Monday, April 9, 2012

Unforgettable Lynn Caruso

Lynn Caruso sharing her love with Jamaican children

from Jean Lowrie-Chin's column - 9 April - Jamaica Observer

Canada’s Lynn Caruso, the head of Students Without Borders, has led generous high school students from her country to serve the residents of Riverton and the St Patrick’s Foundation every summer since 2005. The indefatigable humanitarian also sponsored training trips to Canada for personnel from St Patrick’s Foundation. Lynn, a young 57, died from cancer two weeks ago, leaving husband Frank, himself a keen fundraiser for Jamaica, their children, and countless Jamaican friends to mourn their sad loss. Please keep her devastated family in your prayers.

Post below from

We are deeply saddened to announce that Lynn Caruso passed away after a courageous battle with cancer on Sunday, April 1, 2012. Lynn touched every single person she met in such a profound way. Her efforts through SCB have bettered the lives of thousands of people in Jamaica and her expertise in education has spanned the globe, reaching as far as China and Japan. She will be deeply missed by all who have had the privilege of knowing and loving her.


As a professor Lynn believed in the potential of every single student and pulled out all the stops for each and everyone. She had one student who came to her as an international student sent by his family to learn ECE to take over the family business. He came out of obligation with no interest in ECE however in a reflection he wrote to me he told me about how all that changed when he met Lynn. "Her love, appreciation and respect for children and her passion for Early Childhood Education have inspired and ignited me. I now look forward to a lifetime of teaching."

As a philanthropist Lynn was admirably dedicated. Her work in Jamaica was her greatest passion. She was a sage and humble leader who was never overwhelmed or discouraged. No task was too large and no project out of reach. If she didn't know how to go about it now she would take the time to find out. As a leader she instilled in our participants a generosity of spirit that has left every participant changed for the better. One of the most important lessons she taught me was about judgment. She said, "As adults we see these disadvantaged children and we weep for them. We feel sadness for the opportunities, learning and guidance that they have missed out on. So then at what point do we stop feeling sorry for these children and start to point fingers of blame at them. These same children will grow into adults who may make bad decisions at which point we are so quick to condemn them." This has changed me fundamentally as a person. I see everyone differently and whenever I feel blame or judgment coming on I am reminded by Lynn's voice in my head to be as compassionate towards this adult as I would be towards a child. Her dedication to Jamaica was unwavering, even through her breast cancer; she accomplished one of our biggest projects in between chemo treatments. Even through her recent liver cancer she continued answering e-mails until two days before she passed away. This was a passion we've shared for almost 7 years and a commitment I take extremely seriously and I know that Lynn was confident that the team she left behind consisting of Caitlin, Farnoosh, Terry and myself would carry on the project with the same zeal that she had. And I speak on behalf of the four of us when I say "Lynn, we promise you that we will carry you in our hearts while we continue the great work you have taught us to do. You have prepared us well and we will never give up."

If we could all take a lesson from Lynn's book it's to stop and smell the flowers every opportunity you get. Lynn didn't just do this figuratively, she would literally stop and smell the flowers, she would stop and wonder in amazement at nature's little miracles. Although Lynn has accomplished many great things it is the collection of all the little things that made her remarkable. Anyone can be kind and generous to those they love. That is easy. What is harder is to be kind and generous to everyone. Lynn had an infectious love of life that impacted even those she met in passing and often times even those she had never met. As a result she could impact someone's life without even trying or intending to. I would like to share one of these such stories. The other day I got a phone call from a man I do not know. He said you do not know me but I knew Lynn. I am a manager over at Staples and Lynn came in often to buy supplies for Jamaica. She spoke to me about her projects with such passion and as a Jamaican I was both humbled and inspired. One time at work a woman approached me she said that two weeks prior she was in the store and she heard me talking to a woman about out-reach work in Jamaica. She said she stopped and listened to our conversation because the passion and joy in the woman's voice was attention grabbing. She listened until the woman left and she went home however that woman's voice stayed in her head. She and her family had been travelling to Jamaica for many years and this time she wanted to bring down some donations because she was so inspired by that woman. Some time later she came back to me with a photo of the children she had bought supplies for and she gave it to me, she asked me to give it to that woman and tell her that she did this act of kindness because she was inspired by her. I never did get the chance to give this photo to Lynn and so I'd like to give it to her family he told me.

After I got off the phone with him I sat and cried for a long moment. I was yet again awed and inspired by her, even after her passing. I realized that many people admired her from afar but that I had been given a most precious gift, we had been given a most precious gift because we had the opportunity to know, love and be loved by our hero. Few people get to have a relationship with the person they admire most in this world and although I am wrought with pain and grief and injustice at having this time cut short I am eternally grateful for every conversation shared, for every long meandering walk, for every trip to Jamaica, for every phone call, for every laugh, for every tear, for every challenge, for every hug, for every adventure, for every day. Thank you Lynn, we love you and we will miss you forever.

Before I invite our good friend and Student's Crossing Borders community partner Junior Rowe up here to speak on behalf of Jamaica I would like to end with a quote by Kahlil Gibran, a great philosopher poet that both Lynn and I appreciated.

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Thank you.

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