Monday, June 6, 2016
Sunday, June 5, 2016
But that doesn't mean our mission, our purpose, is complete. No: it is just the beginning. Jamaica has opened up a whole new vision to me, a vision of a world with promise and equal social opportunity for everyone in their own methods. Americans are so egocentric in their work and think their way is the only way. Jamaica has shown me there are multiple ways to get the same thing done and to use the resources at your disposal. Everyday of work, we came across new challenges as to how to get things done. Together, we used the tools and our group to complete all of our projects. But it wasn't work for us. We connected with the locals by learning about their culture, sitting in on their classes, and played with the kids when they came outside. We have served the Jamaican communities and they have served us as we learn to better ourselves and the world around us. The very fact that while I was working I didn't feel the heat from the sun or the enormous amount of sweat dripping off my body, that we had to be pulled away from projects because we forgot to eat or drink speaks numbers of how it has impacted everyone in the group.
But most of all, Jamaica has served me by giving me somewhere to look when I need to remember what I can do, what we can do, if we open up our minds and hearts to the ideas and affection of others. I can make a difference, I can lead a movement, I can change the world for the better. Yes, it takes hard work, sweat and grit and strength, but the end product is the most rewarding part of the whole project. To see people happy about and positively affected by what we have done speaks numbers to my heart. Now I want to continue to serve for the rest of my life, whether in my local community or across the ocean, the connections and gratitude are all I need to feel complete with my life.
I think I was also so lucky to have my first experience of serving globally to be with such an amazing group of people. Within them, I have found another family, people I can be myself with, where no one is left behind and everyone is accepted and contributes to the group. I don't think this type of group comes around very often, only once in a lifetime, but I'm glad I served with them, to find commradery in a shared passion to make the world a better place. My experience would not have been the same without them. My desire to continue might not have been found, and all I can say is how grateful I am for the experience as a whole.
- Caroline Culp
I'm back home now, drinking Blue Mountain coffee and reflecting upon the important take-home messages that I will remember for the rest of my life. Often, I am told that I am an optimist and see life through a "peachy" lens. I want everybody to be happy all the time and conflict truly gets to me emotionally. This is a part of my personality so I am thankful for the person I am and am not going to say that these traits are necessarily bad. However, I think it is important to notice that this may be a form of "oppression Novocain". Through this trip, I have learned that it is important to feel the pain of others and become aware that this pain exists. I can't continue to have a view that solely concentrates on what I personally see and experience every day. There are bigger issues in the world, from a community level to a global level, that need attention. This is where doing service, versus helping, becomes important. When you help others, you are doing a task for them just for the sake of doing it or even to make you feel better. However, when you serve others, you understand and care about their pain, ask questions about why they may be in pain, and reflect upon the work you are doing for them in order to get something out of it for yourself and expand your knowledge of the state of the world around you. In other words, you are decreasing the amount of "oppression Novocain" you experience and are facing reality. I plan to work towards this more from now and ask the question why? more often during service.
I don't believe I've been one to make quick judgments about people but when I think about it that may be because the majority of the people I am surrounded by on a daily basis are a lot like me. We may not all come from the same backgrounds but we are currently all on a college campus in New Jersey working on our education. The differences among us in this setting aren't that significant compared to the cultural differences I observed in Jamaica. There were a few times that I had to step back and take a moment to consciously remind myself that the culture there is significantly different and I can't be too quick to judge someone for what they do or how they act. There are probably reasons for them doing so that I am not even aware of. I was there for one week and observed actions that occurred with a lifetime of prior experiences that I have no idea about. How could I possibly judge that person? Moving forward, I am going to be more conscious of this and have a more open mind towards people that I don't know anything about because although we all come from different backgrounds and have different views of the world, we are all humans just doing the best that we can.
My goals from this point forward are to commit more of my time to service in my local community and work towards understanding more about the issues that exist. I would eventually like to choose a cause or two that I am interested in serving throughout the rest of my life so I can become highly educated in that specific issue. I have already planned to attend an informational meeting about human trafficking at a local church in a few weeks and I hope to learn more about the reality of the situation and see what I can do about it. I would like to become a conscientious citizen and live a life with concern for others and the world I live in, on a community and global level, every day. Thank you Jamaica for giving me these things that I will take with me throughout my entire life!
Saturday, June 4, 2016
The first of these moments was the very first time that I was able to interact with the kids at Pedro Plains Primary School on Monday of the trip, our first day on the site. I began walking over to the group of basic school children, and about four of them immediately sprinted over to me and ran into my arms. These children had absolutely no idea who I was and here they were, running at me with their arms and hearts wide open. If pure happiness has a definite form, I'm pretty sure this would be it. I can't even explain how warm I felt (and not just temperature-wise) as so many of these beautiful children leaped into my arms and held on tight, begging me not to put them down. These children were shrieking with laughter and had the absolute biggest smiles on their faces with nothing more than a tree to hang around on, some bubbles that we brought, and their new American friends. It was absolutely so refreshing to see this mentality, as far too often I see children in America who are bored even with hundreds of gadgets and games. I am still trying to wrap my head around this concept: that the people of Jamaica live in a third world country that's in economic turmoil, yet are still the happiest, kindest, and most loving people I have ever seen.
Another turning point also came during our time at Pedro Plains, towards the end of Tuesday. I had on my favorite pair of purple and yellow sunglasses that were super reflective and cool. The kids who were there were simply fascinated by them, so I let some of them wear them for a few minutes, then I eventually took them back. Towards the end of the day, as we were beginning to leave, a small girl came up to me and shyly asked if she could have them. My very first instinct was to immediately say no, but instead I recognized that giving her these glasses would probably make her entire month. This was a key turning point in my own personal development on this trip, as one-week-ago me probably wouldn't have given them up. I realized that I have the privilege and convenience of hopping in my car, driving to the store, and buying a new pair of sunglasses anytime I want. The small girl graciously accepted the glasses and ran off, showing off her new shades to everyone and marveling at their shininess. This is just another example of how these kids are so happy and amused by what we consider to be the most simple of things.
A third special moment came during my time at Church Hill Primary School during the second half of the week. As we were finishing up lunch, Kaye asked for two volunteers to work on a new project, and Melanie and I volunteered immediately, having no idea what we were about to get into. Kaye led us over to what was a snack bar in progress and asked us to paint the entire inside bright yellow. Not only was the paint oil based (aka very smelly and practically impossible to clean), but the tiny shed was extremely dirty, hot, and swarming with mosquitoes and countless other insects (including a centipede). However, none of these factors really even phased me (except for the centipede) because I was with Mel. We worked together seamlessly to warn each other of especially large insects, dripping paint, and spots missed. Mel was one of my peer mentees this year, and being able to spend one-on-one time with her under such unique conditions was truly special. Even though she acted like a real adult more than me for the majority of the time (i.e. was infinitely more calm about the centipede incident), I got to share some of my insight with her during our chit chat, which was very special for me. On top of being able to connect with one of my peer mentees, the work we were doing also proved to be meaningful. During the lulls in our conversation, I found myself envisioning the excitement of the children who would soon be storming this snack bar during recess. I could picture the bell ringing and a horde of children sprinting over, jostling to see what snacks were up for grabs, running off with their new treasure. Knowing that I was the person doing the literal dirty work to complete something that would serve hundreds of children for years to come made up for the fact that I wasn't able to see this pan out in real life.
A final moment that I want to share isn't one that I can particularly pinpoint, but was rather a realization that came to me gradually during our final day at Church Hill while I was helping to paint the exterior of the school. Throughout the whole week, I was always trying to think about why my contributions specifically were meaningful and important. While painting the school, I was finding it a bit difficult to find an answer; I suppose it was harder to grasp at first since I wasn't working on anything that wasn't already there. However, I realized that this fresh coat of paint was one of my most meaningful contributions yet, because it is not only important that the school has facilities, but it is also highly important that these facilities are visually appealing so that school is a place kids want to keep coming back to. With new bright colors, I could see these kids running up to school every day awed and excited. I firmly believe that education is one of the most important things in life, and it is especially a major key to these children who have such limited opportunity. This train of thought put into perspective the core reason of why all of the work we accomplished this week was so, so, so important.
These moments do a sufficient job at summarizing what impacted me during my time on the work sites, but I also must take time to talk about my incredible peers with whom I was fortunate enough to share this experience. I have never been a part of such a group that immediately and seamlessly just fit together. It was as if we were all pieces of a puzzle that had been strewn across various social scenes on campus, and when we were all put on that bus together, we just fit. I don't think I have ever laughed so hard in my whole life as I did during this week. I thought I was going to drown more than a few times because I was laughing so hard while in the ocean and forgot how to tread water. Every person in the group brought something so unique and special to the table. Most of all, everyone was beyond willing to get their hands dirty and help in any way possible. I don't think I heard a single complaint during the entire week, despite buckets of sweat, hundreds of mosquito bites, and tons of strenuous work. I've never been so motivated to do physical labor for hours on end, and I owe it all to these AMAZING people. The memories we shared during the down time will last a life time, between the countless bus ride sing-a-longs, hundreds of memes, endless rounds of Spot It, conversations about gross bodily functions, sand fights, heart-to-hearts, asking Merit to open the window (NO!), shouting "PASTA SWEAT!" "MUD!" and "BEEP BEEP!" at each other, making conga lines in the pool, jumping into waterfalls, and so so so many others. Thank you to all of you, from the bottom of my heart, for making this experience as wholesome and fun and incredible as humanly possible. I think my heart grew about 20 sizes bigger this week just to make enough room for all of you. I couldn't stop thinking about my favorite song from Wicked as we were saying our final goodbyes: "It well may be that we will never meet again in this lifetime, so let me say before we part: so much of me is made of what I learned from you. You'll be with me like a handprint on my heart... and now whatever way our stories end, I know you have rewritten mine by being my friend. // I do believe I have been changed for the better... but, because I knew you, I have been changed for good."
So... what now? I have spent the past few years of my life investing in myself: my mental health, happiness, independence, and growth. I absolutely needed to take this time to gain an understanding of myself in order to gain as much knowledge as I did on this trip. Now it is time to spend the next few years taking the time to invest in the world. Through my position in my sorority as Vice President of Membership Development, I have been striving to teach all of my sisters to make self-reflection and self-improvement a habit. When I return to campus in the fall, I am going to shift that focus to encompass everything that I learned in Jamaica about service: how it is the work of the soul and probably the ultimate thing that you can be doing to better your own life as well as those of so many others. I want to make all of our community service events meaningful. These are my first concrete plans to start spreading my newfound passion for service like wildfire. After that... who can say for certain?
Friday, June 3, 2016
Thursday, June 2, 2016
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Today, we said goodbye to Taino Cove and began our journey for the second half of the week at Negril. Since our trip does take the whole day, today is considered our "break" day. For this reason, we took a pit stop at YS Falls, a tourist attraction that featured beautiful forests and powerful waterfalls. First, we got ourselves suited up for ziplining. Being that this was my first time ever ziplining, I was a bit terrified to do it, but it was very exhilarating! Being able to see all of the green forests and rushing waterfalls as we ziplined through the forest was incredible. The most terrifying part of it honestly was probably when we somehow had to manage to fit all 16 of us plus some staff members onto one of the very small platforms, not the ziplining itself. Afterward, I was talked into going cliff jumping into a super fast river. I'm happy to say I did it five times and it was the most intense yet exciting thing I've ever done! Although that split second where you're underwater and have no idea where you are is scary.
After reaching our new destination at the Whistling Bird, getting settled, going to the beach, and having dinner, our group had a discussion about being global citizens and about what it means to be privileged. To initiate conversation about privilege, Thea organized an exercise for all of us where we all lined up in a line and held hands to start. Then, Thea would read off a privilege and an action (step forward or step back). Through this activity, multiple steps were taken forward and backward, hands were let go due to being too far ahead, and we all noticed how far back we were or how far forward we were, hence how privileged or not privileged we are.
From this, we broke into smaller groups to talk about "where we stood" during the process and then brought the conversation back into our whole group. The biggest take away that I got from this exercise is this: we may come from different backgrounds and have some privileges others lack and lack some privileges that others have, but we all made it to Stevens and we all made it to Jamaica. We are all here to reach a hand out to others and support them and go through any struggles we have, whether we are the privileged or not privileged, united and together. We're here to work together and serve the communities of Jamaica, as some of the privileges that we all have may not be the same that they have.
The concept of privilege also relates to our trip to YS Falls today. YS Falls is a tourist attraction of Jamaica, and even if we are on a trip that related to service, I think this experience was also a great way of putting the rest of the week in perspective as we continue to deepen our understandings of global citizenship, service, privilege. Other areas of Jamaica that we had done work in, will do work in the rest of the week, or have driven through on the way to a destination shows a prominent amount of poverty. Those types of scenes and pictures are things that are not seen in ads for going on vacation in this country. And the same goes for any other country, including our own. For example, Manhattan is full of tourist attractions that people love to go to (I'm guilty of it myself), yet there's also homeless people on the streets asking for money or food. This relates to privilege in that those that are able to go those tourist attractions have the privilege to be able to afford it. Those that have these privileges though shouldn't feel guilty for having it at all when seeing those in poverty nearby these attractions. The privilege is simply a part of who you are. However, what can be done is to be appreciative of the privileges that you do have and also support those that do not through service. A similar relation goes for those that do not have privilege: do not feel defeated for the privileges that you lack, but rather be a voice of leadership and passion for those that also don't have that privilege. This is also related to privilege in that it is also a privilege to have the education to know that there is poverty outside of the tourist attractions. It could take support from family or friends, or even books or news articles, to have this privilege of having this education.
So, how am I privileged? I am privileged because I live with my loving family in New Jersey that has taught me what it means to be privileged, how to be a hard worker, and how to give back to the local community and beyond. I am privileged because I attend the Stevens Institute of Technology, am pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering and am involved in various activities on campus. I am privileged that I have been involved in my high school youth ministry that has given me the opportunities to travel on four service trips, where all have taught me various life lessons, including being welcoming of all people, being appreciative and optimistic, and always giving your whole self when you serve. But, at this moment, I feel most privileged because I'm here in Jamaica, thanks to the support of friends and family, having this life-changing and memorable experience with my peers. This experience has opened my eyes to a lot of things and has ignited a huge passion inside of me for becoming an active global citizen. I am extremely grateful, blessed, and privileged to be here and am looking forward to doing service at our next location tomorrow!
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Monday, May 30, 2016
I am very grateful and fortunate that this is my second trip to Jamaica on this global service intiative with Stevens. But this year's experience is definitely different from last year, but both are very fulfilling. Yesterday, during the first night of curriculum, we discussed the difference between fix, help, and serve which I had a general idea of the between the three, but the second time around really helps make the picture clearer. Fixing has the general assumption that something is already broken, whereas helping usually involves being onesided and one gains satisfaction. Serving is another story. Serving benefits both parties. When you serve, you see the wholeness of the people you are serving and feel gratitude. Today, I felt gratitude.
Instead of Merit, our super skilled Jamaican bus driver, driving us to the site, I, along with three other returners, had the opportunity to ride in Kaye's car. She had previously driven us in her car last year and know we are used to her driving down the narrow, winding, and bumpy roads of Jamaica. We drove down the familiar road to Pedro Plains Primary School. Turning right into the school and seeing the sign brought back the great memories I made last year serving at this school. As we pulled up onto the street where the school was, we could see all the hard work we did of painting the wall that surrounds the school. It brought back flashbacks of all of us working together to get the whole wall painted in the blazing heat, with paint brushes in our hands, using buckets as seats, and singing along to whatever song came up next on someone's speakers. Our teamwork and persistence that day was amazing and I immediately became excited to see what this group and today would bring.
Last night, Kaye gave us the run down of what would be happening today. She told us we would finish painting the principal's office and the rest of the net ball court which included, but was not limited to, painting the ground, building a wall next to the bleachers so the children would not jump off of it, render the surronding wall, and paint it. These tasks altogether seem like a daunting task, but with our super motivated group, we were all ready to take on the tasks at hand.
I have noticed that our group has really great, inspriational people who want to make a difference in the world and I know our energeries feed off of each other. We were introduced to the Jamaican day laborers that we had the fortune of getting to learn from them. We all jumped at the opportunities they gave us to serve. Surprisingly, none of us fought over which job we wanted to do, we just all fell into our own little niches and got to work. Some were sweeping the net ball court area prepping it for a paint job, others were filling a large vessel of water so we could use it for the cement, another group was gathering cinderblocks for the wall, and the last group was mixing the cement into concrete.
'I was part of the concrete mixing crew. Kevin was the day laborer who taught us how to mix the perfect concrete. We all worked together to mix gravel/sand, cement, and water with the mixing technique Kevin showed us. This required a lot of strength. There was a ton of physical strength including continuously mixing the concrete with our shovels, which is a lot harder then Kevin made it look, then carrying buckets full of the concrete to the crew who were buidling the wall. This also included a good amount of emotional strength as well. Not going to lie, concrete is heavy. Mixing and carrying those buckets of concrete back and forth was a lot, but knowing that this court would be completed soon with all our efforts motivated me to keep on going. The faster we brought the concrete, the faster the wall would be built and rendering would be complete. I'd hate to be the chemistry nerd, but I felt we were the rate determining step in this reaction. The crew in charge of building the wall was waiting for us to bring them the concrete so they could get started. It was really funny when the other group would continually yell "MUD!!!!" and that meant they needed more concrete, but we were in the middle of mixing, therefore our step was vital to get the process going. I just thought it was really cool how we all relied on each other to complete the job at hand.
Reflecting even on this one step of concrete I believe correlates with service. Our team dynamic works so well, it almost mixes just as well as the cement and water we worked with today. With a little effort, such as the work we put in today to complete more of the net ball court, we can go a long way. With time, like concrete, we all solidify together with the one ultimate goal, to serve. It was truly gratifying to see the work that we did today make a difference at this school. Many people in our group brought jump ropes, soccer balls, frisbees, and bubbles for the school children to play with, so knowing how much joy that brings to them, I can only image how happy they will all be once this court is finished.