It has been only a little over a month since LearnServe returned from Jamaica but it seems so long ago. Memories of walking the steep, mountain roads of Penlyne Castle, building the playground at Allman Hill Primary and composting waste (yes that includes bodily waste J )at The Source Farm Ecovillage are probably fading but hopefully the lessons learned over those two weeks will be remembered for much longer.
I left Washington, DC for Jamaica with an open mind not quite knowing what to expect in the communities LearnServe would visit. Sure I had traveled to Jamaica numerous times and am of Jamaican descent but this trip would be different as I would be working in communities where I had no family ties. This would not be my usual leisure trip divided between quality time with family and the beach. Within days of arrival I concluded that at the core people in Penlyne Castle and Johns Town, Jamaica are the same as people in Wau, South Sudan or in Karu, Nigeria. They all want opportunities to improve their lives, support their families and provide their children with a good education allowing them to live a better life.
I also wondered what impact the trip would have on the LearnServe students most of whom would be on their first service learning trip. I hoped that they would realize how they could make a difference in the lives of others less fortunate and that the seeds were sown for a future life of service. I also hoped that on this trip they would learn something new about themselves.
Over the course of the two weeks I saw some students become more independent, better team members and leaders, and more engaged in serving. Parents, you probably already know this about your kids but I learned that:
- Ama is fearless. I learned this as she navigated the falls at Dunns River where the guide mentioned that he sent her up parts of the falls that he doesn’t even allow most men to go.
- Atem is strong physically and mentally. I got the sense that even if we weren’t there to help she would have dug the pond at the Source Farm single handed and even if her body gave out she would have pushed on using her mental strength. With that kind of work ethic there is nothing Atem can’t achieve once she puts her mind to it.
- Blair is a natural leader and has been blessed with the power to influence. This world needs good young leaders and I cannot wait to see Blair take her place among the best of the best.
- Briana is witty and engaging. Who knew she was so well rounded with such varied interests? With her interpersonal skills Briana could adapt to any environment.
- Dysis is stronger than she thinks. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, Oh, I know I can because I just did it. These were probably Dysis’ thoughts as she pushed a wheelbarrow of sand out of the pond up a slope.
- Fredrick has a way with words and is never at a loss to express himself creatively. He is also very flexible and understanding. He rarely complained even though his first introduction to Jamaican living was with a host family that lived far below the typical American standard of living.
- Ifetayo is great with kids. Everywhere we went the kids loved Ife. Maybe teaching is in Ife’s future!
- Mahlet is kind and thoughtful. She was always there with the first aid kit the minute someone got hurt. She also became the trusted apprentice of the cement maker. He didn’t trust anyone else to mix the mounds of cement quite as well as Mahlet. She determinedly did this for hours in the hot sun at the Source Farm without complaining.
- Mashaba is confident and communicates her opinion easily. She is a leader and not easily swayed from her beliefs. Mashaba is also very proud of her culture and showed us how to really enjoy curried chicken and rice (by eating it with your hands) at dinner one night at Great Close House in Kingston.
- Reilly is curious, ever the intellectual and is not afraid to speak out against what he sees as injustice.
I look forward to seeing all the action plans soon!