IUP in Jamaica: I am a traveler

by Amizade Global Service-Learning

This summer, a group of students from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, along with their professor, are visiting our site in Jamaica. While in Petersfield the group will volunteer with Amizade’s community partner, the AOC at their annual summer camp, stay with local Jamaican host families, visit various Jamaica sites, and hold class sessions. Follow along with their program on our blog!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Amizade volunteers in JamaicaHey everyone who may be reading this. As this trip comes to a close, I would like to take some time to share with all of you what I have learned from this amazing experience. I have done a lot in the little time that I had here in Jamaica. From jumping off of a forty foot cliff into a seemingly bottomless ocean to living with four of the greatest kids I could ever meet. But only one of those reasons was why I came here, the people. Friends and family members often asked me what I was going to do while I was in Jamaica. So I would tell them, I’m going to be working at a youth empowerment camp where I will get to tutor and counsel young Jamaican children and if time permits, build something for the community. Looking back on it, that is not the experience I had. Within days of arriving here, I found myself immersed in a community that was both strange and exciting at the same time.

I am not a tourist. People will say to you, “I went to Jamaica!” No, you have never been to Jamaica. You went to a tourist attraction, where you lounged around the over priced air conditioned hotel room, drank complimentary alcohol, and hung out at an artificial beach with the occasional excursion to someplace like Rick’s Cafe. I am a traveler. I didn’t sign up for this experience to get the same things I can get in my apartment back in Indiana, PA. I signed up to be thrown into an environment that would both scare me and excite me all the time. I signed up to make an impact on a community that they will never forget. I am a traveler. I am making a difference.
Community. Think about this word for a minute and ask yourself about its meaning. A lot of people, I would imagine, thought about something with white fences and identical Sear’s Catalog houses. This is not a community. Most of those people in those houses won’t be your friends, won’t help you with much of anything, and will not wave and say hello on a regular basis. I have learned the true meaning of community during these past two weeks. Community is the embodiment of selflessness amongst a group of people. I don’t believe that there is any sense of community in most places in America. There is no help for a lot of people in need. When someone in America is faced with someone in need of some sort of assistance, they simply raise their hand as though they are too busy to even utter the words, “I’m sorry, I can’t help”, and continue to walk to their Escalade and drive off. People in Petersfield, show that they care about others in their community. This short paragraph does not do my feelings about this subject justice. It’s one of those things that you need to witness to understand just how moving it really is. I hope to take this back home and try to make a difference on the home front by pursuing this strong sense of selflessness.
Something else I noticed while I was down here was the level of intelligence that some of these kids have for their ages. If I may be so bold as to say that kids here are smarter than there American counterparts. The worst part is, not a lot of kids are able to go to college in Jamaica. So those who have high levels of intelligence are unable to unravel their full potential. I believe that the reasoning behind their high intellect is due to the fact that they are not dumbed down by the amount of resources that we have in America. In America, we have things like smartboards, computers for each student, and nice chemistry lab equipment. These things along with others cause our students to become lazy and dependent on technology to do things. The children in most Jamaican schools don’t have access to all this technology, aside from a computer or two, to become lazy and dependent. They have to use their imaginations and explore topics, whether it be books or spoken word with a teacher. This is the key to education in my eyes, and until we stop “teaching to the test” and start giving the children the tools they need to broaden their horizons then there will be a sudden halt in the intellect of our own society.
One last things I would like to add before I leave, yesterday was the Ms. and Mr. Summer camp competition. It was full of music, performances by the kids, and the hokey pokey by the other students and myself. But one of the girls’ (who accepted us into her community with open arms) grandfather died during the festivities at the local Hospital. There was a black cloud of sadness that hung over the festival once news hit the camp. So I think that it’s safe for me to say, speaking for all of the students, that Shanique has our greatest condolences and we wish we would be able to stay longer to help her through this tough time. You are in our thoughts, Shanique.
Of Many, One People,