Jamaica Maroon Community Project
Whether you are volunteering on a gap year, summer vacation, or career break, if you want to get truly immersed in the traditional culture of Jamaica, this project working in a Maroon community could be the perfect volunteer opportunity for you.
The Jamaican Maroons were runaway slaves who fought the British during the 18th century and the term is now used for their descendants. The Maroons in Jamaica remain to a large extent autonomous and separate from the rest of Jamaican culture and these vibrant communities are usually inaccessible other than by visiting on a day's tour. Volunteers on the Maroon Community Project live in Accompong, located in the hills of St. Elizabeth Parish. Accompong is one of the remaining traditional Maroon communities in Jamaica, and some residents of the community are Rastafarians.
Volunteers joining the Maroon community in Accompong will get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Depending on when you join the project there may or may not be other volunteers in the community. Volunteers can assist with a wide variety of projects including the following types of work:
- Teaching computer lessons
- Joining cultural preservation projects
- Maintaining the herb garden
- Teaching at the kindergarten, primary, and junior high school
- Working in the library
- Developing a trail through the cockpit country, an area of inaccessible land with a unique and specially adapted biodiversity
- Working on a community literacy program (teaching adults to read and write).
The Accompong Community has all the usual basic amenities and is home to 168 households and an estimated population of 576 people. At least half of the households are home to three generations.
Community Volunteering with Maroons in Jamaica
The main source of livelihood for Accompong is farming, which is done by 90% of men. Women mainly stay at home while 10% are shopkeepers and 10% farmers. The main issues affecting the community are unemployment (16% of the community is unemployed), lack of trained teachers, poor parenting, illiteracy, insufficient cultural preservation, lack of a play area for the children, lack of access to adequate health care, lack of safety signs, poor road conditions, and lack of water in some areas. Maroon communities are excluded from external state support and they do not benefit from social and infrastructure programs.
The history of Accompong dates back over 200 years. There are oral historians and documents that tell the old intriguing story of Accompong Town. Jamaican’s see Maroons as special people and are viewed with respect because of their gallant fight for freedom. This gives them a unique place in the heart of many Jamaicans, particularly those with an academic knowledge of the historic events leading up to the freedom from the British. They are remembered each year on January 6th when there is a huge community celebration, which gets national promotion and considerable media focus.
Volunteers live in Accompong with a Jamaican host family, who will ensure that you soon feel at home and integrated into community life. This project is in a remote location about three and a half hours from Mandeville, and volunteers should therefore have a mature attitude and be able to work independently.