Thursday, June 2, 2016

One Island, Many Worlds

As this trip is, unfortunately, quickly coming to an end, I've been reflecting upon how all of the work that we've done has been incredibly rewarding and, surprisingly for manual labor, a lot of fun. It's been absolutely fantastic working alongside my fellow students and even with the day workers, and we've worked tirelessly to accomplish in days what most would struggle to accomplish given weeks. I'm incredibly grateful for the time that we've been able to spend in Jamaica, and I can't put into words how much I wish we could make even more of an impact with the time we have left here.
One of the most key distinctions that the group has made since moving from Treasure Beach to Negril is the significant differences found on the work sites themselves. The first site we worked on, Pedro Plains Primary School, was shady and relatively cool, something that I honestly took for granted as I painted and my peers worked with cement and cinder blocks in order to finish up the school's new netball court. Nothing could have prepared me for the humid heat found at Church Hill Primary, and it clearly had an impact on everyone as soon as we started preparing for the day's work. Water was in high demand as our projects got started, as many people found immediately that the demanding tasks they took on required a lot more breaks and pauses to catch breath than we could have ever anticipated. I spent the day moving between painting assignments and being on digging duty, and it seemed as if the weather would never break or let up. 
What could be one of my favorite moments of the entire trip occurred towards the end of our time working today. After a long, difficult day for everyone, refreshing rain showers began just as we finished each of our tasks, and I looked back at the newly-painted facade of the school and the significantly progressed gazebo out front, and realized something deceivingly important: we came here, and we did that. Despite terribly hot and humid conditions adding another layer of adversity to an already complex project, we put out the same, if not even more work than we had in the days before, and it was inspiring to me to see that despite it all we still had energy and were willing to serve and do more for this very deserving school. Beyond the immense personal development I had attained from conversing and learning from the great group of students on this trip, together, we had developed and accomplished something tangible, and something worth celebrating, at two drastically different work sites. I've never been a part of such a thoughtful, open-minded, and dedicated group until now, and I'm thankful to have been invited to be a part of this trip and to be welcomed so warmly by everyone in the group and in Jamaica itself.
Upon even further consideration, I think it's drastically important for trips like this to travel to multiple work sites and participate in many different projects, if they can. Seeing both Pedro Plains and Church Hill, and both Treasure Beach and Negril, has helped me cultivate a greater appreciation for all that Jamaica has to offer, from wide swaths of rural and agricultural space, to bustling cities and busy streets full of motorbikes and taxis. Having both of these impressions of Jamaica, but seeing the consistently happy dispositions and smiling faces of the schoolchildren and residents in both locations, has taught me that this is truly a special place, and I'm honored to serve those in need on such a lovely and beautiful island.
- Ryan Donatacci

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