Sahlman Blog Series: Part 9 – One Love

A series by author Susi Sahlman

This is the 9th post in a series by author Susi Sahlman. This post was originally published on Susi’s blog, Sahlman Art Blog. You can check our her beautiful St. Martin themed original artwork here

December 16, 2017 – We are trading beauty for ashes. Come and see. It is here in the smiles of the innocent. We were privileged to ride along side Jeff Jhangiani and Jacky Rom on what is now part of their daily routine as part of their newly formed All About a Smile organization. Everyday takes them someplace new. The hidden places in plain sight. Places tourists pass on their way to beaches, resorts or restaurants.

On this particular day after picking up supplies, the destinations were the I Can house and CSI, both a hub of community resources, especially for children.

Right in the center of Middle Region stands the colorful rectangular I Can house. We were greeted by the house mother Cassandra. Seemingly from out of nowhere we were surrounded by a group of curious children. They ranged in age from three to eighteen years old. We brought them much needed vegetables, fruit, and flour. The children have been growing up here, this is their home.

I was invited by the children to see their rooms. A small hand reached out to lead me. Each room had two-four beds that all were neatly made. They were sparse without clutter of toys or possessions, only clothing, which didn’t seem to amount to much. They were so proud of how clean the rooms are kept. They are quite competitive about it. Friendly, sweet, smiling faces made my heart melt.

The youngest girl is three. Her name is Kaylee. She has Cerebral Palsy. She cannot sit up on her own. Her limbs have no muscle and have become rigid. She has no insurance access and there is no more additional monies to continue physical therapy. She loves music and knows her name. Jacky held her the entire time and Kaylee clearly loved it.

Photo via Susi Sahlman

One boy had requested a ball. Which we delivered to him. For the longest time he would not take it from the box. It was his gift and he was relishing every moment. Reluctantly the box was removed, acknowledging that this kind of gift is best shared. All the boys ran to play basketball. That one ball gave so much joy to so many.

It was hard to leave but we had another stop to make. Right on the Main Street in Quarter D’Orleans in a tarp covered building, half of which was blown out completely, was were we met Jennifer and Troy. We came to deliver snacks and juice boxes. Jeff had been given a suitcase full of toys from a family with a little girl. Troy set out all the items on the table and allowed each child to choose one. The boys didn’t care that they were for girls and joined in. Troy removed a couple of games to be kept on site, that way the kids could enjoy sharing them when they come back.

While we were there a French woman took a group to the side. She taught them breathing exercises and is helping them work through the trauma of Irma. I thought, “These kids must be from families in the neighborhood.” Some are, but the rest are orphans taken in by godmothers and fathers. Jennifer, Troy and other volunteers take great care of these kids who flock there daily.

On a previous visit, not long ago, Jeff and Jackie brought the center a bookcase. It was already filled with books for the children to read. They have done much with so little. Before Irma they had a vegetable garden. They also had a couple of laptops the children and adults could use, but looters made off with them. The kids know this is a caring place and enjoy coming regularly.

Beauty from the ashes, one love binding them all together.

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Susi Sahlman

An artist and blogger, Susi has a passion for the island of Saint Martin. She's been visiting the island with her husband Bill for 21 years. You can follow her blog at sahlmanartblog.wordpress.com and see her artwork at zoozees.wixsite.com/sahlman-art.

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