I have to admit I was a bit nervous about this trip. The participants for LSJ 2012 all seemed amazing, but we had difficulties meeting at the same time. How would a group that had never been complete at the pre-trip preparation meetings work together in-country? Could we all be on the same page to fulfill LearnServe’s mission? Was it possible to get the group on board with my vision for the trip—for all of us to have opportunities to be servant leaders? Not unexpectedly, we experienced some challenging moments in our early Jamaica days. The students, teacher leader Ms. Nolan, junior counselor Nick Roberts, and I had meaningful discussions about our roles and expectations to get back on track. Those discussions, however, helped the group to bond and opened up extraordinary possibilities to fulfill the vision.
Another key reason why LSJ 2012 had chances to grow in servant leadership is in large part because of KBC Learning’s Karl and Angela Bennett. The Bennetts dedicate their time, talents, and treasure to service in education, both stateside and in Jamaica. Along with KBC Learning’s Project Manager Jason Anderson, the Bennetts directed us to programs that match LSJ’s goals. They guided us to Allman Hill Primary School and Scott’s Hall Primary School, where most of our group got their first experiences with teaching. LSJ students tackled fundamentals of lesson planning, classroom management, and instruction—very difficult tasks! Additionally, the Bennetts introduced us to The Source Farm Ecovillage, an environment-centered group in John’s Town. The residents taught us about life using only the materials growing/existing naturally on the farm. We constructed the foundation of an “Earth Bag” building and our muscles felt every moment. And of course, we spent four days with The Blue Mountain Project, navigating the steep roads of Penlyne Castle. BMP opened our eyes to the poverty, health, and water based issues affecting the coffee farming community. Our school, farm, and mountain experiences afforded us chances to complete purposeful work in connection with Jamaican social issues. All the while, the students amazed the chaperones with their energy, commitment, and curiosity during our activities.
In the end, I need not have worried about LSJ 2012. Not only did the group bond and learn from our partner organizations, but they also inspired me. I had the great fortune to watch the vision of servant leadership emerge with Jessica’s willingness, Tanya’s flexibility, Richard’s enthusiasm, Robin’s encouragement, Sean’s confidence, Alexis’ creativity, Onat’s openmindedness, Amivi’s willingness, Lekan’s positivity, Atem’s perseverance, Ms. Nolan’s resourcefulness, and Nick’s patience. I can attest, the combination is powerful. I am grateful to them all for sharing their talents and leading by example in each of our projects.
So, as we leave this beautiful country, we will miss the friends we made, the daily dose of delicious food, and the stunning water. It is time to return home. We head back to action plans, summer assignments, jobs, and families. I know many of us are reluctant to go, but that’s how it is. Or as Jamaicans would say in patois, “so di ting set”!