by Lee Noles
STALLINGS – Brooke Hudson considers herself to be your typical American teenager. She cheered at football games in high school, likes makeup and has a keen eye for fashion.
But a mission trip to a poverty-stricken town in Jamaica last April enlightened and empowered the now 18-year-old Union County resident to want to do more for other people.
Hudson is now using her talent for calligraphy to decorate and sell an assortment of seasonal and holiday crafts she hopes will raise enough money for her to return to Harmons Valley, Jamaica.
Harmons Valley is a small rural community in the country’s South Central mountain region. The area is contending with a massive unemployment problem, where as many as 75 percent of its people are unable to find steady work.
“You shouldn’t be afraid of what God has in store for us,” Hudson said of making the trip. “I think I got too used to where I was in life and what I was doing. I just knew I had to take a leap of faith.”
The first step came last year when someone from her church convinced Hudson to get involved with Won by One. According to the ministry’s website, Won by One is located in Harmons Valley and helps organize seven-day missions for people to go into the community and participate in the construction of homes and visit schools and medical clinics.
Hudson flew to the Caribbean with Team Church. While the living conditions of the people there proved to be eye-opening, the welcoming the group received touched everyone.
“People were waving and showing a tremendous amount of appreciation,” Hudson said. “Their heart was the opposite of sad. They genuinely loved us.”
During her time there, Hudson and other volunteers worked with masons from Jamaica to build hurricane-resistant homes. According to the Won by One website, despite building 50 homes a year, the ministry still has a waiting list of 200 families in need a permanent residence.
The cost to participate in the mission is around $1,600 and covers the flight, food and lodging, as well as supplies for construction. Hudson wasn’t sure how she was going to raise the money last year, until she visited Pinterest and saw someone using calligraphy. Hudson previously learned the writing style through Youtube, books and journaling with a Bible study group. It was right then she knew going on the trip was meant to be. Hudson’s parents, Gay and Jack, donated plastic pumpkins which Hudson wrote different sayings relating to autumn. Hudson raised more than $1,000 by selling the pumpkins with donations from family and friends offsetting the rest of the cost.
“I knew God was going to provide in some way,” Hudson said. “And people don’t realize the talent they have and the good they can use it for. It was good.”
Hudson has changed things for her fundraiser this year by using her calligraphy on wood cutouts of pumpkins. She also has added Christmas ornaments to her repertoire.
The trip last year inspired Hudson in many different ways. One was a chance meeting she had with a young Jamaican girl whose name is Onelia. Hudson said during the evening the mission groups and residents of the town would congregate in a courtyard to play music, read and participate in sports. It was there in which Hudson met Onelia and quickly became enamored with the little girl.
“She came up to me and just gave a big hug,” Hudson said. “She was always giving me hugs.”
The evenings in the courtyard with Onelia meant so much to Hudson that this year she is hoping to use the money from fundraising and what she has saved since her last visit to sponsor the child’s education.
“It’s pretty hard to get an education there,” she said. “There are children who have to literally walk miles and miles to school and if it’s books or anything, I would love to be able to help.”
How to help
View or purchase Hudson’s crafts to help with her mission trip by visiting her Facebook page. Visit www.wonbyonejamaica.com to find out more about the work Won by One does in Jamaica.