Needham trip

Gifts of books and backpacks help rural community in Jamaica

Posted: Nov 25, 2020 | Author: Cornerstone League
International Relations  Jamaica 

What started as gifts to a few local children has grown into a school library in Trelawny, Jamaica. Several years ago, Marsha Needham, director of education and development at People’s Trust Federal Credit Union, noticed that she and her son had accumulated several hundred books over the years.

Needham trip 1

Local children in Trelawny, Jamaica, enjoy books donated by Marsha Needham, director of education and development at People’s Trust Federal Credit Union.

“When we went home to Jamaica, the kids were so excited to read my son’s books,” Needham said. “So, on the next visit, I brought a suitcase full of books and never stopped.” Although this small rural area is not where Needham grew up, her parents and grandparents live there. Needham says that she experienced love and a strong sense of belonging and community during the times she spent there. So she wanted to give something back.

At first, Needham would give books to any child or parent who came by the house, and this went on for years. Then after attending Credit Union Development Educator training in 2017, she expanded her vision. “I thought why not give it to the school so they could start a library, and that was the beginning.”

Needham trip 2

Thanks to the generosity of Marsha Needham, a school library is established in a rural community in Jamaica.

She does her best to visit Jamaica at least twice a year, and on each visit, she brings suitcases full of books or backpacks. “My brother and I started working together to buy backpacks,” Needham said. “Amazon sells 24 backpacks for $79, and each month we buy a set each, and in July or August, we bring them down [to Jamaica] to distribute for the school year starting in September.” This past August, she delivered 375 backpacks.

She added, “When I see the impact—the joy on the children’s faces—it’s not only inspiring but gives me a sense of community and purpose.”

Needham trip 3

In August, Marsha Needham delivered 375 backpacks to help children prepare for school in September.

Needham wasn’t sure she would get to visit in August due to COVID-19, so she didn’t let the community know she was coming. After she arrived, a mother approached her and said, "I wish I knew you were coming. I just bought my grandbabies a backpack each for $6,000 [in Jamaican dollars]. I could have used that money to buy uniforms.” That’s about $45 in U.S. dollars for a backpack, and the quality is not as good as the backpacks purchased from Amazon. All the same, the mother was grateful for the care and support shown by Needham.

“The impact I believe just my brother and I can and have made in the community exemplifies the ‘people helping people’ philosophy,” Needham said. “For me, it’s not charity; it’s what I have to do; this is my contribution to leveling the playing field for this rural community in Jamaica.”

Needham trip 4

People’s Trust Federal Credit Union Director of Education and Development Marsha Needham helps establish a school library, bringing hundreds of books from Houston to a rural community in Jamaica.

She added, “I’ve learned that Godly compassion, resources, and need are a great platform to do good. The twelve development issues [from DE] have become my beacon. This isn’t all I plan on doing. By God’s grace and His continuing provisions, I will take what He’s placed inside on my heart and align it with what I’ve learned from the credit union movement and keep making my small contributions.”


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