Roeshawn Davidson - Building in Jamaica
I ended up in Jamaica during the February reading week of my final year of university for two reasons: 1) I desperately wanted to volunteer abroad, and 2) I could not wait anymore. I did a lot of research, and eventually came across Projects Abroad. They had a lot of flexible travel opportunities that worked well with my schedule, and it was also very beneficial to talk to a representative from this organization who had come to my university during a volunteer fair. So I filled out my form, paid my fees, bought my plane ticket, and was on my way.
Arriving in Jamaica
After a number of delays, I finally arrived in Jamaica. A number of other volunteers were on the same flight that I was on, so we had a chance to meet each other from the get go. At the airport, our driver was welcoming, still being cheery and energetic to see us despite the fact that we reached there after midnight.
Myself, as well as the other girls, finally reached our home-away-from-home at 2am. Clara and Dalton, our host parents, came to welcome us as we arrived, yawning and stretching. We apologized for waking them up and coming in so late, but they waved us away and welcomed us with warm hugs.
My Host Family
Clara and Dalton were the most supportive, easy-going, welcoming people I could have ever asked to stay with. They made me and the other volunteers who stayed with them feel like we have always been a part of their family! It is an amazing connection to be made, especially in just a weeks’ time. They fed us with amazing food, running from barbecue chicken with rice and peas to ackee and saltfish with green banana.
Dalton would always give us great stories about his life experiences, while allowing us to learn about the vast amount of musical transformations that Jamaican music has gone through and continues to go through. He even showed us a few dance moves! And Clara, she was one interesting lady. She would always have jokes for us, and tell us about all of the past volunteers who had come through her home from all regions of the world.
There was never a moment of discomfort with our host parents. On our last day, Clara and Dalton took our pictures, printed them out, and pasted them into their guest book, allowing us to keep in contact with them and express our many thanks for all they had done for us - we were in the third guest book!
My Building Project
Because our stay was only for one week, our project was a small, but still meaningful one. We were responsible for building a bathroom and a kitchen for an elderly couple who had neither. This couple (Mr. and Mrs. Miller) were welcoming to our help and did their best to make sure that we were always comfortable. Mr. Miller helped us occasionally, and Mrs. Miller was so kind to have her daughters make lunch for us every day, even though our host families provided us with lunch also. We ate doubly and never went hungry!
As far as the hard work was concerned, we were never out of things to do. Some of us had to use shovels and pickaxes to level the land and others had to mix cement and transport cinder blocks from one location to another. There was a lot of lifting and precision and sweating and teamwork involved to get work done.
I was fortunate to have a great batch of volunteers with me, as well as a great Building project manager who ensured that we were all safe and that we were all participating. Speaking of our project manager (Percy was his nickname); he loved to sing as he worked and he would even try to teach us some songs along the way. It definitely helped the day go by quickly - the heat of the sun did not feel so overbearing when he sang (we would spend too much time laughing to notice).
Asides from working on the kitchen and bathroom, some of us picked up additional projects as well. These ranged from painting the outside of Mr. and Mrs. Miller’s house and creating safer steps for the couple than the ones they had before.
I would say we did a pretty solid job. We unfortunately did not get a chance to finish the project because of weather conditions on some days, but we were delighted to hear that another batch of volunteers were coming in the following week in order to wrap up the job that we had started.
The Jamaican Experience
I am a huge lover of rollercoasters and travelling around Manchester, Jamaica is a very similar experience to this. Driving around all the hills and mountains as the cool, refreshing breeze hits your skin is something that you can only truly understand by feeling it yourself.
Besides tasting (amazing) patties in Mandeville, zip-lining at YS Falls and taste testing at the Appleton Rum Tour, my time in Jamaica was amplified by the patois and dance classes that Projects Abroad arranged for us. I can wholeheartedly say that the Project Abroad staff took the best possible care of us, and always made sure that we were having fun.
The whole experience was truly amazing. In a short period of time, I got to understand the meaning of the Jamaican motto “out of many, one people”. No matter who we are or where we are from we can still come together for a common purpose, helping people in need because we really are “one people”.
Read more about Alternative Spring Break Building in Jamaica