Global Service-Learning isn’t just for students; over the last 20 years we’ve worked with volunteers ages 6 – 93! Open Group Volunteer Programs allow individuals, couples, or friends to join and serve with a group of other Amizade volunteers. Programs are scheduled throughout the year and across our sites and include winter escapes to Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, and Ghana as well as opportunities to explore Amazonian Brazil and the City of Eternal Spring in Bolivia.
While in Jamaica on an Amizade Global Service-Learning program with John Carroll University, we had the privilege of visiting schools and witnessing firsthand the triumphs and trials of the education system. There is no way to describe the range of emotions and observations I experienced in my short yet eye-opening ten hours I spent with the students but it is safe to say that my experience in these schools rekindled my passion for education and social justice that I will take with me for the rest of my life.
The anticipation was overflowing into the cabin of the airplane. I looked around and took note of where the nine young women on my trip were sitting. As if the expressions on their faces weren’t telling enough, I could just feel their excitement surfacing, as Jamaica came into focus through the tiny windows.
And now I’m off – on a another plane this time across the Caribbean, to the familiar town of Petersfield, Jamaica. Having visited Petersfield for 5 days this previous May, it felt strangely like going home as we drove across the country from Kingston to the western parish of Westmoreland.
We were greeted with the warmest of welcomes by Mr. Brown and promptly continued our journey, making the one hour drive to the rural community of Petersfield. My eyes stayed glued to the windows as we pulled into the town: beautiful colors, trees, and flowers – goats, cows, and chickens grazing along the road – and people everywhere! Walking to work, walking to school, selling mangos and breadfruit along the streets and socializing with each other on the Sunday afternoon.
On the first day of my internship at Amizade, Brandon asked the newly arrived interns if we wanted to go to Jamaica for a special event. I did not hesitate to accept the offer. The next day we were purchasing tickets to fly to Montego Bay. They called us the “Miracle Babies.” Let me explain the special reason for this event. On May 16, the Governor General Sir Patrick Allen visited the community of Petersfield, Jamaica for the first time in 50 years.
Today we went to Galloway ECI, a preschool for young children. I have to say, these kids were so full of life. They were tamer than their primary school counterparts, and had that spark that toddlers exude when discovering their world. I helped a classroom, drawing pictures of animals and writing their names underneath. The kids would then copy my drawings and writing and bring it to me for approval. Watching their faces light up when they correctly completed the assignment gave me a genuinely great feeling.