In the early 2000s, Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon, founder of Mustard Seed Communities, first walked upon a vibrantly green, expansive plot of vacant land in Moneague, Jamaica. With him was a team of supporters who believed in the continuing mission and promise of MSC’s caring and compassionate programming.
They perused the expanse of tall grasses and trees, the hills encapsulating the space – all with a backdrop of the Blue Mountains.
“Can’t you see it?” Monsignor asked his companions as he looked across the land.
Back then, it took an innovative eye to envision it, but today, on that land is a very special place, indeed: Jacob’s Ladder.
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On October 19, 2007, Jacob’s Ladder welcomed its first 6 residents. This month, we celebrate its 15th anniversary, the now 111 residents living in its villages, and all of the staff members and caregivers who sustain it.
Jacob’s Ladder is a home for adults living with various physical and developmental disabilities, including cerebral palsy, Autism, ADHD, Down syndrome, visual or hearing impairments, sensory processing disorder, and more. It is Mustard Seed’s only home dedicated to building a community solely for adults, emphasizing the organization's commitment to lifelong care. In a nation that does not provide facilities to care for individuals with disabilities after they reach 18 years of age, Jacob’s Ladder is truly unique.
Sprawling across 150 acres of land acquired from a bauxite mining company, Jacob’s Ladder is organized into five villages: Antioch, Bethany, Corinth, Damascus, and Ephesus. Each village houses a different number of residents according to ability, mobility, and disability. However, it is important to note that all residents live as one family, which allows all to engage with the entire community despite differences.
The mission of Jacob’s Ladder is built into its name. Genesis 28:12 states, “[Jacob] dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it." This biblical name not only reminds us of Mustard Seed’s Catholic heart, but also of our commitment to accompany one another in love until we all ultimately hope to transition to heaven.
This commitment to lifelong dignity enlivens all aspects of the family at Jacob’s Ladder. Opportunities to receive therapy, perform dignified work, contribute to the apostolate’s agriculture and sustainability initiatives, and participate in spiritual exercises are extended to all residents.
- Occupational and physical therapy as well as annual medical and dental visits are offered to the residents. Additionally, the team from a local hospital, St. Ann’s Bay Hospital, visits twice monthly to assess residents and administer medications.
About one third of Jacob’s Ladder’s residents participate in the apostolate’s program to receive compensation for taking part in various jobs that they enjoy. The “Work and Token Program” is described as empowering by Jacob’s Ladder Administrator Kadiann Drake: “the program sees 31 of our residents being employed in various departments (Kitchen, Laundry, Cleaning, Maintenance, Administrative, and Farm). At the end of each month, they each get a small stipend and are taken to supermarkets to pick up items; this is everything for them.”
Four greenhouses at Jacob’s Ladder grow a variety of crops which are used in-house and sold externally. Many animals are raised on the site, including chickens, goats, and sheep!
Daily morning prayer in the villages and chapel, rosary and midday worship, Stations of the Cross, night devotion, Thank You Thursday, and Sunday Mass are all offered to serve the population’s spiritual life. Jacob’s Ladder is also home to the Mustard Seed Missionaries’ Formation Center which promotes vocations and trains future priests and deacons of the Catholic faith.
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Thanks to the commitment of countless residents, caregivers, staff members, and mission volunteers, Jacob’s Ladder is a thriving community that proves its excellence in inclusion and empowerment for vulnerable members of society. It took many hands to build the community that celebrates its 15th anniversary this month, both figuratively and literally.
Since the apostolate’s creation, professional building teams have made many trips to Jacob’s Ladder. Administrator Kadiann has herself witnessed the immense improvement to the Moneague landscape in her twelve years of service with Mustard Seed.
When Kadiann arrived at Jacob’s Ladder in 2010, 35 residents were living in two villages; today, she operates five villages and oversees the care of over three times as many residents. This is possible because of the hard work and passion of volunteer groups who bring supplies and skills to the buildings of Jacob’s Ladder. Construction teams such as Bob’s Builders comment that coming back to Jacob’s Ladder every year to visit the residents and work on facilities “feels like coming home.”
Of course, mission trips like the one Bob’s Builders take were suspended throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Kadiann was especially inspired by the commitment shown to Mustard Seed’s mission throughout the worst days of 2020. “During lock-down, many staff stayed on property for weeks into months, only going home to check on their families once weekly or every two weeks. This demonstrated love from their deepest being,” she shared. “I see the mission of Mustard Seed being played out in the quality care given to our residents; the selfless love offered to the most vulnerable.”
Mustard Seed Communities hopes to continue to provide this quality care by extending love to the most vulnerable in the years to come. This month, Jacob’s Ladder celebrates its 15th anniversary, and looks ahead to another 15 years of caring, sharing, and training its wonderful and unique residents.