Photo courtesy of Michelle LeBlanc
Mission trips are a great way to connect with communities through service and many students and teachers at BSM have gone on mission trips in the past. Senior high theology teacher Ms. Michelle LeBlanc went on a mission trip to Jamaica this past spring break with her son Sean LeBlanc.
LeBlanc participated in a mission called St. Mary’s while she attended the University of St. Thomas, spending two semesters volunteering in Jamaica. “When [my husband and I] first got married, we did a year of service there, and then, for 10 years straight, I brought groups from Catholic organizations there for mission trips. I hadn’t been back in a while, so I wanted to take my junior son and show him and volunteer together,” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc and her son stayed in a small town in rural Jamaica called Above Rocks and, in total, spent 12 days in the country. They did not simply volunteer; they also experienced Jamaica’s culture as they flew into the tourist area and spent their last couple days in the capital. “We spent a day and a half on the north coast, so I showed [my son] the touristy area, and we got to see the beach and enjoy that. We [then] headed towards our mountainous village and went to Above Rocks, where St. Mary’s is, and we spent one week teaching grade four [classes]. Then we spent our last two days in Jamaica in the capital city just to get a feel of a developing country,” LeBlanc said.
For the majority of their trip in Jamaica, the LeBlancs volunteered in Above Rocks at schools. “We were assistant teachers, [as] the classrooms are overcrowded and understaffed. Because I was a teacher there before and I know how overworked the teachers are, I asked my son if he would be willing to be a teacher’s assistant for the week. We helped in a grade four classroom and mostly marked books [because] they [write] everything in an exercise [text]book, like a notebook,” LeBlanc said,
Along with being understaffed, many of the schools lack resources and supplies. “They don’t have worksheets because they don’t have any kind of printer or anything. They did all of their work in a notebook, so we would get a stack of 40 notebooks after the lesson and we would correct them and sometimes just tutor the students,” LeBlanc said.
Overall, LeBlanc had a phenomenal trip volunteering and spending quality time with her son over spring break. She is connected to Jamaica through her past schooling and helping others is a huge part of her life. “I feel like my faith calls me to the margins. I’ve always felt called to always remember the poor. [The trip has] renewed my drive to put my faith into action to help the vulnerable,” LeBlanc said.