Jamaica is a country that most see as a beautiful tourist destination with sandy beaches, luxurious resorts and clear ocean waves, this though is not the entire state of this country. In fact, just a few blocks away from the tourist area, lies one of the most poverty-stricken areas in the world.
For Debbie Clem and her family, Jamaica means helping those people, who do not even have electricity, and are unable to eat some days.
Clem began her mission trips four years ago; her husband began going eight years ago and her parents started their mission trips in 2005.
Clem began stating that the conditions in the portion of the country she visits are so terrible that the village gains electricity via a single copper wire and that the villagers carry their water in buckets from a cistern and this occurs within two blocks of the tourist area.
“The children don’t have shoes. In this country you are either rich or poor. There is no middle class,” said Clem.
She stated that there is a 16.5 percent sales tax on everything purchased within the country and that roads are only paved on election years.
“There is extreme corruption in the government,” she said.
In Jamaica, there is no free education for the children, there is no free bus to the schools, students take a taxi.
“The hospitals are frightful, and the sanitation is horrific,” Clem stated.
She said that there is blood all over the hospitals. The sheets on the beds have blood on them and treatment is poor, with people lying in the floor waiting to be treated.
At the schools, children are fed a small bowl of soup and the soup is water with a couple vegetables in it. Sardines are a popular food, due to being a cheap protein product, that doesn’t require electricity for storage or preparation, said Clem.
Clem noticed on a recent mission trip to Jamaica that the children’s attitudes were unruly and that usually they were extremely well behaved. One of the adults told her that was due to hunger and that they had not ate in days.
The people on the mission trip then went to the store, purchased food and prepared it in the kitchenette in their hotel and brought it back to the children and instantly their attitude improved.
In 2012, the mission group began building a church for the villages, which serves not just as a church, but a shelter. In the impoverished areas of Jamaica, the citizens live under blue tarps. Now during tropical storms, the villagers are able to take shelter in the church.
“If you are disabled in Jamaica, you are disowned,” Clem said.
There is no funding in Jamaican government for those with a disability, so they are sent to this small building, with inadequate conditions too.
Once the children reach adulthood they are sent to Jacob’s Ladder, a self-sustaining community, that doesn’t rely on the outside world. They raise livestock, have gardens and do anything else they need. The adults also make trinkets and sell them to tourists, for any money they may need.
“The experience is humbling, to go there and help, and we will continue going back,” concluded Clem.