Thanksgiving Day, The Caribbean Way!

Remembering Jake Beddoe

By Niki Beddoe

Thanksgiving has always been one of our favorite holidays to celebrate together as a family. In 2023, we had our most memorable one that we will never forget.

My son, Jake, served in the Peace Corps in the Eastern Caribbean during 2018-2019 and was stationed in St. Vincent. He traveled throughout the Grenadines, speaking highly of his travels and experiences. After Jake passed in 2020, I knew I had to take our family there, as it would make him happy for us to visit these islands that held such a special place in his heart. In 2023, we finally made the trip to St. Vincent and Bequia, a small island off its coast.

Jake was deeply impacted by his host family and the children and staff at Diamond Government School, where he worked. He even booked a trip back for April 2020, which to his extreme disappointment was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic. He shared with us the beauty of Bequia, where he vacationed during his service. He often spoke of his desire to take us there one day.

After finding the perfect time when our entire family could make the journey, and making sure the pandemic wouldn’t affect our travel plans, we booked our stay at Bequia Beach Hotel – Jake’s favorite spot on the island. I shared our plans with Amanda at Hands Across the Sea, who quickly connected us with Yvette Pompey and Enna Bullock, her Literacy Links in St. Vincent. Together, we worked to prepare an itinerary for us to visit Jake’s school and host family. They wanted to make sure our experience was the best and covered everything that we wished to do during our visit. They certainly did not disappoint! Yvette and her husband, Mr. Pompey, greeted us at the ferry on the morning of our visit, and off we went…

Our first stop was Diamond Government School, where we were met with the warmest greeting. The principal, Ms. Baynes, took us on a tour to each classroom and the children welcomed us with open arms and many hugs! As we made our way through the school, we noticed some of the staff wearing Jake’s commemorative t-shirts that were shipped over a few years earlier, and his t-shirt was also hanging up on the library wall. These kind gestures touched our hearts and left us speechless.

We spent a long time in the library where Jake worked tirelessly organizing books and creating a welcoming display that reflected his own love of reading. It moved me to spend time in that library, in the exact same spot where Jake had spent most of his days during his Peace Corps service. At the end of our school visit, we were treated to an elaborate lunch spread filled with delicious local cuisine. Many laughs were shared as the children braided Carly and Amy’s hair and crowded around Kirk, passing notes and drawings to them. The warmth and love that the staff and children at Diamond Government School displayed towards us made such an indelible impression.

Next stop was Diamond Village to see Jake’s host mom, Yvette Harry, and his host brothers, Joshua and Caleb. They are located down the street from the little pink house where Jake lived during his service. We also visited with extended family that lives across the street from his host family. Such warm, lovely, people and we knew instantly why Jake’s affection for them grew so quickly. We were shown the cocoa trees in their yard as a family member was working on her home-made hot pepper sauce, which was quite a sight to see! They sent us home with cocoa beans and a recipe for hot cocoa for us to enjoy over the upcoming holidays, along with a bottle of pepper sauce. Both of which were enthusiastically received with love and gratitude!

Thanksgiving Day was spent the Caribbean way – on the water, surrounded by new friends radiating warmth and love, eating local foods, and cheering to Jake with rum punches.

It was a pleasure and a privilege spending time with so many wonderful people during our time in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It was surreal to experience what I had only dreamed of since Jake passed on. Hands Across the Sea turned my vision into a reality. Our visit to the school and our special time spent with Jake’s host family far exceeded my expectations. Somewhere amidst the stories, tears and joy, much needed healing took place. This trip will forever be engraved in our hearts.

Jake Beddoe’s life and legacy remain a blessing. Hands Across the Sea carries on Jake’s love, intention, and generous spirit through The Jake Beddoe Fundwhich supports thousands of children, families, and educators through library and literacy programs in the Eastern Caribbean.

  Learn about Jake and his impact… 

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