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A local Bible study teacher and hair stylist is taking at least a dozen students with behavior problems on a missions trip. The students will help build homes in Jamaica.
"It's going to totally change the children," said Conversion Salon owner Lana Hudson, who teaches the Awana Bible Club at Greater Second Missionary Baptist Church. "We're staying with the people in the village, not in a hotel."
It will be the first time many of the students have left Chattanooga. It will be the first time Hudson and all of the students have been to Jamaica.
At least six other adults from Chattanooga will travel with the group as chaperones. Hudson's group will travel with Caribbean Lifetime Ministry, based in Acworth, Ga.
Howard Principal Dr. Paul Smith selected six students. Brainerd High School Assistant Principal Dr. Charles Mitchell is selecting at least four students and Hudson is extending an invitation to two students from Washington Alternative School.
Hudson said she is willing to take as many children as the group's fundraising efforts will support.
Local businessman Rick Davis donated a Jaguar to raise money for the event. Hudson is asking for a $20 donation to be included in a drawing for the car. The drawing is scheduled for April 20.
Donations of any amount will be appreciated and used to help the students go on the trip, she said. The goal is to raise $1,200 per student.
Hudson said she will also schedule meetings with parents to discuss fundraising efforts in which students can participate.
If all goes as planned, at least 12 teenagers will leave Chattanooga in August for the weeklong trip to Jamaica to build houses and maybe change local students' perspective about life, said Hudson.
Kimberly Bell is pushing her 16-year-old son, D'Marquis Bell, to go.
D'Marquis declined comment. Then his mother spoke.
"He doesn't appreciate the freedom and privileges he was born into," she said. "It may not be the best education in America, but it's free. I hope he sees how other kids want an education and they can't get it. And I hope he comes back and says an education is something to be highly valued and that he won't take it for granted."
Some children in Jamaica have to pay $125 a year to attend school, Hudson said.
Bell says her son has academic ability, but he needs to change his attitude and behavior.
The Bells live in public housing. But even people in public housing have running water in America, Bell said. Some children in Jamaica have to get water from outside of their home. And the same water used for drinking is also used for bathing and washing clothes, said Hudson. There is no public housing where residents get a utility allowance and air conditioning in Jamaica, Hudson said.
She said she hopes that seeing how other students value life helps children from Chattanooga to have a greater respect for their lives and others.
"When they go there and see how those children have nothing, yet they are happy, it's going to touch their hearts," Hudson said.
Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...