I woke up this morning feeling…strange. There was no sunlight shining into my room to wake me up at the early hour of 7 am. There was no project waiting for my group. Most of all, my group wasn't there to welcome me to the breakfast table. I was in my own bed, curled up in my covers because New Jersey is now freezing to me. I felt empty knowing our trip was over, and I wouldn't be spending the day with my newfound family.
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