So Cal Team Refurbishes Jamaica School for Blind
by Dawn Trueblood –
What can a soldier do? A soldier can be a pebble thrown by the Hand of God into the sea of humanity, to make a difference in his Name.
A team of 11 soldiers–Tom Nottle, Bob Bearchell, David Danielson, Gary Gunn, Bob Westing, Pat and Glen Lycan, Majors Chet and Vicki Daniel-son (R), and Dawn and Wes Trueblood–ventured to The Salvation Army School for the Blind and Sight impaired in Kingston, Jamaica, to cause a ripple effect still being felt today.
With money raised by the soldier delegates, gifts of medicine, toys and games from friends and the air transportation sponsored by So. Calif. Division, the team flew out of Los Angeles to arrive on a Saturday. Accommodations were sparse but clean. No hot water for a shower, but the pool was a wonderful surprise. While swimming with the children, you would have two or three hanging onto you at all times, crying, “Teach me to swim, Miss! Please teach me to swim!”
We watched their fingers fly as they played a very energetic game of dominoes. Tiles were felt instead of seen, and numbers were yelled out as tiles were slapped to the table. It was hard to believe that they couldn’t see the game they were playing. Blind children wheeled others up and down the cement walkways in wheelbarrows. Girls walked their dollies and boys wheeled tires up and down the walkways, showing what great control they had over the only “cars” they will ever get to drive. There was a real feeling of caring for each other among the children, as those with limited vision constantly guided and cared for those who were sightless.
Thanks to a gift, new playground equipment is on its way, but did not arrive in time for the team to put it together. Other than climbing bars, there were only two swings for 125 children to play on, and these two weren’t used because cinder blocks were in the ground right where toes were continually being stubbed.
The team found plenty to do, anyway. They removed the cinder blocks from one swing set, and created seats for the two with no swings from wooden planks and chain. They put together a double seesaw, a tether ball pole (big hit!) and a basketball court complete with backboard and hoop. It was not unusual to see five children to a side on the seesaw with one riding in the middle throughout the day.
Colonel Dennis Phillips, territorial commander, said “They totally transformed the School for the Blind…on their last day, the playground was alive with the happy screams of children enjoying the new swings, teeter totters and tether ball. Best of all was the spirit of this team of volunteers who came with a mind to work, minister and serve.”
There were four rooms to be spackled and painted, two doors to be built and installed, hand-rails to be welded back on and painted, a classroom to be moved, and a fence to be taken out and recycled into another fence on the other side of the grounds. With leftover chain, a tire swing was put in place, hanging from a sturdy tree branch out by the pool.The miracle of this trip was that every project was completed.
The team traveled to Rae Town to conduct the Holiness meeting. The only musical instruments in the small, cramped building were a snare and a bass drum, but the music made the walls tremble as the soldiers gave glory to God and encouraged the unsaved to find Jesus Christ during their testimony time.
The team went to Jamaica hoping to be a blessing to others. They came away blessed themselves by the warmth and love of the officers, teachers and children.