Owen and the Clifton Home for Boys

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bernadette Zuniga, Moravian '13, is a Nursing major.

When given the opportunity to write for the blog, I found it very difficult to set aside time. This task was not difficult because I did not want to; rather, I was enjoying myself so much that time slipped away from me. The first time I tried to write I began to write the date at the top of the page--until I realized I had no clue as to what the date actually was. At school my life is in strict accordance with dates, schedules, and planning. Here, I am free. Here, in Jamaica, there are "no worries."

I wish I could write everything that has happened during these last few days. However, since that is not possible at this moment (we gather as a group for some reflection time in a few minutes), I will share one particular story that occurred earlier today.

As usual, we left Camp Hope at around 8 AM to disperse to our various work sites. Today, I returned to Clifton Home, an orphanage for boys who cannot or do not live with their families for a variety of reasons. After 45 minutes on the bus, we finally arrived at Clifton. Unlike other children we have met, these children seemed to be a bit more reserved. One boy, Owen, was particularly special to me.

While resting on the porch, a group of the boys and the group of visiting college students were talking and exchanging their dance skills. Owen asked if we had ever been in New York. As a New Yorker, I responded and said yes. He explained that he has family in New York and in Maryland. Tracie, an Ursinus College student and Bonner Foundation participant on this trip, asked Owen why he does not live with either of these families. He looked at us and signaled to give him a minute.

After some time passed, Tracie and I forgot we'd even asked the question. But later, seeing that we were alone and away from the rest of the group, Owen came up to us and began to say, "The reason I do not live in America is because . . . ." I was shocked that Owen remembered our question.

As Owen talked about his family, about his educational hopes, about his connection to Jamaican culture, I cried. I felt that this 17-year-old boy in front of me was the most selfless and humble person I have perhaps ever met. He seemed to me like a walking Christ. I feel that I was destined to meet and hear the story of Owen. Owen brought reality to me. He opened my eyes and made me truly realize what is most important in life. I promise to myself that I will never forget Owen.