I am writing this blog on the Friday of the after my first week out of debatable 2 to 3 weeks all together. The high light of this trip so far is working with the kids which can be challenging at times. But for the most part it is rewarding to be in such an environment. Being around these kids is not only a reminder of how good we have life even on our bad days but also affects them by allowing us to work with them people from a totally different culture. These kids have such an effect on us then when we thought that a set of twins would be leaving and this was on just the third day, all of the volunteers realized how weird it would be to imagine the not being there and having there presence around. As the trip and the volunteering continue these kids have a place in your heart you truly start to care from an individual point of view. Now working with kids, any kids can be taunting but the benefits that both the kids and you obtain from working together so far seems to be a bigger reward. The girls love sitting down and playing with the girl volunteers’ hairs during the breaks from working. The thing is, you may have to be a little more passionate with these kids and the effects seem to be greater. On the first day that I was working with the younger kids this did not particularly care for me and was very rude but by the next day by working it him, he seemed to change his opinion of me. I have a feeling that the volunteering which I will be doing over the next week or two will affect me for the rest of my life.
Wow. It has only been 6 days and I have already fallen in love with Jamaica. Between the amazing people, music and atmosphere it is hard not to be obsessed. The moment I stepped off the plane I knew that these next two weeks were going to be unforgettable. The culture here is absolutely amazing and unlike anything I have ever been exposed to. The people here are simply happy, a thing which seems almost impossible for so many people that I am usually around. You can see the people here love each other so much and that it is a very amazing place to live. There is truly “one love”.
The start of my journey began as soon as I got off the plane in Kingston. We got into the car with our very kind driver that took us to our host family. Throughout the entire drive we listened to Jamaican music as he sang along. I could already tell how friendly and happy the people are here. They make everybody that they are near happy as well. I was a little nervous as we were traveling to our host family because I really had no idea what to expect. A soon as I met my host mother and father I felt like I was at home. They were very kind and welcoming and made sure that we had everything that we needed. Our house is absolutely beautiful and I feel honored to be living there for two weeks. The food that they have made us so far is very different yet delicious. We had the chance to try Jamaica’s national dish, Ackee and Saltfish which was to die for. Jamaicans love to use spices in their dishes and I happen to love spices as well so I was very happy. The fruits here are amazing and nothing like what I have back in the United States. Everything here is very juicy and fresh. My experience with my host family so far is one I will never forget. They truly are the kindest people that I have ever met.
We have been placed to work at Our Lady of Hope Children’s Home. The children that we are working with have made such a heavy impact on my life. They are all beautiful and so sweet. I have only been working with them for 5 days and I already know all of their names and what they like and dislike. Some of the little ones can get quite crazy at times but they really just want to be kids and have fun. All of them were so excited to see us and could not wait to start playing. We have been doing lots of arts and crafts and teaching them about different parts of life. It has been so amazing to see their faces light up as they learn something new. Knowing that I was able to teach a child something is really an amazing thing. I am so glad that I had this opportunity to go on this trip because it is one of the best decisions that I have ever made. I cannot wait for next week when I will be able to continue this amazing journey with such inspiring children. If only the children knew how big of an impact on my life they have made and I only wish that I have made a slight one on them. The children and this place will never leave my heart.
Jamaica is a colourful country populated by a colourful people who speak an even more colourful language. The week that I’ve stayed on this vibrant island has been awesome and it’s really like no place I’ve ever been before. After my tiring day of travel from Aberdeen to Montego Bay was finally over I was picked up by a beaming taxi driver. The route from the airport to my host family, who live in Mandeville, was very long and windy. The first thing that I noticed from the taxi is that there are dogs everywhere, strutting down the sides of the streets. The second thing I noticed is that the car horn is used very differently than in Britain. Where we would use the horn to tell another driver to get out of our way or vent our anger, the horn here is seems to be used as a way to greet other drivers and thank them for letting you out; perhaps that is a language in itself.
After spending my first night with my very welcoming host family of four, I had the opportunity to tour the town of Mandeville and had the chance to visit my placement at Our Lady of Hope, a children’s home. The children were as excited and eager as they were curious to our arrival. The campus was spilt into vivid buildings: the school house, boy’s dorm, girl’s dorm, chapel, guest house and the Father’s house. Little to my surprise, I was also speedily greeted by four dogs that live on the campus.
My days of working with the children have been great so far. I’ve helped out in creating and leading activities ranging from scrap booking with small children to playing dodge ball with the older kids, but my favourite thing so far is getting the chance to talk to these wee lads and lasses. From doing this I realize that even though they’re growing up on the other side of the globe they act no different to children in Scotland, even myself. I participated in all of these activities among other volunteers from differing backgrounds and home countries. They’ve all been as welcoming as the local people and we’ve had an amazing time working together and helping each other.
On a slightly unrelated note, the best thing about Jamaica so far has to be the food. Chicken, chicken, chicken, how I love it so. Every meal I’ve had with my host family has been mouth watering and delicious. I could definitely see myself living here for the local delicacies alone; plumping up on sweet treats and dumplings everyday.
This place has been so welcoming and refreshing and the people I’ve met have been so friendly that I’m not quite sure I’ll be able to get on the flight back home through the gray skies of Britain to the even grayer city of Aberdeen.
I sat in the dark SUV as it zigged and zagged across the road from Kingston to Mandeville. Dwight, our driver and guide along this unknown territory, laughed and sang along with the radio as he drove with ease along the winding roads. He would slow occasionally to greet people walking on the street or sitting on their porch with a hearty hello and a laugh, even if he had never met them before in his life. Listening to Dwight, I could just tell that everything was going to be alright and that he would get me safely to wherever I was going, though I knew nothing at the time about my whereabouts or destination.
As if to symbolize this transition to newfound comfort, a song I knew came on the radio entitled “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman, which coincidentally fit the situation perfectly. While it was a reggae version of the song, all the lyrics were the same and I decided to sing along with Dwight, stumbling over a few words here and there. We laughed at this new bond we had found with each other and when all was said and done, we shook hands and said a heartfelt goodbye as I entered my host family’s home with a smile. What was wonderful is everyone I met had the same hospitable attitude and welcomed me with a smile and a certain curiosity. I really enjoyed everyone I was able to meet and learn from while I was in Jamaica.
Dwight’s carefree mentality and good-humored nature gave me comfort in the fact that I could enter the unknown with bravery and a calm mentality knowing that everything would be alright. I could stay with another family without worry, I could teach children of other cultures about anything (even My Body and Me) without stress, I could dance and make a fool of myself without feeling self-conscious, and I could eat different foods and mingle with different cultures with ease. I knew that to connect with the children I needed to have the same attitude that Dwight had and the same comfort with the unknown that he had and I needed to welcome the challenges that I was sure to face. All I had to do was show love and respect and everything else would simply fall into place.
My apprehension and fear about coming to Jamaica was overwhelming. I had never done anything like this before, even though I have always wanted to. I wasn’t even sure if I was this type of person. I arrived and my worries did not subside but only strengthened. It wasn’t long though before I started to feel like I was at home. There is something about the Jamaican, don’t worry about a thing attitude, which is calming. My host family treats me like I am one of their own and the staff is exceptionally helpful in all matters.
The air is hot and humid, the kind that weighs heavy on your skin and person, leaving you feeling worn but refreshed all at the same time. It is different than home, and different has become the slogan for everything here. Oh well, that’s different! The food is delicious and our host family is very accommodating to our dietary needs, while also encouraging us to try some classic Jamaican dishes (Oh the spices!). The smells are exotic but familiar in another sense, like the place you have always been looking for but forgot how to get there.
The people are friendly, always greeting you with a smile. The kids we are working with here are exhausting but far too loving for words to describe. They crave attention and affection, and will do anything to get it. All they want is for us to hug them and praise them, and that is what we do for them. In all honesty, it is challenging work that constantly tests my strength and patience, but I wake up every morning looking forward to the day ahead of me.
The Jamaican life I have been living is exactly where I’m supposed to be right now and I knew that from the very first moment I set foot in the placement and was rushed by kids. With all the struggle there is also the heartwarming joy that comes from doing something like this. I know this trip has benefited me greatly, but even if it hadn’t, helping the children and meeting all these new and amazing people has been well worth it. It has been a wonderful experience so far and I look forward to the rest of my stay. I know this is something that I will never forget.
On Tuesday, May 29 staff from Projects Abroad Jamaica visited the McIntosh Memorial Primary School to treat forty top performing students from various grades for May’s Child Month activity.
The activity was schedule to begin at 1:00pm; staff arrived shortly before 1:00pm to see quietly seated children, who stood politely to welcome us. The children offered a bright greeting and we were pleased to see such a refreshing display of good manners. Mrs. Holness, a teacher from the school was also present.
The Social Manager instructed the children to sit and introduced the organization and informed the students of the planned child month activity. Children were asked if they knew about Projects Abroad Jamaica and two bright students attempted to answer- both students were correct. The staff introduced themselves to the children and added a few positive words of encouragement.
Following the introductions the Social Manager asked everyone to sing the song, “I am a promise” she asked them to sing loud and sing each word in a meaningful way; everyone did an amazing job at singing the song. After the song the children were asked to play a game that was fun and helped with developing memory and concentration. This game is officially known as, Hands up to 85” but back in my school days we used to call it, “No concentration, no hesitation.”
All forty students formed a ring around the room and the Social Manager stood in the middle to explain and lead the game- the children said they had never played the game before... After the Social Manager explained the game, the laughter, nerves and fun began. Pretty soon persons began dropping out fast after they were asked to name countries of the world. In the end we had a female student as the winner of the game. There were cheers for her and the children seemed to have really enjoyed playing.
By this time we remembered that the treat had to be sampled real soon as the ice-cream was there threatening to melt. Staff began assisting with sharing the ice-cream and cake, while the Social Manager conducted mock interviews. Students were asked who/what motivates them and who is their role model and why? Two sets of male and female students were interviewed and they gave good answers. One female student in the group said she wanted to answer a question, she answered that her mother is her role model because she is just nice- we clapped and laughed.
By this time the children had been served and we watched as they consumed their treats and we were pleased that they were enjoying everything thus far.
The children continued to be well-behaved especially under the watchful eye of their teacher. The Social Manager spoke with the children about safety in light of the many children that have gone missing. They were encouraged to learn their parents/guardians mobile number, to walk in groups, do not talk to strangers, accept rides or food from them, also to be aware of their surroundings and we also practiced “The Scream”- the students were encouraged to scream with all their might and was reminded to do the same if someone was trying something suspicious with them. Other safety tips were given. The children applauded at the end and a brilliant female student gave the vote of thanks on behalf of her fellow schoolmates. The activity was truly enjoyable and the children of McIntosh Memorial Primary School behaved superbly.
MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Three organisations in Manchester have taken the lead in partnering with non-government (NGO) body, Projects Abroad, in promoting HIV/AIDS awareness as they embark on plans to build a related facility for children in central Jamaica.
Northern Caribbean University (NCU), the Greenvale Community — through its taxi operators and football team — and Morrison's Variety Store have made their input by adopting the project for different months.
Manchester High School Cadets march for the Immunitiative Project recently.
The residential facility for children with HIV/AIDS to be built in Manchester by Projects Abroad is being promoted as the place where they will be able to REST (Restore Empower Serve Train).
Projects Abroad Jamaica, through what is referred to as an 'immunitiative project', aims to provide an "ideal" environment in Belretiro, Manchester for about 40 children living with HIV/AIDS.
"The concept is to care for these special children in a familial setting, while catering to their social and physiological health in a state-of-the-art facility," said Projects Abroad in a monthly update to stakeholders.
Country Director Dr Bridgette Barrett told the Observer Central that the 'immunitiative project' is the first major initiative by the organisation in Jamaica outside of the day-to-day activities of volunteers.
Projects Abroad was established in 1992. It is a "leading" private volunteer organisation in the United Kingdom that sends some 4,000 volunteers each year to placements in 25 countries spread across five continents. The fundamental mission is to promote a cultural exchange that will benefit both the volunteers and the communities in which they work.
Projects Abroad Jamaica began in 2008. It offers placements that range from two weeks to six months in the categories of teaching, sports, care and community, and medicine and health care. The volunteers come to Jamaica mainly from Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom and The Netherlands and offer their skills in Manchester and St Elizabeth. Eighty per cent of the volunteers are said to be between the ages of 18 and 25 and live with host families in the area during their tenure on the project.
According to the latest monthly update on the immunitiative project, the BridgIT Water Foundation (in Australia) will be primarily responsible for providing funding. However, Projects Abroad Jamaica will remain "vigilant in mobilising local and international support in the form of cash and kind. We encourage everyone with a humanitarian impulse to help in supporting our efforts. As part of the packaging of the project we are embarking on the "Red Campaign" — a series of activities geared towards bolstering support for the Immunitiative Project".
The NGO says it is awaiting a lease agreement from the Jamaican Government for a 5 to 7-acre property to build the facility in Belretiro, central Manchester. Also, various organisations in Manchester have been involved in the "Red Campaign" creating awareness and a presence while raising funds.
Barrett said that for this month, Morrison's Variety Store has been decorated with an immunitiative banner; it has been selling sweet treats to raise money for the project; and has distributed brochures and encouraged its staff to wear "immunitiative buttons". Projects Abroad started the "Red Campaign" with a car wash, walkathon and church service in February.
In March, NCU incorporated activities in its social work week. The Greenvale Community, through sports and taxi operators on that route, issued condoms to passengers and wore the "immunitiative buttons" in April. LPA Accounting and Three Angels Pharmacy are confirmed to take the reins in June and July respectively.
"Generally everybody sees it as a worthwhile initiative in this region. They are quite receptive. The staff at the various institutions are quite eager," said Barrett.
She said that Projects Abroad had added "a little more component" to the immunitiative project to include a homework centre, a community resource centre and possibly a women's centre for those living with HIV whenever the centre at Belretiro is finally built.
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