Bruce and Rosalie Broding wrap arms around Jamaican kids

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Rosalie Broding has a love festival with the children of Jamaica every summer. It started as soon as she walked into her classroom for the first time in 2008.Four years ago, when Bruce Broding told his wife, Rosalie, “I have an opportunity for you,” she was very reluctant to accept.

The location for this opportunity was in Jamaica, a country with a tropical sun that never stops blazing, and Rosalie is no hot-weather fan. But once she arrived her resistance instantly melted.

“A half a moment with the kids, that was it,” Rosalie said. “Those kids were heartbreaking.”

Because they care, the Lake Oswego couple were able to help a lot of children who badly needed it. The children paid the Brodings back with love.

“We get a lot more out of it than we give,” Rosalie said.

“This has been one of the best-kept secrets,” Bruce said. “I can’t understand why more people don’t get involved. The Jamaican people are very poor. They’ll take any help people will bring them.”

The children were quite amazed to see Rosalie and were constantly patting her and hugging her. By the last day of her service, she said, “They wouldn’t get off my lap.”

While Rosalie worked in the schools, Bruce, an electrical engineer, was wiring up the country for technology, seeing more parts of Jamaica than many Jamaicans ever see. He has also arranged for the delivery of many computers and computer parts, software and games. Plus, he trained a young Jamaican man as a computer repairman, noting: “It will help prevent chaos.”

The Brodings’ service trip was under the parent organization Great Shape! Inc. The nonprofit organization has some remarkable achievements, like establishing the largest humanitarian dental program of any country in the world, serving more than 15,000 Jamaicans. Meanwhile, the literacy project SuperKids has touched the lives of 22,000 children by providing education, providing uniforms and shoes and planting breadfruit trees.

Rosalie Broding has a background in real estate and human resources management but had no experience teaching. But, serving with the SuperKids program, she jumped right in and helped the students in language arts over two weeks every summer since 2008. In part because of dedicated people like Rosalie, Jamaica has seen its literacy rate climb by 15 percent in recent years.

“That is a huge amount,” Rosalie said.

She was also instrumental in an effort to raise $685 for the purchase of school uniforms for the children of Broughton Primary School.

“Children can’t go to school without uniforms,” Rosalie said. “It’s the difference between a kid going to school or not going to school.”

This humanitarian effort in Jamaica began in 1988 when the nation was shattered by Hurricane Gilbert.

Two women from Medford, Georgene Crowe, a hairdresser, and Gretchen Lee, an aesthetician, decided they could make a difference.

Bruce Broding’s sister, Lois Langlois, has been a longtime volunteer with the dental project, becoming known as “the clipboard lady.” When the organization added computers to its program, Langlois contacted her brother. So, Jamaica has turned into sort of a Broding family reunion spot for two weeks every year.

The Brodings get a glow on their faces when they talk about the Jamaican children.

“This has turned into an amazing relationship,” Bruce said. “They want us to come back every year.”

The Brodings want other people in Lake Oswego and West Linn to consider joining them in Jamaica for two weeks in the summer.

“We share our story a lot,” Rosalie said. “We want to inspire other organizations to take part in this. It’s just a passion for us.”

“The perfect person would be a recently retired school teacher,” Bruce said. “Someone with a lot of energy who wants a new experience.”

One great aspect about their volunteer work in Jamaica is that the Brodings can be as human as they want to be. Teachers in American schools are under tight restrictions when it comes to physical contact with students, but Rosalie can hug the kids and kiss them on the head all she wants — which is only a natural response when they are melting you with love.

Working with kids has long been an important part of the Brodings’ lives, but working with Jamaican children has been a whole new thing for them.

“It’s just a thrill,” Rosalie said. “All I can say about it is ‘wow!’”

For more about Great Shape! Inc. go to Sandals Foundation has been a crucial benefactor for the organization, raising more than $1.5 million.

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