Beth Meller - Community Sports in Jamaica
In summer 2016, I decided that I wanted to do something new: visit new places, have new experiences and create new memories. So I decided to volunteer abroad. I found Projects Abroad and rapidly became fixated on the idea of volunteering somewhere exciting and somewhere that I had never been before.
I chose Jamaica as I had heard about how beautiful it is and I was also intrigued by Jamaican culture. I decided that I wanted to volunteer on the Sports High School Special. For two weeks, I worked with four other volunteers, working with more than 30 children at New Green Sports Camp.
Arriving in Jamaica
The build up to my project felt like a lifetime, as I was so excited to get going and touch down in a country that no one else in my family had been to before. With my expectations high, I boarded my plane from London. Nine hours later (11.30pm local time), I arrived in Montego Bay to be greeted by a Projects Abroad staff member. We then drove for three hours to Mandeville.
When I reached my accommodation, my host family were extremely welcoming and I managed to unpack a couple of things before jet lag took over. The next morning I got to see the beautiful Jamaica that I had heard about.
Volunteering at New Green Sports Camp
On the second day of my trip, myself and the other volunteers were taken to New Green Sports Camp to begin volunteering. The children were buzzing with energy and excitement and it was not long before I was being surrounded by five girls asking if they could braid my hair (something I had been pre-warned about). For the first week, we played different sports each day, introducing the children to new sports such as American Football and Tag Rugby, but still, they were adamant to play football every single day.
Towards the end of the first week, we began to prepare for the sports day that would occur on our final day at the sports camp. During the evenings, we would return to the Projects Abroad Jamaica office and take part in a selection of activities from karaoke to t-shirt making. This was a great chance to meet and bond with other volunteers on various other projects.
The second week at New Green allowed us to bond with the children and one of my highlights was playing hand-clapping games with the kids that I have not played since elementary school. As the week progressed, the attention became more and more focused on the approaching sports day, with team practices of cricket, netball and volleyball.
Friday arrived and sports day began. There were team competitions of keepy-uppies, running races and also some silly games. The results were added up and announced with the winners being my house, Usain Bolt, quite an appropriate name. At the end of the day it was very difficult to say goodbye to the children and leave for a final night at my host accommodation.
Weekend trips in Jamaica
On the Saturday, we went on a trip to a beautiful beach and then to a market. The beach was stunning, with the water extremely refreshing. The market was a great taster of Jamaican culture and also an opportunity to buy gifts for family and friends. The stalls included authentic Jamaican gifts, my favorite being a personalized jewelry pot for my sister with her name engraved on it.
On Sunday, we went to local waterfalls for a nice, cold swim in very picturesque scenery. Then, after lunch, we drove to another beach where we relaxed for a few hours before we jumped in the car to be taken back to our host accommodations. The weekend trips were amazing, allowing us to experience Jamaican culture.
Leaving Jamaica – back to reality!
Leaving my host family was very tough; they had been so welcoming and lovely by making me feel at home. The food was delicious and I tried oxtail for the first time! I arrived back in England, only to be greeted by the lovely British weather of rain. It felt quite weird being back home and explaining to my mum what I had got up to; needless to say, I missed the Jamaican weather a lot!
My volunteer project in Jamaica was incredible and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am hoping to possibly go on another programme with Projects Abroad in the coming years and I have already recommended it to many of my friends and family members.