Volunteer in Jamaica: Seeing Another Side of the Stunning Island

August 31, 2015
jamaica, jamaica culture
Volunteer in Jamaica: Seeing Another Side of the Stunning Island

When thinking about Jamaica, the majority of people would picture a beautiful beach with soft, white sand and crystal clear water. While this may be the case, there is a whole different side to the country that so many people are unaware of.

I got a glimpse of this side during an alternative spring break trip in March 2014. The Honors Program at my university collaborated with Amizade Global Service-Learning to take us on a week-long expedition to volunteer in Jamaica, a beautiful but impoverished island.

It gets brutally hot in Jamaica, so you can only imagine experiencing this heat without the comfort of central air or a swimming pool.

We arrived on the island not sure of what to expect—we were staying with host families, but this was the first time our university had taken students on this program. We were surprised to find that the homes were bigger than we imagined. They were nothing outrageous, but their interiors were nicely decorated and homey.

Jamaican people are known for being friendly, and that’s exactly the word to describe Petersfield, the community where we were staying. My host family (a woman, her son, and her grandson) was beyond welcoming and made us feel like part of the family. The mother made us tons of delicious food, her son went off to work the night shift at a resort and slept during the day, and her grandson showed us music he liked on their computer.

Volunteer in Jamaica: Seeing Another Side of the Stunning Island

My host family was one of the few with a working computer, and none of the homes had warm water or air conditioning. It gets brutally hot in Jamaica, so you can only imagine experiencing this heat without the comfort of central air or a swimming pool.

None of these things mattered to them—the people were sweet, funny, and so appreciative of the work we were doing for them. We tutored sixth grade students for an upcoming test (their equivalent of the SATs), and we were shocked at the amount of material they didn’t know. Some of these students struggled to read.

We also did some construction work at a local preschool and the children were beyond happy that we were there. There hugged us, dragged us around, and begged us to take pictures with them. They were simply so happy to be paid attention to.

The love, spirit, and genuine happiness of these people can and will overcome any poverty, danger, and issues that the country may face.

During our free time, the local people taught us Jamaican dances, insisted that we try more food, and taught us words from their dialect, Patois. We had a barbecue on a local beach complete with jerk chicken and rum punch, and even ventured to Negril for a “reward” on our last day.

I may not have had the traditional Jamaican experience at a five-star resort, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The community had a quote by Sir Patrick Allen hanging on the wall of their clubhouse that read, “There is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica,” and I truly got to see that during my trip. The love, spirit, and genuine happiness of these people can and will overcome any poverty, danger, and issues that the country may face.

Volunteer in Jamaica: Seeing Another Side of the Stunning Island

Have you traveled to Jamaica? How was your trip? Email us at editor@pinkpangea.com for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.

About Rachel Petty

Rachel PettyRachel is a recent graduate of James Madison University. She is from northern New Jersey and spent four months studying in Salamanca, Spain. She also got to travel to many other European countries and has been on mission trips to Costa Rica and Jamaica. In addition to traveling, she loves writing, reading, going to the beach and spending time with friends.

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