May 25, 2003 - Jamaica Aids Support: My name is Laura Lindroth and I am a United States Peace Corps volunteer. I was assigned to this country to work for two years with Jamaica AIDS Support

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Jamaica: Peace Corps Jamaica : The Peace Corps in Jamaica: May 25, 2003 - Jamaica Aids Support: My name is Laura Lindroth and I am a United States Peace Corps volunteer. I was assigned to this country to work for two years with Jamaica AIDS Support

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, May 25, 2003 - 10:56 am: Edit Post

My name is Laura Lindroth and I am a United States Peace Corps volunteer. I was assigned to this country to work for two years with Jamaica AIDS Support

My name is Laura Lindroth and I am a United States Peace Corps volunteer. I was assigned to this country to work for two years with Jamaica AIDS Support

Testimonials from People involved with JAS

The impact “Life’s Work” has had in the lives of clients
seen through the eyes of Laura Lindroth – Peace Corps Volunteer

My name is Laura Lindroth and I am a United States Peace Corps volunteer. I was assigned to this country to work for two years with Jamaica AIDS Support. My main role there is supervisor of a project called Life’s Work in our Montego Bay office. Life’s Work is an income-generating, work-therapy project for our HIV-positive clients at JAS. It was started over seven years ago in our Kingston headquarters. JAS had found that many of their clients were in need of income after they became sick. Very often they are forced out of work when their employers discover their HIV-status, regardless of whether they are still healthy and capable of working at full capacity. Therefore, JAS decided to provide them with a sort-of arts and crafts work-therapy project making candles. The clients are thus able to come together in a place where they feel safe and supported both by the staff and one another. They earn a small amount of income from the sales of their craft, but what is probably more rewarding for most is the feeling that they are still capable of working and creating something truly beautiful.

Life’s Work has now grown from a small work-therapy project in Kingston, to a small business island-wide. Our Montego Bay office began our Life’s Work greeting card project just over three years ago, and the office in Ocho Rios started making soaps soon after. JAS now has its own line of handcrafted products all designed and made by Jamaicans living with HIV/AIDS. The candles come in a variety of shapes, sizes, scents and colors and can even be made to order to match a particular color and/or favorite scent. The soaps are all-natural and vegetable-oil-based with essence oils of peppermint, lemongrass (fevergrass) or rosemary added to them. The most popular design is our heart-shaped, lemongrass-scented soap. The greeting cards are created using dried flowers and grasses native to Jamaica for the designs on the front of the cards. One of our clients got really creative and started making little people on her cards out of the various flowers and leaves. This last year we were able to upgrade the cards from using basic, imported typing paper to supporting a local Jamaican paper manufacturer called Greenleaf Papers in Ewarton. The handmade paper we now use in the cards is made from a blend of sugarcane residue and recycled office paper, and is absolutely beautiful.

It is always amazing to me to see what Life’s Work has meant to so many of the clients who have been involved in any of the three projects. Perhaps one of the most profound experiences was with one of our clients who I’ll call Meredith. Less than a year ago, we received a call from Meredith asking for help. The first time my co-worker went out to see her, she was not there. About a month later, Meredith called back and apologized that she had been too frightened to meet with JAS that time, but that she was now ready. When my co-worker discovered Meredith that next time, she could barely suppress her shock at what she found. Meredith had been so depressed and terrified by the discovery that she was HIV-positive, that she was virtually in hiding. Everything about her showed how ashamed and negative she felt about herself. Her hat was pulled down over most of her face; her shoulders were slumped; her appearance was neat but downtrodden. JAS took her into our office in Montego Bay where she met some of the other clients and was introduced to the Life’s Work project. The next time JAS came to pick her up, Meredith was visibly happier. Her hat was gone, but her shoulders still folded inward almost as if she was protecting herself from the outside world that had treated her so cruelly. By the third time JAS went to pick up Meredith to come for her first day of work on the greeting card project, Meredith was wearing a sleeveless dress, stood upright and had a huge smile on her face. She was carrying some books in her arms and looked very much like a schoolgirl ready and eager for her first day of classes. Meredith had never held a job up until she came to work for us. She was only in her early twenties and had spent most of her time caring for her children. She took her work for the Life’s Work project very seriously and always remained as professional as if she were employed for a major corporation. It was amazing to see the transformation in this young woman from being very shy and withdrawn into becoming one of the most outgoing and friendly of our clients. At our Christmas party, just a month or so after Meredith first came to JAS, guests were positively floored when this gorgeous lady walked into the room wearing this hot red dress and looking like a movie star. Those who did not know she was positive would never have guessed it in a million years. She was absolutely glowing that night.

Another client I remember fondly was a man I’ll call Mr. Sunshine. This man had such an inner beauty and positive spirit about him. He had a smile that would warm your heart and made him easy to love. He had worked at odd jobs for most of his 50 or 60 years of life supporting himself and his family. For him working on the Life’s Work card project was a challenge, as although he had worked with his hands he had never done anything really artistic before. Mr. Sunshine worked very hard at his flower designs trying to get them just right. His first attempts were far from pretty, but over time he found his niche and began to produce cards that were truly charming and uniquely his in design. Through Life’s Work, Mr. Sunshine was able to pay his rent and send his son to school. One Christmas a member of JAS saw Mr. Sunshine downtown buying a few small gifts and it made her smile knowing that it was with the money he had earned through Life’s Work. Soon we began seeing Mr. Sunshine at JAS every day. Oftentimes he’d arrive even before the staff members he was so eager to get started on his cards for that day. It was therefore not surprising to any of us that the one time we took a two-week hiatus from the project was when Mr. Sunshine passed away. He had not been visibly sick, although he did have AIDS. We think his spirit sort-of gave up when he did not know what to do with himself without the cards to look forward to.

One final client I’d like to tell you about was a girl we’ll call Tamara. When she came to JAS she had been told that she was probably going to die very soon as she was in the final stages of AIDS. Tamara was so thin at that point she looked like she might just break into pieces and be blown away by the wind. Even so she found the strength to work on the cards as it gave her a reason to keep going. She had to work on them lying down, stopping to rest every few minutes. Tamara expressed the thoughts of many who have worked on Life’s Work when she said, “Society has treated me like a weed to be thrown out. But I have found a way to take their weeds and make them into something beautiful, and in a way that has made me more beautiful as well.” She went on to live a full year beyond when the doctor had told her she would die.

One-third of the proceeds from Life’s Work go directly to the clients as income, one-third goes into their medication fund to provide JAS clients with free or low-cost medications to treat their opportunistic infections, and one-third goes back into the project itself. We are struggling to keep the Life’s Work projects going right now as we are in need of project supervisors for both the Kingston and Ocho Rios offices. Our candles, soaps and cards are really unique, high-quality products that make great inexpensive gifts. Our prices range from $40 to $500 (US$1 to US$10) and you can find the Life’s Work products in many of the hotels and gift shops island-wide. You can also purchase them directly through JAS at any of our offices in Kingston, Ocho Rios or Montego Bay. We are currently working on a Life’s Work website where our products can be ordered directly on-line, and this should be available to the public by the end of this summer. Our hope is to expand our market globally and to see Life’s Work grow to the point where it can actually help provide a real means of income for JAS to help make the organization more self-sustainable. When you buy one of our Life’s Work products you will not only have purchased a fantastic craft, but you will have the satisfaction of knowing you have helped save the life of a fellow human being. For more information on Life’s Work, please contact our headquarters at (876) 978-2345.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Jamaica Aids Support

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Jamaica; Aids Support



Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.