Marla’s Minute: ACE and AVC

Marla’s Minute: ACE and AVC

Since all the craziness continues in the Education Department in Jamaica over who learns online vs. who goes to school, ACE found a common problem happening among our sponsored students…well, among several common problems.

Most of our students were unable to learn via tablets because they didn’t have one. Then there was the issue of students being given instructions to use their parent’s phone for lessons using data. The problem was there were two to three students in different grades all wanting to use mommy’s phone at the same time, as well as mommy! So, that wasn’t working either. We know these facts because ACE has many parents of sponsored students employed with us who told us, and we heard from other parents in the sponsorship program. No internet, no tablets, no phones and, if a parent works, no supervision. Sound familiar?

We hope it’s better in the U.S. than here because our Ministry of Education is having to correct or modify its policies weekly. And, frankly, I would not want to be in their shoes. They are trying to keep adjust even while the Ministry of Health is making constant changes to the health codes. It really is craziness.

Then ACE had an idea. What if we create a place where at least 30 of our students who had no way of connecting to an online class could do so on a daily basis in a safe environment with adult supervision to help with connections and facility needs?

Introducing ACE Visual Classroom or AVC! AVC will be held at the ACE office at Llanrumney and at the hotel. Beginning November 1st, ACE staff plans to implement a Visual Classroom upstairs in the Henry Morgan room for 15 students, one ACE person, and a volunteer parent. The second AVC will be in the ACE Headquarters office on our Llanrumney property for another 15 students.

The question came up earlier, why just 15 per classroom and not more? In accordance with the Ministry of Education guidelines, ACE is not a school and therefore can only provide enough space per location for 15. If we chose to have more than 15 per location, we would fall under the guidelines of a school and, well, let’s face it, we are not a school. Each location has bathroom facilities, full internet and tables for spacing. We are seeking the advice of principals, former teachers and Board Members on how to do this in the best way possible.

There was just one thing missing from this idea. We didn’t have computers or tablets for our student to join on the internet for their classes. Have you ever heard the expression, “The lights are on, but no one is home”? That’s us. Everything was in place — even the students that will be walking to AVC – but nothing to use.

Then it happened – again. We prayed that God would provide what the students needed to attend online classes and, thanks to a very generous family, ACE has 10 tablets on their way down to Jamaica. These are not cheap tablets, either; they will handle everything the school needs our students to do. Thank you, friends, for making a huge difference in the lives of these young Jamaicans and their families.

Stay tuned for pictures and updates next month.  In the meantime, remember all the PB&J you brought down? ACE is providing lunch for each child who cannot bring a lunch with juice. We’ve got enough PB&J to last us to the end of the year hopefully. Thank God for His ideas on how to create change. When we ask our volunteers to remember some key sayings, it’s because we had to learn them first…. it’s just the way we like it!

Blessings and Very Grateful

Marla

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A new arrival at Green Life Llanrumney Farm

A new arrival at Green Life Llanrumney Farm

Anyone who has ever been to Jamaica with ACE knows that Marla and Allen are not natural farmers – particularly Marla. She can dress the part, but when it comes to knowing how to handle the cows, pigs, and donkeys, well, let’s just say, ACE leaves the real work to the farmers who know what they are doing. When we acquired the property, there were four female donkeys and a “Jack” (male donkey).

Funny enough, they are all pregnant (well, not Jack) and just last week, one of the ole girls gave birth to another female. We thought about asking everyone to come up with a name for our new arrival, but then, it just came to us…. “Covey”… get it?  What do we need donkeys for, someone asked?  We use them for collecting those coconuts we have on the farm whenever we can get to them. Donkeys carry coconuts on their backs.

And yet another one got married!

And yet another one got married!

During this time where the line “and yet another…” seems to be filling our evening news, usually about something bad, we are thrilled to be able to steal that phrase for good news — yet another member of our beloved ACE family has reason to celebrate! Katie Guy, former intern and long-term volunteer, is now Katie Lowery!

Katie and her now husband TJ, tied the knot outdoors on a beautiful day in an Ohio garden. Remembering Katie when she was twelve years old and following her dad, Dr. Steve Guy, around at ACE in Jamaica brought us back to how important making a personal investment into people, not things, can really be. Katie is no longer the young-soon-to-be- teenager; she is now beautiful young lady that not only loves TJ but Jesus.

With the ACE US staff and a few other familiar faces and previous volunteers there to celebrate, the event ended up being a small reunion of years of ACE friendships all packaged together into one perfect evening. A fun fact: Katie’s mom’s maiden name was Lowery!

Congratulations, Katie!

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Marla’s Minute: Keeping it Going

Marla’s Minute: Keeping it Going

For months, we at ACE have been upbeat about writing our monthly newsletters, letting you see how God is “retooling” our ministry for the times at hand and how our Jamaican employees are adapting to new job descriptions to keep working and contributing to the welfare of others as well as their families. It’s been good, and all of us at ACE have been grateful to see the willingness to learn new ways of making income and surviving the COVID year.

For starters, some of our hotel employees have volunteered to move to the Green Life Llanrumney Farms location just on the other side of Port Maria to do whatever is needed. Where we once had employees working housekeeping, they are now taking orders at Buccaneers or raking the yard or trimming the trees. Nationals who were once driving are now helping with the farm animals, clearing the “bush” and installing fencing. It’s humbling to see us as a family doing whatever it takes to survive these times.

Allen and I have read other non-profit newsletters that say without you, they will have to shut down. We strive to not focus on the negative, to never panic in the face of adversity. We try to write these monthly letters from a position of Faith vs Fear. We continue to trust God and we know He is very clear when He speaks through His Word. He cannot dwell in both realms of fear and faith. We must choose one, and We Choose Faith Always.

We are, however, reaching a breaking point. While we are keeping our head in the clouds of faith and will not concede in fear, it’s true we don’t know what will happen to ACE. For the first time in 33 years, we are asking you, our supporters, to prayerfully consider making a donation to ACE not for extras or normal supplies but to literally keep our employees employed and fed. As we enter this 4th quarter of the year, they are very hungry and concerned over what is next. Your financial treasure at this time is greatly appreciated and will keep families together, working, growing and seeing the actions of God in their lives, through your generosity. Will you stand with us as we finish out the year in Faith?

Allen and I have no doubt that this setback, too, is only a season. So much good has come out of this year, as our previous newsletters have mentioned. We are looking forward to 2020 being over, but for the right reasons… to see all we’ve learned and appreciate the journey. King David in the Psalms, whenever he was down and feeling defeated, always looked back on the goodness of God. We, too, at ACE continually look back and see the goodness of God at every turn, and soon we will see how God saves the day.

We are grateful for all our supporters and pray for you and your families. Thank you for considering a donation to help us make it to the end of the year. We have faith in God’s plan and in the people with whom He surrounds us. We at ACE choose Faith, how about you?

Blessings for the Fall Season

Marla

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Solar Sustainability

Solar Sustainability

The utility bills are adding up at Galina Breeze Hotel. Even when the hotel is all but closed, the electric bills are rising. After looking at the actual monthly bill, almost 50% of the bill charges are what Americans would call “junk fees and service charges”.

Thanks to a generous donor, we are on our way to ending our dependency on utility companies and moving to solar energy. Right now, we have installed two sections of solar panels to the hotel, partially taking us off the grid. The first is for our pool pump. With the sun and solar, we are running our pool pump during the day without the utility electricity. Next, we have 40 panels running our office, kitchen and conference rooms up top. When another 50 panels are finished being installed, we will be almost completely off grid for Galina Breeze, short of lithium battery backup.

What does all this mean? First, it means that all the money we have been paying JPS, our utility company, will now go directly into keeping our Nationals employed. Currently, we are down 50% of our employee levels and trying to keep our friends working at least two days a week. Secondly, by reducing our electric bills, we will be self-sustaining and will not have to worry about who controls our costs in keeping the lights on.

When ACE asks for help, God knows our needs and brings people into the picture who understand that need and respond. Thank you, friends, for keeping people working. Currently, our short fall is Lithium batteries for night; they are expensive and we need many to avoid using the utility company as backup. We are still asking God to supply funds for those, and once we have that, we hope to be fully sustainable by the end of the year at GB. And you know what that means, right? Yes, more air conditioning for our volunteers! We might even turn the AC on at 8pm vs 9pm!

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What do you do when you can’t see your friends at the Infirmary?

What do you do when you can’t see your friends at the Infirmary?

This is the question so many people have asked us during this COVID season of masks and isolation. We were asking the same thing at the beginning. At first, we decided to keep the driveway maintained to the Port Maria infirmary which was something we always did quarterly, which at least let us say hello through the fence to our friends like Richard and Christopher who would walk down to wave.

Then we thought maybe we’d bring a nice meal once in a while for everyone. But with COVID, we couldn’t just send food into the compound, so we decided to bring the staff to us at our newly opened Buccaneers Jerk & Juice location.

If you aren’t familiar with Buccaneers, here’s the story: when ACE took over the Llanrunmey farm last year, there was a closed-down jerk centre on the property. ACE decided to transfer the expert kitchen talent and other staff from Galina Breeze over to Buccaneers while still maintaining GB’s Jerk at the hotel.  Guess what? It’s working. People love to stop in for barbeque ribs, hotdogs, hamburgers with fries, and, of course, that good ole Jerk chicken, pork, and fish. Plus, with our Boat House yard and plenty of grass and space, it’s a perfect place to have lunch outside.

So, while the residents can’t leave the property at the Infirmary, the staff can. ACE arranged a shuttle service with a big thank-you lunch to all the essential workers at the Infirmary for two days. Jamaicans are no different from Americans – offer free good food and we stumble over each other to get to the event! Our turnout was delightful. Many of the employees of the Infirmary expressed such gratitude that it prompted us to start planning a Christmas lunch for them. We love the way God continually “retools” ACE to meet the demands of the day regardless of the outcome. Thank you, Staff at the Port Maria Infirmary, for all you do and especially to Matron Burke who allowed them all get away for a bit to enjoy some fresh air and delicious food!

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