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.
Sunday, May 29, 2016
Saturday, May 28, 2016
Friday, May 27, 2016
I first just want to say thank you to all the people how have helped me and supported me in order to go on this trip of a lifetime. I am so humbled by all their efforts, and knowing I have support from people who are truly proud of me for going on this trip is really awesome.
A lot of planning went into this trip, which made getting packed pretty easy, but made fitting everything into one suitcase a bit of a struggle. Aside from packing work clothes and swimsuits, the group thought it would be a great idea if we also donated a few items to the children in the schools. I am bringing along some school supplies and toys to donate to the two schools we will be doing work on.
I am so ready to get my hands dirty and work on our two projects! We were advised to bring clothes that we don't really care about, so I am expecting that we are really going to be working our butts off. I've done a few projects around the house involving construction and rebuilding, but that will be minimal compared to what we will be experiencing in Jamaica and I am really looking forward from the learning experience we will get to have from the hands on work.
Another aspect that I am really looking forward to is interacting with the children who attend the schools we will be working on. I love getting to work with kids and interact with them, and I'm sure that they will be excited to have us there to play with them and be a friendly face. They probably will also teach us a great deal about Jamaican culture or about what they do at school, and that will be really interesting to learn about.
In a few hours, I will be on a beautiful island with my fellow peers getting ready to really make a difference in someones life, while also making memories that will last a lifetime!
In Jamaica, the people we are helping don't have nearly as much as us: school supplies are scarce; clean clothes are an occasional amenity; and food needs to be worked for at all times and doesn't just show up in the hand of another when he rings your doorbell. When the stresses of school are really getting to me, I sometimes forget how privileged I am. I don't need to worry about having clothes for the next day, a pen to take notes in class, or if I will go to bed hungry. I admit that I take it all for granted, on occasion, when life seems to be spiraling out of control around me with classes, extracurriculars, and family and friends. But now I get to take a step back from my life and care about the lives of others. During this trip, I won't have a care in the world until I get back, and I will only have a few stressful thoughts about how hot and humid it is and to remember to put on sunscreen so I don't look like a lobster, but also hoping that we get as much done as we can in our work.
Throughout our time, I will take note of how different things are where we work, eat, rest, and travel, as I do with most of my travels. While I don't usually announce my observations, I reflect on them later with my travel companions, as I intend to do during this trip as well. Life is different for every culture, and even within every culture, social classes determine the daily lives of those within the community. Where you live, what you eat, where you go to school, where you work: it's all determined by culture and class, and when different ones overlap, you either have conflict or understanding.
My time in Jamaica will be devoted to understanding the culture while improving the way of life of the communities we are helping. I want the kids to be able to go to a school with abundant supplies but I also want to learn about how they live and enjoy themselves while bringing them knowledge and improving their conditions of education. While working in the sun, I will soak up understanding of how these people live their daily lives so I know why it is so important to help them out but also know that they have a culture of their own they intend on keeping alive, as they very well should. Our method of helping them out is allowing them to keep this culture while improving the conditions of learning and living. Some might say how lucky these people are to be helped by such a caring group of students, but in reality, we should feel so lucky to see a culture not many get to see up close and bring this awareness back with ourselves to continue to improve the lives of those not just abroad, but at home as well. I will bring back the cultural understanding and the motivation to improve the lives of those around me, whether they are down the street or across the world.
Monday, May 23, 2016