Keeping a Promise in Jamaica

Next week, I head back to Jamaica. Again. I made a promise to return this Easter.

See, I was just there 3 months ago. And for three weeks. But before that, I waited 18 months (!) between trips. (Can you believe it’s been 3 years since we started this project?) Seeing as there were no other computer repair people to fix things when they fail–think about how often you have computer challenges–it was like a small thing that suddenly became a BIG problem.

So when I got there for what was supposed to be a two-week stay I learned that if I left when I had planned I may not have even come. It took every minute of the last week to get everything back up and running. For instance, the entire computer room at Brampton Elementary had been reduced to one single working PC–for a school of 90 students. Wow.

I worked and worked like there was no tomorrow. When I tell people it is 12-hours days of non-stop computer repair I am certain they think I am exaggerating. If only. I get up in one room and head to the computer repair room I have set up in the house of Man Jack and Mama Lynn (where I stay). Someone calls me for breakfast. And lunch. And dinner.

In-between, we repair computers. “We” being the students who stay with me while I am work, staying and learning. Can you imagine your son or daughter staying with a teacher for 4, 6, 8 hours or more? But they stay right there, learning and helping. And behaving all the while. (No horsing around computers!) Sometimes I go outside to stretch. Because after 46 years my staying in one position for hours and days at a time makes me like a tall lanky achy cranky human pretzel.

But it’s worth it. That’s what it comes down to. You have to be there to see it. I know it being here, and hearing that the school’s 4th graders got top scores in the entire Trelawny Parish—the fifth-largest in Jamaica—on standardized testing and that the school came in first-place for the 3-primary school district of Rio Bueno makes me glad to be alive, but being there, actually being there, and contributing to the success is what gives it meaning for me.

I figure I have been slack in reporting what it is like to be there. Brampton Primary has 90+ students and they just test me one after another: “What’s my name?” And you better remember. So I should tell their stories better.

One in particular whose story I tell is Ravaughn Jones. He’s 13 now and in high school. His nick name is Shorty. It has to do with his height. But in my eyes, he’s one of the biggest young men in the world. When someone needs help, he’s there. If there’s work to be done, he steps up first. He does good because he understands that doing good makes good things happen. Being around Ravaughn is inspiring because he is a young man, and will soon be doing a lot more pursuing of young men things, but he is working hard to do good. And seeing that makes us all work harder.

Another student who stands out is the young lady named Lasana. She is bigger then the other young women. She is around 12-13. And she is shy! And smart! And she really cares. And she really works hard to do well. It’s hard to tell how smart or how shy she is because they go back and forth. Her responsibilities to her family and taking care of the younger kids seem to be the priority. Being there and making a point of acknowledging Lasana as a person who has unlimited potential so that boys don’t get opportunities that she may be better suited is a privilege. I think of it as a privilege. Gender roles figure in and it is important to always keep this in mind but not to forget that possibilities are endless. For both boys and girls.

So I am returning because I made a promise. We are near the end of the start of a process which is reaping amazing results. I return because it is important to be as careful at the end as at the beginning, “for what is nearly finished is nearly spoiled.” It’s ancient wisdom and I would be surprised not at all if it were also Jamaican.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Craig Boorman
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 10:18:37

    I read todays Citizen and would like more info. You are seeking $100 For two hours of computer work? Do you come to me or do I bring my laptop to you? I am here in the Key West city Marina and have to reboot my computer, I have the discs but do not know how to save all my info am afraid if I do this it will be lost. Thanks, Cpt Craig


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