TAMPA - Jamaica is known as a tourist destination with some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but three kids from Westchase are learning that there's a lot more to the island country than beaches.
While Kevin Mutchnick, Olivia Moumne and Isha Sharma are about to enter their senior year at Robinson High School, their thoughts are on things beyond Jamaica's beaches. They work with the Jamaica Project, a program that supports disabled and abandoned kids in that nation.
They spent their junior year collecting donations of new or gently used clothing items for children, from infants to 12 years old.
It all started when one of their teachers at Robinson, Judi Charley-Sale, told them about her mother, who works at St. Christopher's School for the Deaf in Jamaica. Many students at the school have been abandoned by their parents. When Mutchnick and his friends heard this, they decided to help.
"We heard about a little girl who was just totally abandoned," he said. "She wasn't even 10 years old. We figured we could do something so we contacted Westchase (Elementary)."
Mutchnick said St. Christopher's is one of the few schools in Jamaica willing to take in those children while trying to make their lives as normal as possible. This summer, Mutchnick, Moumne and Sharma will deliver the clothing and toys to Jamaica.
It wasn't easy to get the project off the ground, Mutchnick said, but it picked up once word got around the Westchase community that donations would help the underprivileged.
"We didn't know how to help at the start, but we made some connections at Westchase Elementary and it started to pick up," he said. "At first we didn't know how it would go, but after sorting through everything, we had more than 500 pounds of toys and clothes."
They couldn't get enough bags for everything they collected, so they are still raising money to get the collections to Jamaica. They will be leaving for the island at the end of July.
To help with the Jamaica Project, contact Kevin Mutchnick at Kevin.firstname.lastname@example.org.