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by Brad Aubin
It was their 10th trip to Jamaica, and Franco-Cité’s young missionaries continued building on the work of previous groups to make life easier for the country’s impoverished residents. This year, there were 32 students and 12 adults who spent 11 days in Jamaica, leaving West Nipissing on Feb. 7th, focused on building homes and a “honey house” where locals will be able to better harvest from a bee farm built by a previous Franco-Cité group.
Every other year for about two decades now, Franco-Cité has been making the long journey to Braes River, Jamaica, an impoverished community in the Caribbean country. There, they work with a mission run by Sister Grace Yap, who facilitates their efforts. Over the years, they’ve built homes, helped improve schools, medical facilities and farms to make the locals more self-sufficient. This year was no different, according to organizer and teacher Roch Lachance.
He says the trip was “a big success for sure. It was a great time and everything went off without a hitch. From taking off to Toronto, to coming back home on the 18th, everything was fantastic. We’ve done this enough now that we know what to expect when we get there. The logistics are already in place and when we show up, we get to working right away.”
This year’s agenda included building two homes, one 16’ x 12’ and one 16’ x 16’) as well as helping out in three different schools. “The students all worked very hard as did the adults. We were able to do everything we needed to do and everyone had fun as well as, I think, learn some important lessons in humanity. The goal for Marcel [Bougie, co-founder of the initiative] and I is simply to give the students a unique experience, an experience to hopefully make them all better people. A lot of the students commented on the poverty and I think that’s important. In Canada, or West Nipissing, of course there is poverty. But the poverty is a little different. It’s not something we can see directly with our eyes… families will keep the heat low for a lower heating bill, or maybe they have to skip a meal. But when you travel to Jamaica, or travel to Braes River where we do our work… you see it right away. You feel it,” describes Lachance.