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!

7/21/2012

JamaicaOur first Saturday in Jamaica and we started it early!! Woke up at 9 a.m. to quickly eat breakfast get ready and jump on the crowded hot bus to head to Galloway Early Childhood Institution. Our host families dropped us off in front of the fence to the school. One by one as we all walked into the school yard. We noticed old metal playground equipment (slide, see saws, jungle gym), not so mowed grass, and a building that might remind you of a small old motel. Three doors led you to the three main bedroom sized classrooms which were filled with tons of hand made decorations, a reading area, number area, dress up area, and “shopping” area. The floors were plain concrete and the walls were also concrete with fading, chipping paint. The only type of breeze you would feel was through the windows if a breeze even came through.

Our main purpose for the trip to this school was to clean up the rooms and paint the walls for a new school year! We started by taking down all the decorations that have been stuck to the wall and scraping off excess tape and glue with dull knives and the tips of our fingers. We then had to wipe down the walls with wet rags cleaning away spider webs, dirt, and anything else left on the wall. Bring on the paint! 13 of us IUP students plus Galloway’s teachers and other community members split up between two classrooms to start painting the walls with fresh yellowish/cream paint. As we were dipping our paint brushes into the buckets of paint and splattering the walls and ourselves we realized how hard we were all working as a group, counting on one another for help. Mr. Brown was hopeful we would get one room done but with much surprise and teamwork we got both classrooms done!

In between all of our hard work and letting the paint dry we got to talk to other community rooms and the two teachers who were working with us! They told us how the school ranges from ages 3 to 6 and receives no government funding until they reach primary school. One of the teachers named Nadia informed us how they rely on the funds paid by the students to attend, donations, any funding they might raise, and any volunteer groups within the community or groups like Amizade. Nadia also informed us that teachers here are known as “trash pickers” because they tend to pick out certain items in the trash if it looks like it could be good teaching items for the classroom because they are forced to be creative and innovative for classroom materials due to lack of funding. For example water bottles can be filled with stones and handles made out of sticks to create musical instruments.

Once the paint dried we all helped the teachers re-organize and decorate the classrooms. Putting the final touches on the rooms made us realize how much we did just help out this community. Nadia told us she cannot wait till the first day of September when the students walk though the doors and see the new, freshly painted walls and the smiles that will form on their faces. Afterwards we all got together in one of the rooms and had our own class. During class we learned more about the community and how they all are so helpful towards one another through Nadia’s examples and examples we noticed ourselves. Nadia explained how she is one of three sisters and they each take turns going to College. While one is in College the other two siblings work to help pay for that schooling. To be able to help your family in that way is incredible! Chuck told us how he was talking with Mr. Brown who said in Jamaica they work off the honor system. If everyone is putting money towards a certain thing and someone does not have the money at that time it is known that it will be returned to them the next time money is needed in a situation. Bree, Danielle, and my (Annie) “house brother” had one of his only days off today and was really excited about it! He was planning on relaxing and getting his laundry done but instead of doing that once he dropped us off in the morning he came back to help paint and stayed the whole day. These examples just showed us how much this community comes together to become more successful which encourages us to accomplish as much as we can for the community while we are here for a short stay! Not only did the clean classrooms and fresh paint make the classrooms look great but the whole day and experience gave us a new look on how to act as a community and what really counts and should be appreciated!

We look forward to writing to you again in this blog of all the other fun adventures we have had!

-Barb and Annie