GS!I Inc.’s Heartfelt History

Founders

A whole lot of heart, dedication, and inspired intention went into the creation of Great Shape! Inc. Read on to learn our family’s history and how we came to value the power of inspired service.

Founded in 1988, Great Shape! Inc. was created by three strong, determined, and dedicated women who shared a passion for service and the greater Caribbean community. Myrtle Franklin, Georgene Crowe, and Gretchen Lee came together to build a non-profit organization that would bring literacy programs, dental care, eye care, and teacher training projects to the communities of Jamaica and St. Lucia. Whether they were nestled in their hometowns or traveling to the Caribbean, the birth of Great Shape! Inc. required each female founder to foster unstoppable dreams and practice unwavering loyalty to serving individuals in need.

Though Franklin, Crowe, and Lee were forever inspired to serve in Jamaica, there was a greater event that sparked their interest to create Great Shape! Inc. As Hurricane Gilbert destroyed most of Jamaica in 1988, the organization’s three female co-founders wanted to rebuild what had been lost and “create family” to heal the suffering of Jamaicans. To kick start their efforts, Franklin, Crowe, and Lee threw a Reggae party in Ashland, Oregon where they obtained ample amounts of resources and supplies that would serve their efforts toward rebuilding the island. With their duffle bags in tow, Great Shape! Inc.’s fearless female founders set off to begin the first of many impactful humanitarian efforts set forth by their organization.

At the wake of Hurricane Gilbert, Franklin, Crowe, and Lee were able to help build schools, community centers, roads, and sponsor students and uniforms in 1988. This was the true beginning of Great Shape! Inc. and its efforts to restore the Caribbean community. In 2003, the program 1000 Smiles was launched by Great Shape! Inc. and became the world’s largest, international, and humanitarian dental project. 2008 then brought SuperKids on the map. Great Shape! Inc. is proud to be home to SuperKids and its efforts to enhance literacy and the building of computer labs in the Caribbean school systems. During the year 2009, Great Shape! Inc. then launched its eye-care program known as iCARE then created its Dental Sealant Project in 2010. Finally, Great Shape! Inc. launched Teach the Teachers in 2011 to bring opportunities for professional development to Jamaican teachers.

Great Shape! Inc. is truly a labor of love created by individuals whose passion to serve is unprecedented. We are more than proud to share our history and the incredible milestones it took to bring forth endless humanitarian efforts to our beloved Jamaica and St. Lucia.

Here’s to many more years of continuing our legacy of love! And to our three founders- thank you for making our love possible! 

A Volunteer Love Letter

Dear GS!I Inc. Volunteers,

From magical moments to times of challenge, we’ve seen the greatest examples of love created by YOU. Each and every one of our volunteers has the innate ability to set their needs aside to serve the betterment of others. It’s the most humbling experience to work beside your generosity and marvel in the inspired impacts you create for Jamaica.

At Great Shape! Inc., we believe in the power our volunteers hold to create family both near and far. Though our organization has found a home in the United States and the Caribbean, we’ve managed to spread love, earn love, and give love no matter where our work has taken us.

But this love is only able to fully arise through the tireless, dedicated, and passionate work of our volunteers. So this is our love letter. To our past, present, and future volunteers, we want to thank you, praise you, and let you know just how valued you are to us.

Every gesture made both small and large by our volunteers is a blessing that certainly makes a difference.

Every lesson learned and story shared along the way has made our family stronger, brighter, wiser, and a little more astute to serve.

Every ounce of love you give…Know it’s always appreciated, honored, and seen as the greatest gift.

We LOVE you! Continue to shine, give, and be a part of our tradition of One Love. We are endlessly thankful for you.  

Many thanks and blessings,

GS!I Inc.

Our Volunteers INSPIRE

Great impacts arise when our volunteers travel to the Caribbean. Every moment of our time spent serving is full of care, intentional guidance, and great love that can be felt from miles away. Each individual that chooses to volunteer with our family changes lives, gains new perspectives, and discovers a new hope for the greater good of our world.

Valorie Tresnor, a previous iCARE volunteer, shared her volunteer experience with us. Her inspired recollection sheds the utmost  light upon the incredible work of our programs and the individuals who make each trip to Jamaica & St. Lucia worthwhile.

“Hundreds of people are waiting in line when we arrive each morning, many of them haven’t been able to see for years,” Valorie says. “We take great care of them with exams and then the magic moment when our doctors prescribe the perfect glasses happens. They cry with joy when they see our faces for the first time.” 

To us, it’s the simple moments like this one that give our work value. Knowing that we are able to inspire the lives of others fuels our purpose, gives us strength, and dedicates our cause to placing the needs of others before our own.

Our family is always looking to expand. Join us to use your talents and help inspire our beloved Caribbean community! Click here to learn more about being a GS!I Inc. volunteer. 

One Love, One Family, One Purpose.

Great Shape! Inc.

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Sandals Foundation Reaches Years of Success!

Great Shape! Inc. is more than proud to partner with the Sandals Foundation! The humanitarian organization is celebrating its milestone of achieving thirteen successful years partnering with GS!I Inc. to improve the health, community, and education of the Caribbean

Much to our happiness, Great Shape! Inc. is honored to be a part of the Sandals Foundation’s ability to create lasting impacts. According to the organization’s website, Sandals Foundation President Adam Stewart attributes much of this success to the incredible partners the foundation has fostered over the years.

“We’ve been really lucky to have achieved so much in such a short period of time, exceeded all of our own expectations, and we couldn’t have done any of it if it wasn’t for our valued partners, donors and guests and of course our team members,” Stewart says.

Though the Sandals Foundation so graciously provides housing and amenities for our volunteers, the organization does much more than that for Great Shape! Inc. The Sandals Foundation endlessly supports our cause, provides consistent care for our team, and wholeheartedly believes in our mission to inspire and improve the communities of Jamaica and St. Lucia.

Without the Sandals Foundation, our work just wouldn’t be possible! It’s an honor to work with you each and every day.

Article Link

Volunteer Vocab

 

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Whether you’re volunteering with Great Shape! Inc. or giving back to your local community, inspirational quotes are helpful tools to keep in mind throughout the experience. During emotional moments and opportunities that bring pure amazement, look upon these three phrases for motivation. Write them down, take them with you, and begin to discover the meaning in your volunteer excursion!

  1. “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” –Mother Theresa, Roman Catholic nun & missionary

The simplest of gestures can make the greatest impact on the life of another. As a volunteer, always give your best effort to each endeavor! We guarantee you’ll make the world into a more fulfilling place to call home.

  1. “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Audrey Hepburn, American actress

It’s important to remember that your volunteer experience is meant to improve and serve the lives of those who need it most. Even so, it’s equally important to remember to care for yourself throughout the trip. Our ability to care for others expands once we’ve truly learned to love ourselves. Be sure to nurture your own needs and place the energy of your well being into inspiring others!

  1. “You make a living but what you get. You make a life by what you give.” – Winston Churchill, British statesman

During times of stress, it’s easy to forget our purpose and capacity to serve.Remembering to share your whole heart is the surest way to create the most incredible volunteer experience. Whether you’re serving for a couple of hours or a couple of months, what matters most is your ability to give all you’ve got to the community around you!

One Love, One Family!

1000 Smiles – Promoting Dental Health & Personal Wellness

Toothpaste, a toothbrush, and running water in the house are commonly found around the bathroom sink of children raised by families fortunate enough to afford them. But these three essentials are often taken for granted. The children we serve in Jamaica and St. Lucia lack these basic necessities for dental health.

According to the Campaign for Dental Health, “Children living in poverty have about five times more untreated dental decay than children from higher income families.”

The Campaign for Dental Health also states that inadequate oral health can affect children’s “ability to eat, speak, and learn, further cementing social inequities already stacked against this vulnerable population.” Tooth decay is the number one leading health problem in the world, and it’s completely preventable.

At Great Shape! Inc., we are proud to serve this cause through our 1000 Smiles and Sealant projects. Serving the communities of Jamaica and St. Lucia, 1000 Smiles is dedicated to providing exceptional and free dental care and dental hygiene education, through the help of volunteers, the Sandals Foundation and Ministries of Health.

Help promote dental care locally and around the world by volunteering with our Great Shape! Inc. family TODAY!

Link- http://ilikemyteeth.org/a-perfect-smile-comes-at-a-cost-how-poverty-and-food-insecurity-cement-disparities-in-oral-health/

JAMAICA – Teach the Teachers Needs YOU

 

JAMAICA! Looking for a fulfilling summer? Apply TODAY to volunteer with us in Savanna la Mar for Great Shape! Inc.’s Teach the Teachers program and stay at Sandals Resorts FOR FREE!

From July 29- August 15, 2016, help provide Jamaican primary school principals and teachers with the essential tools, materials, and resources to sustain successful lesson plans in Language Arts, Computer Sciences, and Reading Comprehension.

30 volunteers are selected for this incredible opportunity and are required to pay a $750 project fee. This fee, as we like to call it, is how we “make it happen” and are given the means to restore endless educational opportunities to the beautiful Caribbean.

Be a part of our tradition of spreading love, education, and gratitude in Jamaica. Sign up now to share your talents with us!

Visit https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1L1L9ldkkSkOmUi0S0Ht9nYRDRae3K1LroGXJGOOrtlg/viewform or www.greatshapeinc.org to learn more.

Join us to bring the most meaningful end to your summer!

 

Great Shape! Inc.’s “Guide to Volunteer Success”

Ghandi once so wisely said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” This quote rings exceptionally true in the lives of Great Shape! Inc. volunteers! Through the many years we’ve served the great community of Jamaica, our volunteers always return to their home soil feeling forever changed and impacted by their experiences.

Even so, giving of oneself to improve the life of another can seem like a daunting task. Especially for first-time volunteers, traveling abroad to serve an unfamiliar environment can be overwhelming. Those who have volunteered many times before can feel just as anxious when boarding a plane to serve abroad.

But not to worry! Our Great Shape! Inc. team has a few words of advice suitable for any incredible volunteer. Whether you’re prepping for your first or sixth time volunteering abroad, be sure to read our “Guide to Volunteer Success” to create a memorable humanitarian experience!

Great Shape! Inc.’s “Guide to Volunteer Success:”

  1. Keep an OPEN MIND

Volunteering comes with great opportunities, experiences, and lessons that are often far outside your comfort zone. Learn to embrace the journey with a positive and welcoming outlook!

  1. “WE, not a ME”

Choosing to volunteer is an opportunity to focus our energy toward caring for others. As service is rooted in community, place yourself in a “WE, not ME” state of mind. This means serving with the intent to benefit the communal good of the world around you. Remember- it’s all about ONE love, ONE family!

  1. Reflect

Volunteering can bring great life-changing experiences that may require some reflection. Once the day is done, it’s a great idea to create some quiet time to write in a journal or meditate by the sea or talk it out w/ a friend. On some Great Shape! projects, debrief sessions are actually facilitated by a team leader. These exercises can instill new perspectives that can shape your experience into something truly meaningful!

  1. Inspire Curiosity

NEVER be afraid to ask questions! Curiosity is born out of seemingly regular tasks, concepts, and new ventures. Volunteering is an experience of learning… Ask and you shall receive!

  1. LOVE

Choose to serve with love! Make a conscious effort to tap into the deepest parts of your heart and let your caring self SHINE! If you are able to love deeply and care wholeheartedly, your time as a volunteer will certainly be worthwhile.

Get Creative in the Classroom with Great Shape! Inc.

There’s always room for creativity in the classroom and our literacy volunteers are influential magicians! When creating a lesson plan, it’s a great idea to let those creative juices flow to keep students engaged and eager to learn something new.

When learning to read, young students can often feel frustrated and bored. Likewise, teachers can feel defeated if their students don’t immediately respond to their lesson plan. If you’re a full-time teacher or Teach the Teachers/SuperKids volunteer, it might be time to lively up your next lesson plan and/or share insight with each other!

What’s our latest and greatest tip for education creativity? It’s simple – be VISUAL! When teaching new vocabulary or verbal pronunciation, create large visual representations of the lessons you aim to teach. Whether you’re teaching the word “apple” or incorporating The Cat in the Hat into your classroom, colorful photos are helpful in getting youngsters to properly retain information.

It’s also an opportunity for you to spend some time getting extra crafty, creative, and artistic! To us, creative lesson planning sounds like a win-win scenario bound for success.

Meet Tami Ressa- Let It Shine’s Executive Assistant!

It takes a village of strong, hard working, and passionate individuals to create the magic of Great Shape! Inc. and Let It Shine Media!

An integral member of our “village” is Tami Ressa! Tami is Let It Shine’s Executive Assistant who works tirelessly to keep the team on track.

Born and raised in Spokane, Tami attended Gonzaga Preparatory High School and went on to receive her degree in Sociology and graduate with honors from Gonzaga University. Tami’s honorable recognition from GU was due in large part to her extensive research on homeless men, women, and children in Spokane – an experience that allowed her to gain new perspectives.

Conducting my research allowed me to learn that a majority of people are only one or two paychecks away from being homeless,” Tami says.  “Not everyone has a support system and those who are homeless are really no different than us.”

After college, Tami’s journey led her to become an Administrative Assistant at Gonzaga Prep and then onto running the office for Spokane Chiropractic and Sports Injury Clinic. Soon enough, Tami crossed paths with our communications director, Lucinda.

I’ve always been a people person,” Tami says. “Working in the field of communications allows me to step outside my comfort zone. And I love working with Lucinda!”

The immense and unwavering amounts of energy, positivity, and encouragement that exist at Let It Shine keep Tami coming back for more. She firmly believes in Let It Shine’s ability to do great things for people locally and globally, as she’s been fortunate enough to volunteer with Great Shape! Inc. in Jamaica (November 2015).

Volunteering with Great Shape! Inc. allowed Tami to directly experience the impacts of her work and mission at Let It Shine.

It was an amazing experience,” Tami says, “It was inspiring, enlightening, and sad all at the same time. Seeing our work come to life was a positive reinforcement that allowed us to make a difference in the lives of others.”

When Tami isn’t collaborating in our office, you’ll most likely find her in the kitchen or spending time with her family. Tami’s husband and two children are her “world and greatest priority” while cooking is a great joy.

I’m always learning to cook new things!” Tami says. “I love to entertain people and create a meal whenever I can.

Through Tami’s relentless drive and inspired intention, there’s no doubt she’ll continue to promote the common good of what these two organizations do best- spreading light to those who need it most!