Volunteering and Learning at Galloway ECI, Jamaica

by Amizade Global Service-Learning

This post is part of a group blog and will include submissions from members of Amizade’s Spring Break Service Learning Course in Jamaica. Keep checking back to hear more stories from the group as they prepare for their trip, experience Jamaica, serve with the community, and reflect on their experiences!

Today I spent my second day volunteering at Galloway ECI, a preschool for ages 3-5.  The children were so wonderful and friendly!School children in Jamaica The school day starts with a neat time called “devotion”. A few of the students , assisted by a teacher, lead religious songs and the Jamaican national anthem, recite courtesy words like “please” and “thank you”, and name the parishes of Jamaica.  Girls wear green-and-white checked jumpers, and boys wear matching shirts and khaki pants.  The girls proudly wear beads and barrettes in their hair of green and white, the school colors. Students greet us each morning with a chorus of “Good morning, teacher! Good morning, friend!”

All the students called us “teacher”, and though I have no actual teaching experience, I was able to help in the classroom by reading stories, teaching songs, and checking notebooks.  It is hard to keep a class of 25+ 4-year-olds interested in anything for long!  It’s even more challenging when the open door lets in sounds of trucks barreling down the road and noise from the other classrooms.  The school is preparing for sports day on Friday; the students are divided up into three teams (called “houses”) and compete at some educational tasks, like counting and writing their names.

The students have recess for at least an hour each day, and often more.  This is when I really get a chance to interact with them and get to know them.  Though I can’t always understand the Jamaican accent and I feel bad asking the students to repeat themselves, a big smile and a hug usually does the trick.  I play different games, watch as the girls show off on the jungle gym, attend to playground squabbles and scrapes, and just generally give the students one-on-one attention that the teachers (through absolutely no fault of their own) do not have time to provide.  One girl in particular, Ashante, is my little shadow, and I hardly go anywhere without feeling her tugging on my skirt or hand. Tavon,  another student, is full of questions and wants to know all about me, including how to spell my name, whether my freckles are dirty marks that can be scratched off, and whether my hair is actually a wig (several tugs convinced him otherwise).

Though a day at the school is exhausting, I enjoy every part of it.  The students remind me how to live—with a big smile. I hope that, at the end of the week, I will have been some help to them.  I already know, though, that they have helped me regain a positive, joy-filled outlook on life.


-Rebecca Posa, WVU Student