OKOTOKS, ALBERTA—Neilly (Little) McDougall originally from Gore Bay, and her two young sons recently made a trip to Jamaica, donating supplies to a local school, and helping out at a church that helps feed the needy.
“It feels good giving back,” stated Ms. McDougall, of the trip she and her two eight-year-old twin boys, Teigan and Ryder ,made to Negril, Jamaica recently. “It made me feel so good just to see their faces of appreciation,” she said of the visit and donation to the local school. “It was a great experience for the boys and fantastic for them to learn about another culture and experience what we did and to get to see how others live. All week after our visit the boys kept asking if we could go see their ‘new friends’ again.”
With her husband Kyle (McDougall) visiting Manitoulin Island for the deer hunt season, Neilly decided to that she and her sons should visit Negril. She explained, “we visited a small school called Risen Messiah Basic School which has three classrooms and 54 students ranging in age from two and a half to six-years-old. The resort we stayed at helped us choose a school as there are so many. We would have loved to help more if we could.”
“When we pulled into the school the boys thought they had the coolest playground, which consisted of a couple of painted wood structures and tires,” noted Ms. McDougall. “They were very impressed and couldn’t wait to play.”
But they were there for another, more important purpose as well. “We jam packed two 50 pound suitcases full of stuff to give away,” she explained. “We specifically donated 50 pounds of school supplies to this school consisting of markers, pens, pencils, crayons, calculators, erasers, craft supplies—the necessary suppliers our students would use. The boys helped me purchase them before our trip.”
The second suitcase was also full of donations consisting of lunch kits, backpacks, toys, stuffies, hats, clothes, jewellery and some of their favourite candy to share.
“Our second visit was to St. Anthony’s Kitchen, sponsored by Mary Gate of Heaven Catholic Church, which I had researched before we went,” continued Ms. McDougall. She explained, “this small one room 20 feet by 20 feet feeds the less fortunate Monday to Friday each week and provides generous meals and other basic necessities to the resort town’s less fortunate.”
“The only one of its kind in Negril, St. Anthony’s has become a beacon in the busy resort town,” continued Ms. McDougall. “Close to 200 persons are fed each day through a breakfast program which is offered primarily to children and a lunch program which caters to both adults and children. Along with soup, chicken, and rice, vegetables are provided on the menu for a balanced meal. We arrived at 7 am just before the school kids and Ryder and Teigan helped hand out peanut butter and jam sandwiches, egg sandwiches and hot chocolate.”
She pointed out the children, “all have such great manners and they line-up and are so orderly! The boys then got to hand out the goodies they brought for them and see the children’s faces light up. They got to hang out, chat and play before the ‘bus’ picked the children up to take to school. A van pulled up and about 40 kids all piled in and off they went.”
“The rest of our stay was also amazing,” said Ms. McDougall. “We stayed at the Royalton Negril, and I couldn’t imagine staying elsewhere. The staff went above and beyond to cater to our every need, the entertainment was fantastic, as was all the restaurants. The boys made some great new friends and spent countless hours in the pool and ocean the two weeks we were there. It was pure bliss and we are looking forward to our next visit.”
Ms. McDougall said, “we have visited other countries and Jamaica is by far our favourite. Our first time visiting Jamaica was this past April and we fell in love. The people are so kind, friendly and would bend over backwards for you. Yes, there is crime there, however it’s everywhere. Along with the amazing people, we love the culture, the food and of course the turquoise waters and white sand.”