Chapel By The Sea Pastor Committed to Helping Orphanage in Jamaica
It was a chilly day in paradise as Tom Nyman sat on his lanai telling the story of Garland Hall Children’s Home in Jamaica a place close to his heart. For the past 13 years, the Captiva Chapel by the Sea pastor has returned to the orphanage with projects to improve the living conditions for the 30 to 35 school-age children and its staff.
“It was scary,” Nyman said about his first visit to Jamaica following Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. “I took a suitcase filled with toys, but found they wanted a hug instead. They wanted affection.”
When Nyman discovered Garland Hall, he said it was a depressing place. “They had no money, no hope. It was a falling down facility.”
But when Nyman’s group offered to help restore the orphanage, they were met with hesitation. Staff thought the American group would do their good deed for the year and never return, he explained. When they showed up the following year ready to do more improvements, Garland Hall staff and children were surprised. Now, more than a decade later, the children’s home looks forward to the visit.
At the end of November Nyman took his annual trip to the orphanage to create a work plan for the crew’s visit in February, when a team of 23 volunteers will divide into four groups and complete 16 projects in one week. They will repair sections of the roof and a box bay window, build chicken coops and install a new passive solar hot water heater and distribution system, as well as hours of interior work.
“We want to make their home a better place,” Nyman said. “I love Garland Hall.”
While the group of volunteers anticipate getting important work done on their visits, they enjoy bestowing the children with Christmas in February. Nyman said gifts are collected from different churches and organizations to present a ‘gift bag’ to each child. Last year, the Captiva Civic Association donated its leftover ABC Sale T-shirts, which were adored by the children because they were brand new. Nyman’s team has also taken the children of Garland Hall to the beach and even served them a very special treat French fries.
“It’s very exciting for them,” Nyman said of the children eating French fries when rice is a staple in their daily diet. “We want to make a difference in the orphanage; make it a brighter environment and give the children hope.”
In the past, the Mission Jamaica group has built a goat barn for the children to raise goats and improve their diet; shipped nutritional rice packets; and they continue to send new school uniforms and shoes every year.
“We learned some of the kids were not going to school,” Nyman explained. “As it turns out, the poor make fun of the poorer. So, we began sending the new uniforms and shoes. I just couldn’t imagine,” he continued. “It broke my heart.”
While the Minnesota father of four is dedicated to helping the children of Garland Hall in Jamaica, he has also helped build homes through Habitat for Humanity. In his spare time, Nyman said he enjoys riding his motorcycle.
“There is so much in the world to see,” he said with a smile.
Nyman will be returning to Garland Hall Feb. 1-8 with the team of volunteers.
“It’s a vacation with a purpose,” he said.