May 28, 2021
LeBlanc: So when I finished with my spring semester…there was a hurricane in Jamaica called Hurricane Gilbert. In January, I organized a group of St. Thomas students to go back to Above Rocks and help clean up, rebuild, and stuff like that.
LeBlanc: So this friend of mine from St. Thomas, who was living there and doing his study abroad, introduced me to Angie––Mrs. Hanson––and her family. She was seven. Then, as a senior, I had a chance to do my student teaching in the same school. Even though I was studying secondary education and theology, my professors let me take any job St. Mary’s needed me to do. So they said, ‘We need a third grade teacher,’ and I said, ‘I will study and do my very best!’
LeBlanc: So Angie was in my third grade class in 1990. And she and her aunt––who are the same age–– were the two brightest kids in the class, and their family lived across the road from the church and this whole campus of schools…so they were like my unofficial host family. They were the ones who showed us what the ‘real’ Jamaica was like. It was a lot of doing jigsaw puzzles, doing homework, singing songs, making up games, visiting… It was a lot of really simple connections without doing outings or anything like that.
LeBlanc: It was really a lot of work teaching 3rd grade, and it was really jam-packed with 43 fantastic students. During lunch one time, Angie and her friend Tina came and sat at my desk and Tina got up to leave, and I said ‘Angie, you and Tina are really close friends, aren’t you?’ and she said ‘Yes miss, we even share our lunch.’…And they had enough food, but just enough food, and when there’s food scarcity and so forth, it was like okay that’s what it means to be a friend. And to me, that was as profound––or even more so––than the Eucharist.
Hanson: During the elementary time of my life, that’s when I met Michelle LeBlanc. [She] and my family had a very close bond. So we were the ones who welcomed her to the community, we showed her around, we cooked for her, and she was one of my reading teachers…so that’s where the connection formed.
LeBlanc: So ‘88 was my first time in Jamaica, so all the way through ‘98–– so ten years––I managed to do another student teaching, and then for about seven years in a row, I took high school students on mission trips there, and Angie’s family would be instrumental in hosting us.