PORUS, Jamaica — As Harriet Burrell sat with Roy Jones on his shady veranda, neighbors smiled and waved; some stopped to chat.
“No one’s surprised anymore to see white folks visiting with Roy,” the Peru woman said via cellphone from Jamaica, laughing. “Unlike the first year — people stopped and gawked.”
That was 15 years ago, a span of time that has seen Peru Community Church Jamaica Mission volunteers bring assistance to the poor of the central region of the Caribbean island every January.
And they visit Roy, whose catastrophic fall while picking apples in a Peru orchard was the catalyst for the mission project.
In the beginning, the focus was largely on the Jamaican, who was left paraplegic from the fall.
Invariably, someone visiting with Harriet will recall the Americans building Roy’s covered handicap ramp.
Before that, Roy had been carried in and out of his small home in his wheelchair “with four people each holding a corner,” she said.
The Jamaica Mission, while running medical and dental clinics, visiting schools and otherwise conducting a broader effort as the years passed, also doubled the size of the Jones home with the addition of a handicap-accessible bathroom and bedroom.
They also built a kitchen and a retaining wall in the backyard, among other projects.
“I was treated so very good,” Jones said by cellphone, thinking of the missioners’ faithfulness in returning year after year. “I was so blessed to know that they would come visit me.”
The missioners also count their blessings.
“It’s been a humbling experience,” said Sally Osborne Greenwood of Peru, taking a few moments from construction of a small home for Velma “Miss Gem” Henry.
“The people don’t have anything, and they are so grateful,” she said. “And giving somebody a home is an extraordinary thing.”