Jack Osborne traveled to Jamaica with a Food For The Poor mission group in July. Here, he shares his story.
One day during our Mission Trip, while visiting the people of Jamaica, my life was affected dramatically by a very sweet young boy. We visited Martha’s Village, a former leper colony which houses people with physical and mental disabilities, as well as children born with HIV and AIDS. The children were in a separate, fenced-in area of the village. This is where my life changed forever. As we walked into the village we passed a house where the children were sitting in the front room waiting anxiously. They were listening to their caretakers explain why we were there to visit. I caught the eye of a little boy through the window. He had a beautiful, big smile and sweet, innocent eyes.
The group I was with, Food for the Poor, a non-profit organization based in Florida, sat at a picnic area waiting for the children to come out and play. As soon as the kids were released, the first person out of the house was Jimmy. Jimmy, a four year old boy, weaved in and out of every visitor there — made a bee line directly to me — and jumped on my lap. He was immediately fascinated with my blue-lensed sunglasses. He wanted to see every side of the glasses. I’m sure he had never seen anything like them before. He asked me to take them off so that he could see my eyes. As I did so, he smiled tremendously. I put the glasses on his face and it was evident he felt proud of and good about himself. Then he felt my iPhone in my pocket and asked if he could play with it. Shortly after he began to play on the iPhone we were surrounded by many other children asking to play. One of the older boys just grabbed the game out of Jimmy’s hand. Jimmy shrugged it off and looked back at me, alternating the glasses between both my face and his.
One of the other boys asked me Jimmy’s name. After I told him with a bit of an inquisitive tone, he explained that it was Jimmy’s first day in the village. We had been told that many of these children are abandoned or placed in Martha’s Village because of their poor health. Perhaps these children were not wanted, or perhaps their families’ lacked the ability to care for them. Many thoughts rushed through my mind.
Without a word, Jimmy stood up, grabbed my hand and led me to a toy car situated near a row of wheel chairs. Jimmy hopped in the car. The steering wheel was not working and there was no means of moving the car unless it was pushed. I began to push Jimmy around the yard and without even thinking he put his hands on the top outside of the front wheels and began directing the car. Wearing the sunglasses the entire time, Jimmy looked like a little NASCAR driver. I pushed him around the yard non-stop for about 30 minutes.
When we were told that it was time to go, I bent down and told Jimmy I had to leave. He immediately took the glasses off of his face and handed them back to me. I told him to keep the glasses because he looked great in them. I also told him that if he was ever scared, to put those sunglasses on and no one would be able to see him. He immediately flashed a gorgeous grin and gave me the best hug of my life.
This was an incredible experience. It hit me as I stepped back on the bus. I was overwhelmed with emotion. It must have been absolutely terrifying for such a young child to be moved from his family and home because of a medical condition. I cannot imagine his loneliness and how awful it was to be sick without the love and support of his family.
In the United States, there is access to the necessary medicines to assist patients like Jimmy living with HIV and AIDS, but unfortunately this isn’t the case for these children in Jamaica. These children did nothing to deserve the cards they were dealt in this life. They are so sweet and innocent. By accident of birth into a third world country and inflicted with illness, they are unable to live their lives to the fullest.
These children live their lives at Martha’s Village. They die there. Then, they are buried at this former leper colony, in a white mausoleum, built especially for them. It is situated outside of a small church in the village courtyard near a shrine of Our Lady and across from a statute of St. Jude – the patron saint of hopeless causes.
I am hopeful that one day children with this illness will no longer be hopeless causes.
Needless to say Jimmy and the rest of the children I encountered have touched me deeply and will always have a place in my heart.