Volunteer Review: Emma J., Public Health in Jamaica
Before I arrived I was very nervous about staying in Jamaica as I had never travelled alone before, but as soon as I met my host family all my worries disappeared since they were so welcoming and made me feel right at home. In the family were Mr and Mrs Glanville and their son, who was autistic; they were all very friendly and chatty that it never felt awkward. Mrs Glanville cooked delicious food every night and I was able to try all of their favorite dishes which made me fall in love with Jamaican food.
My placement in Jamaica
At first, I didn’t go to the hospital but participated in health fairs in different communities which I found so rewarding. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to people of all ages and educating them about the main health issues and how to avoid or cure them. I was in a group of 5 and on the first couple of days we learnt about the main health problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes and then made posters with all the information to take to health fairs.
At these fairs we worked together on different stalls we set up to do basic checks for the local communities. We checked things like their blood pressure, blood glucose levels, weight and temperature. Experiencing this really highlighted the difference compared with the health care provided England. Something I found very valuable that we got to take part in was becoming a certified first aider. We had had a workshop where we were taught by a woman from the Jamaican Red Cross first aid training such as bandaging and CPR and then we took the first aid test, which we all passed.
Each day we had an activity arranged for us where we got to learn about the Jamaican culture, which I found very interesting. We had dance lessons where we got to try out the main Jamaican ‘dance hall’ moves and we also got to try the signature Jamaican foods such as mangos, salt fish, guineps and coconut sweets. On one afternoon we got to learn Patois phrases and words which was so much fun and it was interesting to see how Patois is made up of a mixture of languages.
At the weekend we got to go to Ocho Rios which is a beach about 2.5 hours from Mandeville. It was absolutely beautiful, nothing like the beaches in England. We got to fit in a bit of sunbathing or in my case just burning and go in the sea where we got a lot of attention from the little children.
Next to the beach there was a craft market which we looked around and each tried our bargaining skills to get the best prices for the things we wanted to buy. Here was also when I saw my first Rasta man so I took the opportunity to get a picture with him. On the Sunday we went to YS falls which was personally my favorite part of the weekend as the waterfalls looked so picturesque and we even got to walk across and jump into the waterfall which was great fun.
After that we went to Bluefields beach where we again sunbathed and just relaxed and looked at the great view for the rest of the afternoon.
Returning to England
I only stayed 2 weeks in Jamaica which I loved every second off and definitely wasn’t ready to go home. I made good friends with the people that I stayed and worked with and missed everyone as soon as I got home. It was very weird being back in England again, not having the heat to start with. Though I was there for only a short time, it was the best thing I’ve ever experienced and would recommend it to anyone.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.