Hannah Payne - Disaster Management in Jamaica
My name is Hannah Payne and I am 22 years of age. My volunteering experience includes working for the disaster management project in Black River, St Elizabeth, Jamaica.
I have obtained a degree in Geography and am currently pursuing my master’s degree in Crisis and Disaster management. With this in mind, I thought it is best to gain first-hand experience in the field which I plan to focus my career around. I found Jamaica to be the perfect choice!
My Disaster Management placement
I was situated in Black River of St Elizabeth where I had the opportunity to work closely with the Parish council disaster management team. My placement responsibilities included a wide variety of tasks where the majority of my time was focused on the shelters and conducting shelter inspections, located in the Parish. This was in line with the increasing danger of hurricanes during the month of June. I also sat in council meetings where I learnt a lot about the workings and decision making which takes place during these crucial times.
I further participated in research where myself and other volunteers compiled hurricane and climate presentations and presented this information to the council in the council meetings. This process educated everyone on precautions which needed to be taken in the case of a hurricane.
My social experience
Black River was situated approximately one and a half hours from Mandeville. This was not in the same area where volunteers were, so when we had social events, such as patois classes, karaoke and reggae dance, which I really enjoyed, it gave me the opportunity to spend time with the other volunteers and the projects abroad team.
The Projects abroad office is also located in Mandeville. My supervisor was extremely helpful and visited us at least once a week to ensure we were fine. All staff members were really friendly and always interacted with the other volunteers to ensure we enjoyed our time in Jamaica.
One particular social event which I remember the most, was the patois class, where I learnt Rastafarian patois, which I still practice today back home.
Travelling in Jamaica on weekends
I was welcomed into the home of the Smith’s family. As my host family, they gave me a taste of Jamaica’s cuisine which I brought back home to England and even cooked for my family.
Meeting the other volunteers from all over the world was a wonderful experience. I made some amazing friends. Travelling on the weekends was always something I looked forward to; Ochi Rios, Kingston, Mandeville and Montego Bay were some of the locations I was lucky enough to visit.
My two weekends included Ochi Rios, where I climbed Dunns river fall and enjoyed relaxing time on the beach. Kingston was much more of a challenge, where Friday evening, we travelled to Jah B’s and stayed overnight, to wake at 2am to climb 3000 feet to the top of Blue Mountain, where we eventually saw the morning sunrise. This was very challenging for me as it took us 7 hours to climb up and down the mountain before travelling back to Kingston. This was very exhausting for me but we were very proud of our accomplishment.
Memories of a lifetime
Fond Memories of mine have included meeting so many amazing Jamaican’s, usually in a taxi, where for the long journey speaking to them about their life and experiences in their country, really gave me personal insight into their lives.
Another, would be climbing Blue Mountain, which I was told before I left is one of the number one things I need to accomplish while in Jamaica. Although it was difficult and exhausting, I am still glad I accomplished getting to the peak just after sunrise. Returning home after Jamaica was a big change. I became comfortable with my life in Jamaica and how calm and relaxed their lifestyle is compared to mine in London.
My experience Overall in Jamaica was fantastic! They gave me real insight into their lives, how they cope with natural disasters and how their lives really do vary, so much from mine. From this experience I am already looking into doing two more projects after I finish university, both due to my time in Jamaica and the life lessons I gained since.