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

Saturday March 14, 2014

Today was definitely one of my favorite days here so far because it was so relaxed. My group and I all went to the primary school to finish putting concrete under the fence around the playground. We had did the same thing to the other side of the school a couple days ago while the children were in class, but today is Saturday so there are only adults. I love the children, but I am so sunburnt that I was relieved a little bit not to have to feel the need to let the kids climb all over me! Mr. Brown had me and another girl who volunteered go to the hardware store with him to pick up concrete and wood the other day for this project. I learned from him that people in Jamaica are more willing to help you if you are white. I find this quite sad in a way because the majority of the people in this country are not white. I feel like they should be willing to help out the people in their own communities first rather than cater to people who are not from here. Anyways, the project today went well. We all put forth the effort needed to finish the project in a timely manner. Also, my lunch today was very good! I had a sweet bread and cheese sandwich with cookies.

After we finished the project, it began to rain, but I wasn’t upset. The rain didn’t rain on our parade; we all decided to change into our swim suits afterwards and walked to a local waterfall and natural pool to swim. It was so beautiful and amazing despite the rain. The rain calmed down the earth and calmed down my soul. I was able to gain some insight and understanding about the Jamaican culture and my experience here while I was watching the rain fall on the green mountains. I had honestly woke up a little confused this morning about what love really is and what my true purpose was in life, but after talking to a local while at the waterfall, I came to the conclusion that I needed to free my mind of this confusion and just continue loving unconditionally and never question my journey. I had such a great time at that waterfall/natural pool. The man who owned it said it was over 400 years old! There was a rope swing that we all swung off of into the water, and usually I am a little afraid of jumping into water, but I faced my fear and jumped in several times and had a lot of fun.

I am sad that today is our last day here, but then again I am happy to be heading home and going back to my family and friends. I had an amazing time and learned so much about the Jamaican culture, school system, and most importantly, I learned about the people here. I really fell in love with the people here. I love my host mom and dad, I love all the children and how hard they all try in class, I love how I got to teach a young girl how to tie her shoe, and I love that I got to know people from a different country. I learned something that I already knew was true, but now I have experience to reference it back to – people are basically the same everywhere I go. We are human. We all need to eat, sleep, and drink water. We all cry sometimes and laugh. We hurt and help each other through hard times. I got to witness all the things that make us human happen in a different country, and I think it is absolutely beautiful. People everywhere ask me the same questions about myself. They tell me I’m weird and interesting, and maybe I am, but I’m just starting to realize that it doesn’t matter what people think of me, what matters is how I handle myself, situations, and how much I care about others. I proved to myself this week that I am capable of caring for myself and also looking at others in our group and caring for them and caring for the people in this community. I don’t want to just live my life everyday thinking of myself and being selfish. I want to live my life knowing that I’m making some type of difference in someone else’s life whether it’s by just hugging a child that hurt his leg on the playground or doing the dishes for my host mom after she worked all day in a classroom. It’s easy to take care of myself and make sure everything is fine with me, but what isn’t always so easy is to make the decision to get up and help someone else out who’s life isn’t so easy at that moment. I believe we are all in this world together and we should all be a part of each other’s lives in some way.

Before going back to my host family’s house, I found myself dancing in the rain to Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” that someone had playing on their porch. This may seem like a small meaningless action, but at the time, I didn’t even realize how important it was to me because sometimes I worry (who doesn’t?) but dancing in the rain to Bob Marley after helping fix a fence at a local school in Jamaica is something I never would have imagined myself doing in a million years. It has been a dream come true and as hard as it is for me to actually say, when I get back home, I want to stop worrying so much and thinking so much and just get out there and do what needs to be done because if nothing else, this experience has taught me to be grateful for the life I live and the opportunities I have because not everyone is lucky enough to be educated and to have fresh water and food everyday. I am forever grateful for Amizade, WVU, and the community here in Jamaica for helping me understand my life a little more and understand who I am in this big world.

By: Ashley Tennant