Debi, one of our writers, interviewed Susan not too long ago about her always-exciting job that often calls her to some of the most remote, hard-to-reach places in our hemisphere. Read on to learn more about the challenges and the blessings of being FFP’s Project Manager for Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana and the Eastern Caribbean.
Debi: You’ve spent 12 years at Food For The Poor, and 10 of those have been in the field, what’s your go-to philosophy when things seem overwhelming?
Susan James: (Without hesitation begins reciting Proverbs 3:5-6) “Trust
in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not; In all your
ways be mindful of Him, and He will make straight your paths.”
Wow, I just surprised myself — I have really become a spiritual person.
Debi: What do you suppose has brought you to this place spiritually?
SJ: You know, it has to be the faith of the poor. It’s the number one thing I try
to learn from every day. The poor have faith that God will help them. And I think, “How do I learn to be more faithful?”
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve met a grandmother in the field taking care of her grandchildren with no food and she says, “God will provide.”
And then here I am with my tiny troubles (she laughs). As I said, I am learning every day.
Debi: I know part of what you do is to help facilitate the building of villages
through the generosity of our supporters, what is that process like?
SJ: First, we have to find recipients. Someone is their voice. Churches or contacts of ours in the areas we work will bring people to our attention.
Recipients are always selected based on need. We’ll go out and check the situation to see what we can do. More times than not, we are saying, “Yes,” whether or not we have the funds at the moment. Our goal is to help the poorest of the poor.
Debi: What about land ownership? How does that work, especially if a family has no land to build on?
SJ: Ownership of land is one of the greatest challenges and tragedies we deal with. Many times the families we visit who live in the worst conditions are the ones who have no way of owning land. This is why if we can build a village, it’s such a relief to us because we can incorporate that family into the village.
Debi: Before moving day, a lot of construction takes place. How in the world do you get supplies to some of the remote, rural settings you build villages
SJ: It’s hard. For example, in New Haven, Siriki, Guyana, just to visit the proposed site we drove across a large land mass, then a bridge, continued driving for about an hour, then we took a 45-minute boat ride on the Essequibo
River, which is massive like the Amazon. Once we arrived on land, we traveled for about an hour on rough roads; we then took another boat up the Pomeroon River, then down a man-made canal.
It really depends on the country and the area we are building in.
Debi: What does an average village include?
SJ: Each village is planned and built based on need. For example, we
constructed the New Haven Village in Siriki, Guyana, to include 70 homes
and a school. Each country has its own struggles and challenges. I know in
Guyana one of the areas has families who row their children in makeshift boats
to and from school — three to four hours each way. Imagine what time they must wake up in order to get their children to school!
Debi:What is your dream for the people we serve?
SJ: I always hope that their lives will be better. My heart is with the children,
and the children having a chance of becoming what they want to become…
not mired in poverty.
For most families, their goal is to send their children to school.
There is one gentleman in Jamaica, we gave him five boxes of bees. We returned and within a year he had 37 boxes — they were even on his roof.
He never bought any bees; he just kept splitting the hives. Now he can afford to send his kids to school, and he wants to teach others how to keep bees.
This is all happening in an inner-city community in Jamaica and in each country where we serve. We’re really trying to help people become self-sufficient. You have no idea of the impact our work can have on an