To many, Jamaica sounds like a tourist attraction with beaches and lively music. In reality, the people there struggle with poverty, hunger and poor sanitation.
Kevin Carges of Farmington first visited the country in 2006.
“It was like a conversion experience,” he said. “In the U.S. we have a lot of government programs to help the poor, but the people I met there had nothing. All they have is the love of their families and what’s around them.”
He describes the putrid smell of an overflowing landfill and starving children roaming the streets for food.
After his return from Jamaica, Carges, a deacon with the Catholic Diocese of Rochester, founded a small organization called Deacon Kevin’s Circle of Friends to raise awareness and funds for people living in Third World Countries. It wouldn’t be long before that circle would continue to grow.
It all started in 2009 during a class reunion for the St. John Fisher class of 1984, when Carges talked about his mission to his classmates. He later showed a slideshow depicting images of his travels to six classmates who expressed interest in helping.
Classmate Michelle LaDuke Senglaub says she was shocked by what she saw.
“We can look at all the pictures in the world and still not understand the conditions that they live in,” she said.
She and five others later joined Carges in forming the nonprofit organization called Eight 4 Third World Hope. The seven individuals — Carges, Senglaub and former classmates Matt Shue of Fairport, Jim Carney and Rod Christian of Penfield, Tom D’Amico of Rochester, and Yvonne Chanatry Cheshire, who is originally from Utica.
Although they are spread across the northeast, (Senglaub and Cheshire now live in Virginia) they continue to work on projects in partnership with the organization Food For the Poor, and in January 2012 they plan to travel to Jamaica as a group.
There are seven founding alumni, and Senglaub explains that they consider Jesus Christ as the “eighth” member. Together, they pooled their skills in marketing and outreach to stick to their mission.
It started small, but the project has since grown as a grassroots outreach that’s had visible results. So far, they’ve raised enough funds to build a community school and install sanitary restroom facilities at a second school in poverty-stricken areas of the country. Their next task will be funding the construction of another a primary school.
Carges’ daughter Allison Autry, 27, helped organize a benefit concert featuring reggae jam band, Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad will take place weekend at Lovin’ Cup Bistro near RIT on Sept. 18. The Jamaican theme is one with obvious significance to the organization’s efforts in the country, but she says the show will help spread the word to a younger crowd.
Page 2 of 2 - “It’s important for us to share that passion with people who don’t know what we do,” she said.
Whether it’s buying a ticket to a show or pledging to make small sacrifices to help their cause, her father says there’s no hidden agenda to their efforts.
“We want people who are helping us to see the actual results,” said Carges. “It’s very hands-on. It’s actually plywood and nails and a child getting an education from what help you’re able to give them.”