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!