SHE might have relocated to a country where there are resources in abundance, but Florida-based resident Apolone Keaton has not forgotten those living in rural Hanover and the struggles some Jamaicans often endure due to financial constraints.
It is for this reason that she decided to launch House of Hope Community Connection Inc which makes annual contributions particularly to students in Hopewell, Hanover. The foundation was officially started back in 2010, and Keaton has been coming back each year to distribute school supplies to various schools in the community. The most recent school was Cacoon Castle Primary School where students were feted and given backpacks with items they will need to start the new school year on the right footing.
Keaton left Jamaica for the United States just out of high school, and apart from her volunteering in her own group, she also assists with organisations such as the Talented Teen Club, United Way of Central Florida, and Travel Mate USA.
As a result of her commitment to giving back, she was given the 2014 Talented Teen Club Community Service award for her dedication to fostering the educational needs of young children in Jamaica.
"House of Hope is a passion of mine. It is something that I started back in 2010. In fact , I have been doing it for years, but I hadn't given it a name. I have been doing it with the Talented Teen Club for the past 14 years in West Palm Beach, Florida," she said.
Keaton's sister, Shawn Ho-Hing, is the founder of the Talented Teen Club and has been making an impact on the global community in her own way. Her organisation is primarily focused on mentorship and outreach.
"I have learned over the years that money cannot drive you; it has to be your passion, and your God- given talent and the money will come once you are lined up with God," said Ho-Hing, a cosmetologist.
Both sisters said they could not escape the path their lives have taken, because they were raised to give back. They came from a household with 10 children and parents who were known to give their last to those in need.
"My mom was always a giver and so we grew up giving back to our community. We are always helping, so that's where I get my drive from, and we have learnt that it is in giving that we receive," she said.
The two sisters are often supportive of each other's foundations, and so Ho-Hing was on hand to help her sister with her distributions when they visited Cacoon Castle Primary last week Friday.
Keaton admitted that getting the things to Jamaica has often proved to be a hassle due to the various bureaucratic situations she encounters, but this has not weakened her resolve to give back.
"It is not going to deter me, because it is something that I enjoy doing. I love giving back to kids," stressed.
"We are trying not only to mentor the kids, but to give back to the kids who need it most, because when I came here a couple of years ago I saw the need. It's like the resources are not there," she added.
Keaton, who is a travel advisor, believes that things today are worse than they were when she was growing up, and her sister concurred.
"I left Jamaica thinking I was rich until I returned and saw other places, and it was like, 'Oh my God, this is really hard', and this is why I commend my sister so much, that she has the heart to come back and serve," said Ho-Hing.
Keaton said most of the funds that go into her foundation are out of her own pocket. She said that although she gets donations every once in a while, it is often hard to explain to people why they should be giving to a country where they have no roots.
"When I bring back the information and tell them what the condition is and what the needs are, it's much easier for them to donate," she said.