Mission Trip Helps Travelers Grasp Full Meaning of Poverty

CLEVELAND, Ohio (Oct. 27, 2009) — Thirteen members of St. Paschal Baylon Catholic Church opened their hearts to Jamaica’s poor during a recent Food For The Poor mission trip.

The mission-minded parish united in prayer to bless the travelers before their “Journey of Hope” to Jamaica. After prayer, the parishioners were surprised when 8-year-old Jordan casually walked down the aisle and announced how she planned to use her birthday money. Jordan, who was adopted from Russia several years ago, said that instead of a party she wanted to donate her birthday money to benefit a poor person in Jamaica. Her sincerity and selflessness caused many to reflect on their own lives.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the church,” said Deacon Joe Bourgeois. “She and her adopted brother, Noah, are delightful.”

“We lose our human dignity as human beings when we ignore the needs of the elderly, the disabled, the children, and the homeless,” said Father Bill Fickel. “We have been given what we need. Our lack is charity, to change priority from any wants, to the needs of others.

Richard and Lee Costanzo planned for a year to take a Food For The Poor mission trip to heighten their awareness and celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.

“The trip taught me that the poverty situation is much worse and widespread than I thought,” Lee said. “I am glad we have been Food For The Poor donors for years, but now my eyes have been opened to the huge needs that still exist. It was a very powerful trip.”

As a prelude to their wedding anniversaries Glenn and Debra Rech, and Robert and Doreen Ukovic also traveled to Jamaica to give the gift of presence to the poor.

In addition to the suggested packing list, the Ukovics included their clown costumes. Robert and Doreen, also known by many in Cleveland as Bojangles and Daffney, participate in their church’s clown ministry, reaching out to the homeless. In Jamaica, the duo’s costumes, painted faces and balloon-making skills excited people of all ages.

Scott Dannemiller said the most meaningful part of the trip was, “Being able to change the lives of these people with something as simple as a smile.”

In Jamaica, the group visited Food For The Poor projects including a self-sustaining fishing village, as well as schools and orphanages for handicapped children and those living with HIV/AIDS. Travelers also painted a newly constructed Food For The Poor home, prepared and distributed lunches at a street feeding initiative, and interacted with elderly and handicapped adults at the Golden Age Center. 

“I didn’t grasp the full meaning of the word ‘poverty’ until I came to Jamaica,” said Samantha Spinks. “I have seen what we call poverty in America, and it truly is, but it is wealth in comparison to what I saw in Jamaica. So many in Jamaica would love to be poor in America.”

Robert Ukovic said there is no substitution for the firsthand experience of traveling on a mission trip. During the journey he said he used all of his senses – sight, touch, smell, taste, hearing – and his heart.

To learn more about Food For The Poor mission trips, visit http://www.foodforthepoor.org/mission/ or call 1-800-427-9104 x 6216.

Food For The Poor, the largest international relief and development organization in the nation, does much more than feed millions of hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. We provide emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 96 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor. For more information, visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.

Jennifer Leigh Oates
Public Relations Coordinator
(954) 427-2222 x 6614