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September 25th 2017

Volunteering in Jamaica

Over the Summer holidays, four students, along with Economics teacher Mr Pattison and History teacher Miss Williams, visited Jamaica.  Organised by Mr Pattison, Louise, Keely, Alyssa and Hannah volunteered in two of the country's orphanages.  Louise, Year 13, with input from the other girls, describes their experience.

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Although two weeks might seem like a long time, I’m sure that everyone on the trip would agree that when we were in Jamaica, it felt like almost no time passed from when we stepped off the plane into sunny Kingston to when we arrived back in Gatwick.

On the day after we arrived in Jamaica, we were split into our groups and taken to work with the children. Although we had prepared ourselves for the worst, we were all surprised by what we found at the orphanages. The conditions, though not ideal, were clean and generally well looked after. The workers we met dealt with the children with a lot of love and grace, especially considering that they care for the children every single day. In Matthew 25, the workers were even personally at risk from being hounded out of their communities if it became known that they were working with HIV positive children.

In Kingston, we saw things and had experiences that most tourists who travel to Jamaica do not get to see. It really felt as though we had been given an opportunity to experience real Jamaica, and not just the Jamaican tourist industry. One such moment was when a Jamaican woman called Jean let us into her home and fed us with real Jamaican home cooking. At her house, we were able to hear her experiences with the two orphanages we visited and she helped us to realise that our presence in Jamaica wasn’t simply superficial, but that is was making a significant difference in the lives of the children we met.

Another wonderful experience that we shared as a group in Kingston was going to see a dance performance put on by a company who were trying to use creativity and dance as a way of keeping children out of gangs.

On our second week, we journeyed across a brand new highway to Ocho Rios. Travelling on this road felt almost eerie; there were hardly any other vehicles around. The tolls put in place on the new road meant that many ordinary Jamaicans couldn’t afford to use it.

The second week certainly felt different to the first. The week was more about us than the charity work, and we had more time to rest and to reflect on the previous week. This is not to say that we did nothing during the second week!

Nearly everyday we had the opportunity to go to the beach, on which we had access to the deck-chairs and clear water. We also explored the area around Ocho Rios, taking the minibus up into the mountains several times. As well as this, we spent one day climbing up Dunn’s River Falls, and another at the Blue Hole, where all of us were brave enough to jump off a 20ft platform into 40ft of water. This in particular was one of Hannah’s favourite parts of the trip.

One of the main points that this trip highlighted for all of us was just how rewarding it can be to help and serve other people. The trip gave us an opportunity to see how the money we had raised could go to people who really needed it, and seeing the money put to good use was a very satisfying experience for us all.

Coming back from the trip, we were all sad to say goodbye to the children. Keely in particular was genuinely considering adopting just about all of them. Now that the trip is over, I would definitely consider going a second time, and it is an experience I would recommend to anyone.

- Louise, Year 13

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