I remember my first time visiting Jamaica so vividly. I had stepped off the plane only a few hours before, but could already feel a strong connection with the island. While staying at the Rockhouse Hotel years later, I learned about its sister organization, the Rockhouse Foundation. Founded as a non-profit, the Rockhouse Foundation is commited to advancing places of learning for children living in Jamaica's Negril area, creating environments that value, support, and provide for both student and teacher. Its work directly impacts the lives of thousands of young people and their families daily.
Immediately, I wanted to get involved in some way. So about 7 years ago, I started visiting the schools. The children remember me by name now. Their greeting, "Auntie Leah, you've come back" melts my heart. Whether I am giving them a new notebook or piece of candy, they soak up every gesture with their sweet smiles and gracious "thank you."
A highlight of my visits is "School Picture Day." Armed with my camera and printer, I take portraits of the students and make copies for them to take home. Watching the children ham it up for the camera is hysterical. There is a real sense that their ear-to-ear grins and happy moods are sincere. It doesn't take long to realize that the Rockhouse Foundation is making a real difference in these childrens' lives.