Happiness is Not a Fish that You Can Catch

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

I Am Thankful For All That I Have

Although I have not made a posting in what has now turned in to a few years, today I felt it needed for me to share what I have experienced in the 5 hours that preceded this post.

Since April 2008 I have been working as a musician aboard a cruise ship. To date, I have traveled down the entire west coast of North American, part of South Central America and through a good chunk of the Caribbean. I have had an absolutely wonderful time exploring many countries and cities, most of which I would have never thought I’d visit during my life. Today, through the thoughtfulness and generosity of our Human Resource Manager here on board, a small group of crew had the opportunity to visit the Queen Elizabeth Home in St. George’s, Grenada. The Queen Elizabeth Home is not an orphanage like many of us first assumed; it is a refuge for children aged 2 – 10 who have been abused by their family either sexually, physically, mentally, socially or any combination thereof. Currently, it is home to 18 children but has seen its numbers rise as high as 61 children in times of hardship, as was the case after the devastating hurricane Ivan back in 2004. It costs almost $40, 000 a month to run the home and they depend on sponsors and donors for the majority of their funding. The government of Granada grants the home $5,000 per month – just enough to cover the costs of food for the children they take care of.

An ongoing drive here on our ship has gathered many articles which today we presented to the home and which was so graciously received. The items included some pots and pans, used clothing, candies, medical supplies, writing utensils, toys and an envelope of cash. Upon arrival to the home, we entered through the front entrance in to a medium sized room with two tables, 3 couches and some stackable chairs. As we took our first glance around, it quickly became evident that this was the only common room in the entire home that served not only as a sitting area, but also as a play area, a meeting room and a dining room. Each bedroom had two bunks, for a total of 4 beds and was accompanied by one closet. There was absolutely no auxiliary furniture – no chest of drawers, no bins of toys, no clothes hampers, no lamps and no pictures. There were three bathrooms in the house; one for the boys, one for the girls and one for the workers. A modest size kitchen had just enough supplies to keep everyone fed and a tiny laundry in the back was home to a newly acquired commercial washer and dryer donated by a family and which is put to use by washing up to 8 loads of laundry daily. As we listened to the chief organizer, Marianne, walk us through the daily life of these children most of us were completely silent, contemplating what it must be like to be living here and to have experienced what these children have at such a young age.

It was evident that the crew that embarked on this journey today all came from fairly privileged backgrounds. A deeper understanding of the difference in our worlds became visible on our faces as we strolled around in our Burberry hats, Gucci sunglasses and Ralph Lauren loafers taking in the sights of their old, broken toys, the absence of books and other forms of entertainment, and the very minimal lifestyle in which they live. Unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity to meet the children that reside at the Queen Elizabeth home because, fortunately, they were at school, being given the opportunity to study at a private institution by way of donations. Once the funding for a child’s education has reached its end, they are put in to a public school where classes are much larger but are placed with the hope that their start at a more specialized institution has provided them with the skills they require to successfully continue within the public system. As the children reach 10 years of age, their time at the Queen Elizabeth Home comes to an end. They are moved to another facility, the Bell Air Home, where they are able to stay up until the age 20. This home, much like the Queen Elizabeth, relies mainly on donations and although we were not able to visit, we were able to send support.

The front entrace.

I have always known, appreciated and never forgotten the fact that I have had a very privileged upbringing. I am still extremely fortunate in all areas of my life and on days like today wish I could give everything I know to help those in need. Although there are always people in need all over the world I feel that the guests that journey to the Eastern Caribbean islands on our ships seem to lose sight of the fact that many islands are still considered 3rd world countries and the fact that most people here struggle on a daily basis just to keep their children fed.

Even though our efforts today may be that of only a few and perhaps a small step towards a very large cause, I know that what we accomplished will help increase the quality of living for many children and let them know that there are people who care and people who are praying for a safe and prosperous future.


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