them and some chorus singing led by a very enthusiastic and well dressed young woman who kept shouting “God is Good” to which the children responded “All the Time.”pastor speaking runaway bayThe pastor was speaking on the story in Matthew 4:18-22 where Jesus asks the fishermen to follow him. “We need to be careful who we follow,” Pastor Delroy Johnson warned the congregants. His Jamaican example of someone his parishoners should be wary of following, was employment recruiters who take Jamaican people’s money and promise if you follow them you’ll get a good job in Canada, or the United States or England. Some of these recruiters are scam artists. They take unsuspecting people’s money and then disappear with it leaving their victims without money or a job overseas. church in runaway bayChurch was two and a half hours long with seven traditional hymns, seven prayers, three Scripture readings, a time to walk around the church and say hello to literally everyone and an altar call. 

Jamaica is one of the most churched places in the world. 99% of its citizens say they are Christians. In a country where poverty is widespread, violent crime is a daily reality, the public education system is under funded and in disarray, and the only hope for the majority to have stable employment is to leave the country, churches provide an important safety net and offer a glimmer of hope in a place where the future for many is bleak. 

Other posts about Jamaica…………

A Day in the Life of the Runaway Bay Resource Centre

Mrs. Brown’s Daycare – This Woman Should Be a Jamaican Saint

Jamaican Introductions

Hairnets and Helmets

Beaching It on the Caribbean

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A Day in the Life of the Runaway Bay Tutoring Centre

marylou and sechelleWhen we arrive at the tutoring centre in Runaway Bay Jamaica each day at around 3:30 there are always kids there already to greet us. greeting daveMany of them come directly from school but others have walked- sometimes many miles from their homes. In order to economize the local public school operates in two shifts in Runaway Bay so the children who attend early classes have been home since noon and woke up at 5 am to get to school on time. dave reads with ashmoniqueWhile we wait for the official beginning of the day’s program we read to kids or tony and kneillisten to them read to us. dave and carlingtonWe visit with the kidsmildred talks to studentor lend a listening ear to their problems. me and mrs. williamsThen the colorful and capable Mrs. Williams arrives on the scene. She’s the program’s cook and has prepared some kind of snack for the children- sandwiches, soup, macaroni and cheese or curried chicken and rice. kids praying before mealMrs. Williams leads the children in singing gracemrs. williams hands out foodand then hands out the meal.  Tony and Mildred, the program organizers and founders realized in the early days of the resource centrechildren eating in jamaica that often children arrived very hungry because they didn’t have enough money to buy lunch at school or they had last eaten many hours before. kids have snackServing a snack prior to the tutoring time really improved the children’s ability to concentrate and learn. carlington takes attendanceWhile the children are eating a sign up sheet is passed around so a record can be kept of how many kids have attended each day. rosemarieIf a child misses too often Mildred and Tony may call the parents to find out what’s wrong and to see if they can help. jody ann helps with clean upAfter the kids have eaten Jody Ann helps with clean up. She is a resource centre graduate and now an assistant in the program. tony directs kids to their groupsThen Tony calls all the kids to the front of the church hall and has a short word with them about expectations for the daykids reading before directing them to the various tables placed around the room where they will meet in small groups with their teachers.sister mac and her groupThere are a half-dozen local volunteers and each works with their own small group on academic skills.  peggy with her groupThe size and composition of these groups is very fluid because some children’s attendance is not very consistent and often volunteers are absent because of illness or other commitments. me and the kidsAlthough Dave and I have each been given an official group of students for our month at the Resource Centre we’ve learned it’s important to be flexible and come prepared and ready to work with whatever number and combination of children we need to take in each day, dave and kidsdepending on which local volunteers show up and which kids are there. tony talking to the kidsAfter we’ve worked with the children for about an hour and twenty minutes on reading, math, writing and thinking skills Tony calls them all back to the front of the church hall. local volunteer leading worship timeSome of the local volunteers are called up to recite a Psalm with the children ormrs archer does 24 psalmtalk about a Bible Story or just give the children a short talk about their spiritual blessings and obligations. final prayerThen closely supervised by a volunteer who makes sure their attitude and participation is monitored they recite a prayer of thanksgiving for the opportunity they’ve had to learn that day. hands upAfter the volunteer has regained their attention with a hands up order she instructs them to thank everyone who has come to teach them and to thank their fellow students for learning with them. The children recite a little thank you speech and then the volunteer directs them outdoors. dave and mildred chattingThen we visit with Mildred and review what’s happened with our groups that day while we wait for Tony. tony talks to a motherMother after mother comes in to talk to him, most often to ask him for some financial assistance for school supplies, to pay for a visit to the optometrist or a pair of glasses for their child, to cover the electrical bill so they have light in the evening for their children to study, or a myriad of other requests. Tony listens compassionately and helps as many people as he is able. twinsSome kids hang around outside to say good-bye but most are gone by the time Tony is ready to head home. 

boys readingWe are growing very attached to the forty students at the centre and have learned most of their names by now. me and marqueseI already know it will be very hard to leave them in the middle of February. 

You might also want to read…………

The Remarkable Story of the Runaway Bay Resource Centre

Wish I Had Them in Jamaica

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Filed under Childhood, Education, Jamaica, New Experiences, Religion, Travel

Meeting the Parents of Jamaica’s Next PGA Golfer

Wesley Brown is a golf professional and Jamaica’s top amateur golfer. He is currently playing in a series of PGA sponsored tournaments abroad. Wesley is from Runaway Bay and his mother is none other than…… Mrs. Claudette Brown daycare ownerClaudette Brown the amazing woman I wrote about in yesterday’s post who runs a daycare for 140 children in a Runaway Bay ghetto in a tiny facility. dave and his golf caddy wesley brown father of professional golfer wesley brownWesley’s father is also called Wesley Brown and he is Dave’s caddy at the Runaway Bay Golf Course, runaway bay golf coursewhere Dave golfs two mornings a week with our host Tony Beach. 

Wesley was apparently in ‘scintillating’ form in October when he beat former Number 1 player Dave Duvall in a tournament in Puerto Rico and in September placed fifth in the Meadowland Classic, the final event of the 2013 Carolina Summer Golf Series in the USA.

Here in Runaway Bay they are calling him Jamaica’s future Tiger Woods. 

Other posts about Jamaica……

Beaching It on the Caribbean

The Remarkable Place We Work in Runaway Bay

Pedicure Patois

Building A House in Jamaica

Wish I Had Them In Jamaica

Pirates, Plantations, Political Activists and Pot

Jamaican Introductions

Acquiring a Taste for Jamaican Food

Dead Yard Party

Mrs. Brown Should Be A Jamaican Saint

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Filed under Family, Jamaica, Sports

Mrs. Brown’s DayCare-This Woman Should Be A Jamaican Saint

marylou and kids at runaway bay daycareChildren, children everywhere!  One hundred and forty of them! Our host here in Jamaica, Tony Beach took us to visit Mrs. Brown’s Daycare in the Edgecombe Ghetto of Runaway Bay last week. Tony has great respect for the work done at this daycare and he wanted us to see it for ourselves. Tony and Mrs. BrownHere’s Tony with Mrs. Claudette Brown who runs a daycare for 140 children on a tiny piece of land in a ramshackle old building with four small rooms. Six other women work with her. children at the gateWhen we drove up the children outside playing in the small cement and dirt front yard rushed up to the gate to greet us. dave teaches kids to say guten tagThe children said “Hello, Hola and Bonjour” welcoming us in three languages. “Do you want to know how to say hello in German?” Dave asked.  When he said, “Guten Tag,” the kids quickly copied him. dave's guideA little boy immediately grabbed Dave’s hand  and a little girl mine when we entered the yard offering to be our guides. ghetoo daycare children jamaicaIt was amazing how many children were crammed into each of the tiny rooms. daycare jamaicaIn the two year old’s room they were giving the children lunch. Tony told us when the daycare runs short of money for salaries the women who work there simply divide whatever funds they have left after expenses for their salaries. daycare children jamaicaApparently Mrs. Brown often ends up staying at the daycare till well after it closes at 5 pm, sometimes till 8 o’clock, because parents don’t show up to pick up their children. Sometimes she just ends up taking children who are left behind home with her. reading to kids in jamaican daycareThe kids ran to get books and asked me to read to them. I was amazed at how they knew their colors, the names of shapes, concepts like big and small and over and under. Tony told us the local primary schools say children from Mrs. Brown’s daycare are usually well ahead of the other students when they enter school. classroom jamaca daycareA teacher in a tiny dark classroom with tarp walls was working on counting concepts with a small group of older children. tony and mrs. brownTony and Mrs. Brown were having a heart to heart talk while we toured the daycare. Tony runs an after  school program in Runaway Bay and he tries to share supplies donated to his program with Mrs. Brown and help her out financially when he can. marylou and kidsOften parents of Mrs. Brown’s students can’t afford to pay the minimal fee she charges and she hates to make the children leave because she tells Tony, “it’s not their fault their parents don’t pay and I can’t punish them because of their parents.” dave and kids in jamaica daycareAs kids do everywhere these Jamaican sweethearts loved Dave and they all wanted to play with him. kids in jamaican daycareClaudette Brown gets no government support for her daycare. It is her own service to the community.  She’s quite an amazing woman. 

Mrs. Brown daycare ownerWe were so glad Tony had taken us to Mrs. Brown’s daycare. She is doing so much to help so many children with so very little. 

Other posts about Jamaica……..

Beaching It on the Caribbean

The Remarkable Place We Work in Runaway Bay

Pedicure Patois

Building A House in Jamaica

Wish I Had Them In Jamaica

Pirates, Plantations, Political Activists and Pot

Jamaican Introductions

Acquiring a Taste for Jamaican Food

Dead Yard Party

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Filed under Childhood, Education, Jamaica, New Experiences, People, Travel

Beaching It on the Caribbean

dave at the oceanSaturdays we don’t work at the Resource Centre for kids here in Runaway Bay so we head down to the Caribbean Sea.  We’ve had a couple perfect beach days here already.  dave walking to the beachThe  beach is about a thirty minute walk away from our bed and breakfast.  Since our hosts Mildred and Tony are property owners in Runaway Bay, as their guests we are allowed to use a small private beach sandwiched betweenresort boat the swanky waterfront of the Jewel Resort dave at public beachand the local public beach. The sand is fine and soft on the beach front and also on the ocean bottom as far out as we can walk.  dave in the caribbeanThe water is a beautiful clear blue and there are enough major waves to make swimming just a tad scary and lots of fun. 

sign at beach in jamaicaJamaica is actually quite a conservative place as you can see from this sign at the beach. Dave refused to take this photo unless I pointed at the words No Nudity. beach chairs For a couple of dollars you can rent chairs for the day.  strawberry pina coladaA beachside bar serves great strawberry pina coladas. horse ownersSome local entrepeneurs keep horses in a field just behind the beach. horses and egretsThese beautiful white egrets share the field with the horses. horse and rider in oceanYou can pay to go on horse rides through Runaway Bay or even ride a horse out into the waves if you’re really daring. dave readingThe beach is quiet just perfect for getting caught up on reading. Dave is tackling James Michener’s Caribbean and is learning lots about Jamaica as well as the other islands around us. vendors on beachThere are local craftspeople selling their wares along the beach.  dave talks to carverDave chatted with one of the carvers. Apparently in the last couple years some local resorts have been bought by a chain and this means these beachside vendors have lost business.  The chains run their own gift shops in the resorts and some post signs warning guests not to wander off the resort.abandoned standThat’s why we saw quite a few abandoned shops along the beach. restaurant at the public beachThere is a restaurant at the public beach where we have eaten a few times already. beach at runaway bayThe beach in Runaway Bay is lovely and I’m sure we’ll back every Saturday. 

Other posts about Jamaica…..

The Remarkable Story of the Runaway Bay Resource Centre

Pedicure Patois

Building A House in Jamaica

Wish I Had Them In Jamaica

Pirates, Plantations, Political Activists and Pot

Jamaican Introductions

Acquiring a Taste for Jamaican Food

Dead Yard Party

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Filed under Jamaica, Nature, Travel

The Remarkable Story of the Runaway Bay- Jamaica Resource Centre Where We Are Working

dave outside runaway bay resource centreEveryday around 3 o’clock we head down to the Runaway Bay Resource Centrejamaican school student to teach classes in an after school program for forty local children.

united churchFacilities and support for the program are provided by the Runaway Bay United Church.school children runaway bay jamaica

runaway bay united churchSome of the local volunteers who help run the program are from the congregation 

Mildred Beach with students at the Runaway Bay Resource Centre

Mildred Beach with students at the Runaway Bay Resource Centre

and it is where the program’s founders Mildred and Tony Beach attend church during the six months of the year they make their home in Jamaica.
container runaway bay resource centreSupplies for the program are kept in this converted shipping containerinside the container and the older students preparing for their upcoming national exam have classes in the refurbished container. church hall runaway bay united churchWe meet with our students in the church hall.

Tony Beach and Lenny a local volunteer who runs the program when the Beach's are in Winnipeg

Tony Beach (on the right) and Lenny a local volunteer who runs the  tutoring  program and resource centre during the spring and early  fall months  when the Beachs are in Winnipeg

Tony Beach was born and grew up in Kingston, Jamaica, but went to Winnipeg to study as a young man. He met and married Mildred Toews a Manitoba teacher and social worker, and stayed in Canada where he had a successful career as an engineer.

morning glory bed and breakfast Later in their married life Mildred suggested she and Tony start vacationing in Tony’s home country so she could get to know it better. Over the years they ended up returning often to various small resort complexes in Runaway Bay, Jamaica. Finally they sold Tony’s  engineering firm, and their St. Vital  home, and built The Morning Glory Bed and Breakfast in Runaway Bay.

Tony shows Dave some of the flowers and plants he cares for on the beautiful grounds of the Morning Glory Bed and Breakfast

Tony shows Dave some of the flowers and plants he cares for on the beautiful grounds of the Morning Glory Bed and Breakfast

From May to October they live in a small apartment in Winnipeg and Tony continues to work as an engineer. From November to April they live in Runaway Bay and open their home to guests. tony talking to kids After their bed and breakfast was built Tony and Mildred quickly got involved in the local community in Runaway Bay. dave talking to kidsOne social need among many they identified, was for some kind of enrichment and activity program for kids who went home after school to very small houses some with no electricity or running water, large single parent families, violent neighborhoods and in some cases lack of supervision because adults in the family  were absent trying to eke out a living with part-time jobs. Mildred and Tony with the Runaway Bay kidsThey also realized that many children in Runaway Bay struggled with basic reading and writing skills which would make it difficult if not impossible for them to pass the GSAT- Grade Six Achievement Test which allows them to go on to a good highschool. school child jamaicaSchool children in Runaway Bay face many educational challenges-large class sizes, unqualified teachers, rundown building and playground facilities, lack of supplies, shortened school days so schools can operate in shifts, poorly monitored early childhood education programs, and unaffordable fees for uniforms, lunches and transportation.mildred with the kids at the runaway bay resource centreIn cooperation with their church in Jamaica and a group of local volunteers Mildred and Tony established the Runaway Bay Resource Centretony and lenny outside the container to offer after school nutrition, academic instruction and purposeful activities for a group of forty children five days a week during the school  year. lenny and kids at centreTony and Mildred hold a fundraising event in Winnipeg each fall and they have some generous business and private donors who provide financial contributions for running the program. jamaican school childrenWhen the children in the program go on to high school their families are given modest monetary assistance by the Resource Centre to help with school expenses. mildred and young childTony and Mildred also help some of the single parent families with younger children who are really struggling to meet the costs for keeping their kids in school.

school children runaway bay resource centreThe centre has received  donations of books, teaching resources, sports equipment, clothing, toys and school supplies from many people. This makes it possible for Tony and Mildred to give the children T-shirts to wear at the centre, Christmas gifts,  books to have at home and provide them with new shoes periodically.sister mac and the childrenThe program depends heavily on a half-dozen or so local volunteers, like Sister Mac, a retired teacher pictured here with the students, who give daily academic instruction to small groups of children.dave and kidsWhen volunteer teachers like Dave and I come for a few weeks we can provide enrichment activities for the larger group like games and music and storytelling and we work with small groups of students who need extra help with reading and basic math skills. 

dave and the kids Since Tony and Mildred first established the Resource Centre in 2008 it has gone through many changes. kids at the containerThe Beaches are always looking for new ways to improve the program and in turn the lives of the children they serve. 

Other posts about Jamaica……..

Pedicure Patois

Building A House in Jamaica

Wish I Had Them In Jamaica

Pirates, Plantations, Political Activists and Pot

Jamaican Introductions

Acquiring a Taste for Jamaican Food

Dead Yard Party

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Filed under Education, Jamaica, New Experiences, Religion, Retirement, Winnipeg