Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Week of Thanks

This week the Gapsters continued to work in two groups--one building homes, and one visiting Dunnottar School and Upton Gardens Girls' Centre. A filling meal was enjoyed on Thanksgiving after a day of cleaning up the local beach. The week ended by attending house blessings for the two homes built over the past two weeks by the Gap students, Good News Project volunteers, and local Saint Lucian staff.

The crew readies themselves for Thanksgiving day... half going to the build site,
the other half going to clear up trash at the local public beach.

On Monday, the building crew from last week headed off to Upton Gardens to kick off their week in the classroom, as the remaining eight students began their building experience. After spending meal times with Pat and Mo and hearing stories about Reggie, Saint Omar, and Boi from last week's build crew, the new building team was eager to start on their building project. These eight students started their project by selecting an old paint shirt, a paint brush and getting a short safety lesson from Pat. Unfortunately Mo had to return home early, but luckily Saint Omar was able to step in and help the crew. The day consisted of cutting lumber and a LOT of painting (which may or may not have turned into a paint fight!). Thanks to Laura, Mo, and last week's building team, many of the house beams and ceiling boards were already cut, painted, and ready to go. This helped make the two days of painting shorter, which allowed the Gapters to escape the intense St. Lucian heat.

On Monday, the 'classroom' group went to Upton Gardens Girls' Centre where all of the students taught and played games with each other. The Gapsters taught the girls Pterodactyl and Ninja--two games popularized during Outward Bound--and the Upton students taught the Gap squad a few of their traditional ring games!

This week's build crew getting right to work on the roof!
On Tuesday, the group arrived in their paint splattered clothes and completed the finishing touches on the painting. Three coats of yellow paint later, the lumber was ready to be made into a home. The work day was a short one, because the all of the Gapsters seized the opportunity to go back to Sir Arthur Lewis Community College and watch the final production of The Ritual. This was a short play performed by six girls in the theatre program at the college, for which we had previously watched the rehearsal a number of weeks ago. We were all excited to see the final product and sit in on a question and answer section at the end.

Sir Arthur Lewis Community College puts on a fabulous production of The Ritual.
While the builders were busy working back at the Pastoral Center, the classroom crew was helping set up Christmas decorations and baking Christmas cookies at Dunnottar School. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday were spent at Dunnottar School and Vocation Centre with the excitable students. The Gapsters played games and taught social skills to the Dunnottar children . Each student of the 'classroom crew' was designated a Dunnottar class, in which to observe and teach. 

On Wednesday, Autumn and Christian were able to go with the kids to swim lessons at the local recreation center. Many of the Gap students were disappointed that they didn't have their swimsuits with them, because the Dunnottar kids looked like they were having so much fun in the pool! Later in the week, the classroom crew ran or walked with the kids as they practiced for their school "marathon." Some of the kids planned on walking the entire two miles, while others--some of the more ambitious students--felt like sprinting! Each Gap student was paired with a Dunnottar student to accompany on the marathon. Working at both Upton Gardens and Dunnottar brought out each Gap students' inner-child during the week.

Morgan Manthei reads with students at Dunnottar
On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday the build crew worked at the house site to get the walls and roof up. On Wednesday, the house building team began their day by loading up the freshly painted lumber into a truck and heading off to the building location. The build site was located at the top of a small hill. There was not a road going directly up to the site, so the crew had to carry all of the lumber and supplies up a trail. The path was muddy and filled with rocks, but the students were ready to take it on because of their experience portaging in the Boundary Waters! Once all of the lumber was carried to the site, the builders were ready to start constructing the house. The build crew had extra help this week from Savannah, the mother who will be moving into the home with her two children Jeremiah and Katara. Everyday Servanna and her boyfriend, Rafael, showed up eager to work and ecstatic about the continual progress on their new home. The students got the chance to learn more about Servanna's life and her children over peanut butter sandwiches and lemonade during their lunch breaks. After a week of sweat, hard work, and laughter, the new house was complete and ready to be made into a home!

Using teamwork to muscle-up one of the four house walls!
On Thursday--Turkey Day--most of the students woke up feeling a little homesick for their families and the traditions they celebrate on Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, the Gapsters soon realized that they would be spending Thanksgiving with a new kind of family, and that they have much to be grateful for. The day's activities began by picking up garbage at the local beach. Some of the rare finds included an old radio, bottles, and yes, even a cell phone. After cleaning up the beach, they returned to the Pastoral Center to begin cooking for the Thanksgiving feast that night. A few of the students prepared some of their very own family recipes including Kate's cranberries, Jake's stuffing, and Christian's calico beans! All of the students were asked by Laura to write down five things that they are thankful for and to be prepared to share those things with each other at the evening meal. Students arrived promptly at 6:00 pm, in their finest attire, and were joined by their Lucian friends, Saint Omar and Reggie, as well as the token Canadian--Pat. The kitchen crew at the Pastoral Center was kind enough to make chicken, mashed potatoes, squash, and many other treats to go along with the spread of Thanksgiving foods. After stuffing themselves, everyone read another person's list of five things they were thankful for, while the rest of the group guessed whose list it was. The night was filled with lots of laughter and lots of incredibly good food. The Gap crew was very thankful that they got to spend Thanksgiving with their second family at their home away from home.

Collecting trash at the local beach. They filled over 13 bags of trash!
On Saturday, the two groups merged back into one and ventured out to bless the two homes that the groups had built in the previous weeks. At the blessing, we presented the families with bread, so they never go hungry; water, so they never go thirsty; and salt, so that their life may be full of flavor. A short prayer and song was shared and then the students got the opportunity to talk and socialize with the families. First stop was the first build crew's house that is now home to Michelle and her four children. Second stop was at the second build crew's house which is now home to Servanna and her two children. Both Servanna and Michelle expressed extreme gratitude towards the students and The Good News Project for giving them a safe place they can now call home.

Michelle's House Blessing

Servanna & Raphael's House Blessing
Thanksgiving St. Lucian
Overall, this week revealed the many things the students have to be thankful for. The group realized how lucky they are to have a roof over their heads, a quality education, a supportive family back home, and a new family of Gapsters.

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