Dear Fathers, Brothers, Associates, and Friends,
The Passionist Volunteers International (PVI) was started by our very own Father Lucian Clark, C.P. and has been around for about 10 plus years. A group of young men and women give up a year of their lives to serve the needy, the struggling, the sick, the sad, and the poorest of the poor in Jamaica. Each member of PVI has his or her own strengths in many different fields. Some of the volunteers are looking to be doctors, dentists, or social workers when they get back to the U.S.. They spend their days going from one location to another, bringing humongous smiles to the faces of the people that they visit.
Father Robert and I were lucky enough to visit some of these locations and go on a ride-along with some of the PVI volunteers.
We were picked up by Sister Maureen and made our way to our first stop: Holy Spirit Clinic. Here you could see a lot of people waiting to get their blood pressure taken, get their blood sugar checked, or waiting to see the dentist or the doctor in the vicinity. One of the PVI Volunteers, Casey (who plans to become a dentist when she gets back to the States) was the dental assistant for the day. The people in the waiting room were happy to have us visiting there and happy to have all of the volunteers that make this place possible. The patients there even sang us a welcome song!
Caitlin, another one of the PVIs then took us to another location, which was an infirmary in Balaclava, which is run by Mother Theresa's Sisters. There were men and women there, all with different injuries and limitations. The smiles that came to their faces when they saw Caitlin were unforgettable. The patients here, who don't usually get visited by anyone, look forward to their one on one regular visits from her. A man even called her his daughter because they've built such a close relationship. That same man even gave her a manicure as a special thank you to her. The happiness and companionship that Caitlin brings to these people is one of the reasons why this mission is so important. Without the volunteers, would they be getting visited by anyone? It's truly something too sad to even think about.
After leaving Balaclava, Andrea took us to the home of a bedridden woman by the name of Olga. She was so sweet! Even though she was bedridden, her mood and sense of humor were expressed highly through her jokes and her laughter. She was extremely positive and made the best out of her condition by sewing different patterned blankets that she sells. Again, being visited by Andrea, made this otherwise lonely woman's day. It was such a pleasure meeting her.
Our last visit of the day was St. John Bosco School. Here, kids get taught how to read, write, garden, play musical instruments, and even how to become butchers. The school has a free range area of chickens and pigs, which the kids at some point will have to unfortunately kill to learn the craft. This will teach kids a vital part of living in Jamaica and a good skill to have for their upcoming adulthood. As with the previous visits, these kids were very excited to see us and their regular visitors (the PVI Volunteers).
Our day ended with dinner consisting of homemade pizza made by none other than the PVI Volunteers at their home. We also got a full tour of the home they're living in.
This was one of my favorite days in Jamaica. We got to see first hand how a small group of people can truly make a difference in the lives of people who would otherwise feel lost and unwanted. Truly an unforgettable experience. Father Robert and I thank Sister Maureen and all of the PVI volunteers for allowing us to experience this day with them. I will never forget it.