Ooohhhhhhhhh! So cute! This is definitely a picture that can speak a thousand words if you simply tap into your imagination. Marloes and Brigitte Goverde are Dutch sisters who arrived in Jamaica on July 24, 2010 with a mission to do voluntary work for 1 month. On the first day of visiting their placement (July 26, 2010) at the Windsor Lodge Children’s Home, they kept asking, “Where are the babies?” Both sisters patiently or impatiently waited through a tour of the institution and introduction to staff members to finally have their hearts desire-holding the babies. As the sisters stepped into the nursery they were greeted by a pair of female baby twins, one enthusiastically stretched her hands up to Brigitte. Marlores quickly took up the other twin saying, “How wonderful!” I then remarked, “Twins holding Twins, well almost; more like sisters.” Both ladies were genuinely caught up with the young ones, saying, they could not wait to come back the following day to start their voluntary work.
In the Netherlands, their homeland, Marloes the older sister is a teacher who previously worked with children in the four- twelve age group. However, on this trip she is anticipating spending more time with the babies. Brigitte on the other hand is a nurse who has worked with babies before, but said those babies unfortunately were sick; she is therefore looking forward to hanging out with healthy babies. The sisters immediately warmed to the new environment, saying, “I definitely think I am going to like it here. The Goverde’s kept remarking that the Winsor Lodge Children’s home is very clean, nicely painted and decorated. They examined their surroundings like health inspectors ready to pass a failing grade. In the end they were simply astonished at the pristine look of the place and later gave the staff and children of Windsor Lodge a passing grade.
The sisters were also shown how to commute the Jamaican way. They got firsthand experience of taking a taxi; they were shown the Mandeville taxi park, how to look for legitimate taxis (having a red license plate and wearing Mandeville Taxi Association shirts) going in the direction of their host home and placement. You could really see how keen they were on learning all the ropes of taking a taxi as I am sure I heard Brigitte mention to her big sis that she wanted to get an early start. In total, it was a good day, and we will definitely be keeping track of Brigitte’s and Malores’ journey.
Wow!! Excitement galore!
It was all fun and games as the two week special volunteers got involved in their projects at Our Lady of Hope Child Care Facility. They were welcomed with open arms and bright smiles as the children ran and hugged each and everyone. The volunteers showed much enthusiasm as they got the children engaged in Art and Craft where they did colouring of sketches, drawings, painting of t-shirts, murals and painting of the chapel. This allowed the children to showcase their artistic abilities, realize other hidden talents and develop present ones. The painting of the fabric was fun as the children and volunteers not only painted the fabric but had lots of fun painting their faces in various colours which was a belly full of laughter. The volunteers had fun while they shared their musical talents, where they sang and dance for the children which they enjoyed.
The gardening and beautification project was also a lot of fun, as the volunteers got involved and dug weeds from the garden, tilled the soil and prepared it for new plants. The painting of the chapel was executed by the volunteers with the aid of the children who eagerly showed lots of interest especially the younger ones. Everyone took painting supplies (brushes) and was ready to paint before the project even started, it was emotional for one to see the younger children painting away and getting the job done in a timely and effective manner. They worked like the ‘ants’ as one could not see the spot they were painting until they all moved away and the beauty emerged of their magnificent jobs. Both the children and the volunteers shared dance, music and drama with each other which was also a great cultural exchange. The Macarena was the highlight of the dances as the volunteers taught the children who got involved and danced their little hearts away. There was an exhibition on the final day where the products that were created were displayed along with a concert. The pieces were very good and the volunteers were put ‘on the spot’ and asked to dance a reggae song. They did their best with the moves they learned however it was fun to watch as they fumbled and added their own twists. Overall it was a wonderful learning experience which everyone enjoyed.
The two-week special volunteers at Projects Abroad Jamaica had a taste, literally, of their first Patois and Culture class on Thursday, July 22, 2010. The group of twenty-seven volunteers, hailing from various parts of the world- some including France, Ireland, Japan and Canada was given a concise patois lesson on greetings and introductions. “Wha a gwaan,” they all said. That’s patois for what’s happening. Each volunteer was asked to take centre stage to issue a greeting and introduce themselves in patois, adding a little Jamaican attitude. They were also taught the various body parts and members of their family in patois. At the end of the patois session prizes were given to volunteers who could repeat an entire sentence in patois. The Social Manager spoke the sentence first and then the volunteer, who repeated the original sentence close to perfect, got the prize.
A brief overview of Jamaica was given and questions were subsequently asked, volunteers who answered the questions correctly were rewarded for listening keenly. Some of the prizes included Bob Marley cups, Jamaican drinking mugs, Jamaican key rings and maps. The Culture segment continued by offering volunteers a buffet of Jamaican fruits and local sweet treats such as, Drops and Busta-Both are made from the flesh of the dried coconut. It’s either grated or cut up in small pieces, boiled until the flesh feels softer, then sugar and ginger added. This mixture is left to boil until it somewhat caramelizes. A spoon is then used to drop the sticky mixture unto cooling sheets. When cooled the finished product is a hardened sweet treat enjoyed by many Jamaicans.
Mangoes, Guineps, Papaya and Sugar Cane were some of the fruits sampled by the volunteers. There was a cane-eating contest during this segment. And a female volunteer from the U.S. beat a male volunteer from Canada to cop the top prize- a Bob Marley Pen set. The Mangoes and Guineps were the true favorite of most volunteers.
BY HOOK OR BY BOOK: Alison Johnson hopes to collect 3,000 books for the impoverished Jamaican town of Albion and eventually raise enough money to build a library to house them in.
“He looked like I'd given him gold, his mouth was wide open," she recalled. I thought 'this is crazy'. I think in our society we have such an abundance of books they have become invisible. To read is to know and I think we take it for granted how a book can change our life”. "Everyone has at least one book lying around they don't read any more, so I'm like the book fairy, collecting as many as I can!"
Mrs. Johnson, who works with disaffected youths in Croydon, has been inundated with donations since returning to Britain and has collected more than 500 books so far. Her aim is to collect around 3,000 books, which she will have shipped out to Jamaica.
In the long term she hopes to raise enough money to build the town a library in which the books can be stored. She said: "It will be an ongoing project, but I think 3,000 is enough for the first delivery and should keep everyone happy for a bit.”People are being generous. I think it appeals to people because everyone's always asking for money, so to ask for a book is quite different. "Here we can pick one up cheaply at bookshops, charity shops and online – the community in Jamaica don't have that luxury”.
"Our society doesn't really value them as highly as this community would. They would be prized possessions." In a bid to collect more books, Mrs. Johnson has set up a free community event on Saturday July 24, at Norbury Manor Primary School, in Abingdon Road, Norbury.
There will be live music, youth dance performances, singing and rapping and spoken word performers from 7-9pm. Visitors are asked to donate a book as a fee for attending. To donate a book to the cause e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07549 115810.
“Anancy seh nyam.” That was one of the many commands echoing from July 12, 2010 Patois and Cultural class. The Patois and Cultural class is only two of the siblings for the Patois, Cultural and Reggae Dance Class family. The volunteers experienced the Jamaican spin on the game “Simon Says.” After a brief introduction to the patois words and their meanings, they were later commanded by Brother Anancy-(a tricky spider, who is an important character in Jamaican folklore who at times hoodwink and best his counterparts, who often times are animals. Anancy stories are said to provide readers with a moral and should not be taken as lightly as they appear) - to execute the commands.
Some of the commands given to the volunteers in patois were ‘siddung,’ which means to sit down and ‘bade ‘which means to shower or take a bath. The volunteers were asked to execute the commands with a hint of theatrics. At one point they were asked to face- off, a sort of battle of the sexes. A male and female stood in the middle of the volunteer’s lounge at the Projects Abroad Jamaica office, a command was then given in patois. The person who interpreted the command correctly as well as with the correct amount of drama won the face-off. At one point the command ‘choops’ was given. Now choops in patois means kiss. The volunteers erupted in laughter at this; however each volunteer was very chaste and offered a peck on the hand.
The cultural section of the day’s activities was simply themed ‘Duppy .’ This is the patois word for a ghost or spirit. The volunteers were given a brief overview of what the duppy is and what it symbolizes in Jamaican culture. They were given tips on how to chase the spirit away if they should ever come in contact with a duppy. Some of the tips included, eating salt, or sprinkling salt around you, wearing your clothes on the wrong side/inside out t or simply quoting a Psalm from the Bible.
The cultural class ended with the volunteers being taught one of the more popular Folk songs in our country; ‘Sammy Dead’ Sammy’s plight was sung by the volunteers who after several attempts sound almost Jamaican. They were challenged to- bring it! -for the next patois and cultural session. A prize was promised to the group who brought it the best. In our Jamaican slang ‘e haffi sell off’.
The Reggae Dance class was hype. The volunteers were highly energetic and involved. They were warmed up by the Projects Abroad Jamaica Social Manager and introduced to the basic steps of the reggae dance moves, skip to my lou and sweep. They were allowed a freestyle minute where each volunteer had to come to centre stage to showcase what they had grasped thus far. Some were very shy while others dun di place. Put it this way they brought the house down. The professional reggae dance teacher, “Pencil Man” took over and proceeded to show the volunteers the technical side of reggae dancing. The day was deemed a success by just observing the look of exhilaration and joy on the faces of the volunteers.
So, how to start writing an article for the Projects Abroad and write about what, it’s been a main concern since I was asked to do so yesterday. I guess I’ll start by telling about myself. My name is Mikkel Kunwald, I am 26 years old and have for the most of the last four months, been a medical volunteer at the Mandeville Regional Hospital. I have studied medicine for three years in Denmark, where I am from, before I decided to take a year off from my studies to go travel (again). I have previously, on various trips, traveled through most of Europe including Iceland and Greenland, Northern Africa, some of the Middle Eastern countries, as well as riding the Trans-Serbian railroad through Russia, Mongolia and China, visiting Singapore and spending 6 months in Australia. This year’s travels were to include South Africa, Jamaica, Cuba and the USA and bring me just within reach of my 40 country marker.
I started my travel in South Africa where I worked as a surf instructor, teaching street kids how to surf as a part of a Projects Abroad placement. This project aimed to keep the kids off the street (at least a couple of hours a day), and teach them some basic non-gang/crime skills and basic conduct, and naturally by providing wetsuits and surfboards giving the kids the opportunity to enjoy the ocean in a way that they will never be able to by themselves.
After three months of surfing, peeling, and various adventures, I took a “swift” 48 hours journey, which included a night in the plane and one in JFK airport in New York, to Jamaica. Not knowing that I will be spending most of my weekends travelling to all parts of the island, I had given myself a week in Kingston before I started my work in Mandeville. A week spent mostly in bed with the worst case of jetlag I have ever experienced, but I got to see most of the must see tourist attractions like the Bob Marley Museum, Lime Cay and coffee plantations in the Blue Mountains. I had arranged my Projects Abroad airport pickup to come get me from my hotel instead of the airport, and no problem, the driver drove me to what was to be my home for the next four months.
My house is located 15-20 minutes drive outside Mandeville, and is a very cozy little countryside house. Here I live with my mommy, Miss Avis Rattray, and two sisters Shereka (19), and Tameka (21). Like most of the houses here in Jamaica it is without a water heater, but you get use to the cold shower and not after long you start to appreciate the cooling effect instead. That been said, after 4 months I still can’t help to let out a girlish scream when the water hits me, and when , blue and shaking, crawl out of the shower feel able to cut glass with my nipples. Life at the house is good, and though I spend most of the nights out in Mandeville, I have been given a broad insight into traditional Jamaican cooking by my mommy. I’m proud to say that I got a first class education in the recognition of dumplings, sweet potatoes among other foods (admittedly I can only think of two things at the moment, so I might not have been the best of students).
My working experience here on Jamaica have been nothing less of amazing. Though conditions between Mandeville Regional Hospital (MRH) and the university hospital I’m use to from back home is immense, I can’t help to feel that the doctors are extremely well educated and well aware of the technological limitations they are working under, but find ways to cope and work around it. During my four months I’ve been doing a rotation of one month on each of the major departments in MRH; paediatrics, general surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, and internal medicine. At MRH, I have been working alongside the interns and the duties I have been assigned to have been those of an intern. As I don’t have the authorization to write anything in the dockets I have been doing everything else.
On the paediatrics ward I spent the start of the month finding my role in this new working environment. I found that as a volunteer especially a medical volunteer you have to really want to help out to be allowed, and if you are not quick to take on the assignment given someone else will do it and you might find that a new one is not waiting around the corner, if you on the other hand do the job quick and well you will find that more responsibilities will be given to you. Twice a week we go through each patient on the ward with a consultant (the highest ranking doctor assigned to the ward). These consultant rounds are the main way of educating the interns and that apparently meant me as well. On the paediatrics ward the rounds were nice and a good opportunity to talk about the different issues and cases on the ward.
On the surgical wards the rounds didn’t have the feel-good vibes of the paediatrics ward. Here the questions struck like lightening from clear blue skies and made me feel as stressed as a fat heavy kid who just got thrown into the deep end of the pool, struggling to keep his head over water. To my own comfort I could tell from the sweaty faces of the interns that I was not the only one feeling like that. But unlike on the paediatric ward I would get upset with myself when I did not have an answer to the questions and would more often than not go study for it after work. Beside the intensity of the rounds I really enjoyed my month on the surgical wards, especially working in the operating theater. During my month on the surgical ward I assisted surgeons in about ten surgeries and had a learning experience unlike any pre or post seeding during my work at MRH.
After my month in general surgery I shifted to obstetrics and gynaecology. I liked working up at the delivery ward, had it not been for the constant crying and screaming. And I felt that after I seen a few deliveries the fascination of it sort of disappeared. As one of the residents on the surgical ward foretold work on the medical ward will be looking into hours long hypotheses about what could be wrong with the patients, but we will find that it’s never any of them. And now I must admit there is a sort of depressing truth to that. Though I find the work on a medical ward interesting it’s longsome, and the same patients will be there for weeks on end. And as my duties have been reduced to retaking follow up blood-works and replacing IV accesses I secretly feel happy that my placement on this ward is overlapping with the FIFA World Cup, which I spend lots of time talking about with both patients and staff.
As previously mentioned I have spent most of my weekends traveling with bigger or smaller groups of volunteers to almost all parishes and seen a lot of the island. I have gotten under the skin of Jamaica, and by means of my work and the way we travel seen sides of this beautiful island that passes over the head of any tourist. I’ve made various mistakes here, could write another two pages about that, but all in all I think that when I look back on my time here I can’t help but feel happy. I’ve met lots of good people, both local and from all over the world, who all contributed in their own way to make my stay here as good as it has been. I would like to finish off by giving a big-up to the fantastic volunteer group who helped me through some financial issues, the Projects Abroad staff here in Jamaica, and my new Jamaican mommy and family. I feel blessed that I have met you all.
Mikkel, over and out.
When I retired I decided to do something interesting with my life and whilst searching the internet I found Projects Abroad. I chose Jamaica as I had spent many happy holidays there and also have close family ties with Jamaica. I was very lucky to have Mr. and Mrs. Stewart as my host family who welcomed me into their home as part of their family from the moment I arrived. My original placement was at a school, but I found it too difficult to cope with the noise. As soon as I told Projects Abroad, they changed my placement to Hanbury Children’s Home where I worked in babyland, which I loved. In the United Kingdom, I help my sister look after her two young grandsons. At Hanbury, I assist with six (6) toddlers aged between one and three years old. They are very sweet and can be a bit of a handful. I help to dress them, change them, feed them, play with them and give them lots of kisses and cuddles. I will really miss them all when I leave.
There have been many highlights of my time in Jamaica, but the best one is when Mrs. Stewart drove me to Kingston National Stadium to see Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, and all the top American and Jamaican athletes. Also I saw Freddie McGregor in concert before the athletics started – he is a favourite artiste of mine. The stadium erupted when Usain Bolt ran and won the 200 metres. The atmosphere in the Stadium was electric. One of my most memorable days was the Dirty Day at Manchester Infirmary when most of the volunteers painted the building, but I and three others gave the elderly female residents a pedicure. We soaked and scrubbed their feet, cut their toenails and massaged cream into their feet and painted their toenails. They were so proud of their newly painted toenails, that they showed everyone. I really enjoyed that day!!!
The younger volunteers spend their weekend visiting Negril, Ocho Rios and Port Antonio but I have already seen these places so I have chosen to explore the country side with Mrs. Stewart (host mom). One weekend, we went to see the comedy “The Plumber” in May Pen which was all in patois but I understood most of it. I have also been to church in Mandeville with my host family and also a special service in Albert Town, a harvest festival service in Harmons, a gospel concert in Porus and a crusade in the Baptist Church. I really enjoyed the food, especially chicken, rice and peas, curried goat and patties. The fruits are so sweet and nice, but the mangoes are my favourite.
In conclusion, volunteering in Jamaica has been a very positive and enriching experience. I have met many interesting people of all ages, from many countries, eaten the most delicious food, seen the most amazing sunsets and scenery and had an extremely enjoyable time. I would recommend volunteering with Projects Abroad Jamaica whatever your age and feel sure I will return!
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