December 30, 2012

Volunteers prepare for mission trip to Jamaica


---- — PERU — Twenty volunteers will travel to Jamaica on a weeklong mission trip to build, heal and teach.

”We cram a lot of stuff in, a lot of work in a short eight days,” said Harriet Burrell, who has organized the trip each year with her husband, George, since it began 14 years ago.

While similar work is done each year, “There’s never been two years alike,” Burrell said. “We’re basically picking up the threads of the various organizations that we’ve been working with and meeting new people every time we go.”

The mission is in partnership with the Peru Community Church. The Rev. Robert E. Svenson will travel to Jamaica with the other volunteers and hold a grief counseling workshop with area ministers, Burrell said.

Word of mouth has yielded many new recruits for the mission, Burrell said. They are the friends and family of local volunteers and they are from all around the country — Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Wisconsin and Connecticut.

Although donations are still needed to cover the cost of building materials and supplies, most everything that will be needed for the trip itself has been secured. The only problem now is fitting it into everyone’s luggage.

”We’re all pitching in and stuffing things in our suitcases,” Burrell said.

The group will leave Plattsburgh at 4 a.m. Jan. 12 and won’t arrive in Mandeville, Jamaica, where they do most of their work, until 6 or 7 p.m.

”It’s a long day but well worth it,” Burrell said.


The mission costs about $10,000 each year, Harriet said.

The goal hasn’t quite been met yet for this year, though.

”We feel the need is great enough that we do what we can and worry about the money when we get back,” Harriet said. “I say we go on faith.”

The $10,000 is not including the travel, transportation and food costs of the volunteers, which they pay for themselves, she said.

”We do fundraisers to raise the money to go,” Harriet said.

Unfortunately there’s never enough money, she added.

”We’re a little bit under (budget) but I have faith that when we get back, money will be there for us to pay all the bills.”


For the first time in five years, a doctor and nurse will be traveling with the group to hold a health clinic in Jamaica.

Dr. Euclid Jones, a former dermatologist, will practice general medicine with the help of nurse Donna Scott of Plattsburgh.

”It’s an exciting time for me since it’s my only opportunity in my lifetime to practice general medicine,” Jones said.

”I see a little bit of everything” at the clinic, Jones said.

Common ailments include bacterial infections, allergies, colds and viral infections.

The group is bringing quantities of medicine to combat these conditions as well as two suitcases full of toothbrushes donated by local dentists. A dental clinic in Porus, Jamaica, will distribute the toothbrushes to more than 1,000 people over the course of the year, she said.

Jones has found each of his more than 10 mission trips to Jamaica with the Peru Community Church highly rewarding, he said.

And simply the presence of mission volunteers gives the Jamaicans hope, he said.

“Just to have someone to be interested in them is hope in itself.”

From early morning to noon, Jones and Scott will see between 20 and 35 patients, he said.

Then they will join other volunteers to help with construction of a new house.


A united Protestant church in central Jamaica identifies families in need of homes and gives their names to the mission, Burrell said.

The mission volunteers work together to build one small wood-frame house on each mission, she said.

They also replace roofs on other homes and perform other small home repairs.

About 25 children younger than 6 years old live in the New Hope Children’s Home in Jamaica, Burrell said.

“Most of these children aren’t really orphans but have been turned over to the home by one or both parents who haven’t been able to take care of them for financial reasons, usually.”

Employees of the Children’s Home work to find permanent homes for the children.

Mission volunteers will bring with them a portion or more than 60 handmade little girls’ and boys’ outfits, which were donated to the Peru Community Church.

Members of the mission will deliver the outfits and do repairs on the building, while leaving time to play with the children, too, Burrell said.

Another facet of life that will be addressed by the mission is education.

Nancy Fegan, a retired kindergarten teacher, will distribute school supplies and teach young children who attend a primary school in the area about the North Country, Burrell said.

“We’ll be broadening their horizons a little bit,” she said.

The volunteers will end their mission trip in Negrill, a town on the ocean, where they will debrief and relax after a hectic but rewarding week, Burrell said.

Donations may be sent to the Peru Community Church, Jamaica Mission, P.O. Box 38, Peru, NY 12972.

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