The blessings of giving back to the Jamaican people.
Richard and Rhonda Ramey have been visiting Jamaica for over thirty years and have traveled the island extensively. While they have always treasured the natural beauty of Jamaica, they also became all too aware of the poverty, high unemployment, and other issues facing the Jamaican people.
After initial years of traveling to Jamaica just for pleasure, they felt the strong desire to help the Jamaican people by giving back. Their early charitable efforts just were not fulfilling. They really wanted to find something that they could get involved with and physically support.
As fate would have it, on their 2009 trip, guest services at their resort (Couples Swept Away) assigned them a driver named André Whyte. André told the Rameys about a Soup Kitchen named St. Anthony’s Kitchen that had opened in April that year.
Later that day, to the absolute delight of Fr. Jim Bok, OFM, the Rameys and another couple showed up at Mary Gate of Heaven Church totally unannounced with J$80,000 ($540 USD) worth of rice, peas, tuna, and other groceries stuffed in a passenger bus, which had been borrowed from the resort. Fr. Jim acknowledged that the gift was a “Godsend,” since the soup kitchen had only been open for eight months and provisions were in short supply.
That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that is still going strong. The next year the Rameys showed up with a box of pecans, a fitting gift, since they are from Georgia, which is fairly evident by their charming Southern drawl. Fr. Jim was pleased with the pecans, but not nearly as excited as when they instructed him to look under the pecans, where he discovered a rather hefty wad of cash. The Rameys not only brought gifts of their own, but many of their friends from the resort also added to the contributions!
Four years ago, Fr. Jim asked Richard to play Santa for the kids at the Kitchen. Richard had always worked behind the scenes at the Kitchen and liked staying lowkey and out of sight. He did not think he wanted to be out front with the crush of kids and parents, but he could not say no to Fr. Jim.
“It was just as hot and hectic as I feared, maybe even more so,” says Richard. “But being the mythical Santa, holding the little ones, joking with the older ones, giving them the small bag of presents—which for most is the only thing they’ll receive—is a humbling experience.” He acknowledges that his “crusty old heart” melts every year: “Sure it can be a mad house, but there are always magical moments when you know the celebration of Jesus’ birth and his goodness can find its way to a dusty courtyard in the poorest of neighborhoods of Negril,” he says. “Rhonda and I have been blessed by the entire experience way beyond the value of our contributions.”
It is evident that the Rameys feel the joy of giving, continuing their support year after year. They are hopeful, but not certain, that they will be able to make the trip to Jamaica this year with all that is going on in our world.
Thank you, Rhonda and Richard, for your generous, invaluable support of our Jamaican Missions.
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