Jessica Harbin - General Care Projects in Jamaica
Arriving in Jamaica
After waiting 4 weeks for my trip to arrive, it was finally Sunday morning! I got dropped off at the Chicago Airport to finally begin my first international journey on my own. Growing up, I always knew I wanted to travel the world and volunteer- trying to make my imprint on this world with the passion for meeting people- starting relationships and trying to make the world a better place.
I was more than excited and nervous at the same time. The plane ride was smooth but seemed to last forever! I had a non-stop flight which was very convenient but that meant I was on a three and a half to four hour ride.
When I finally landed in Montego Bay, the minute I walked off the plane, my first thought was “dang, it was hot!” Being from Wisconsin, I had forgotten what it feels like to be outside without a winter jacket and snow boots on. Once I passed through customs, I walked outside to meet a Projects Abroad member of staff who was waiting for me to arrive, greeting me with a sign that had my name on it! We waited for another volunteer to pass through customs and then proceeded to drive to my host family’s house.
The drive was breath-taking because Jamaica is absolutely beautiful. When I finally arrived at my host family’s house, it was late at night but that didn’t stop my host family from running out of the house as I arrived to greet me! I was staying with the Grandville family as well as 5 other volunteers. Sadly, I was so jetlag that I went straight to bed so I could be refreshed for my first day with Projects Abroad.
My Care Placement
On my first full day in the wonderful land of Jamaica we took a tour of Mandeville (the local “big city”, as a group, being all volunteers who had come over during their university break. We got to try some local food for lunch, exchange money at the nearest bank while meeting and getting to know all of the other volunteers I was going to be working with.
Next we had a group meeting about what our week was going to be like including the things we were going to experience that may differ from our average or typical life at home. After our whole group meeting, we split into the individual projects such as building and care. I was on the care project along with eight other amazing ladies that became my good friends within no time; we still keep in touch today!
We then toured the orphanage that we were assigned to, for the remainder of the week. Seeing the placement for the first time was a bit overwhelming, but also made me want to start to help and work straight away. I was there to make a difference, or at least that was my goal in coming to Jamaica. After our placement tour, we had our small project group meeting on exactly what our upcoming week entailed such as pick up times.
Once our initiation day was finished, the other volunteers that had the same host family as me came home to a wonderful home cooked meal. Every day after work, we came home to an amazingly delicious ethnic Jamaican dinner. The food in Jamaica was absolutely to die for and since being back in America, I have been craving a beef Patti (a must try!).
The second day we were picked up from out host family and driven straight to our placement, mine being the orphanage. The local workers at the orphanage were so warm and welcoming, and well as the kids! I immediately jumped in and started to play and interact with the children.
At the particular orphanage I was working at, all the children had a disability of some sort, which was intimidating to some people, but not me, as I have a lot of experience. But it didn’t take long until all the volunteers warmed up and got used to the situation and they were soon interacting with the kids!
For the other half of the day, we were sent to the Institute of Arts and Culture where our job was to paint one of the classrooms. The children who attended the art institute were very interested in us being there. They asked to be in our pictures; they were thrilled to talk to us, sang songs and showed us many things like how to play football and their individual talents. After our workdays, volunteers were allowed free time for the rest of the night, or at least until curfew on weeknights.
My Free Time
After a hard day’s work, all the volunteers went home to shower and clean up then we made plans for the rest of the night. The nightlife in Jamaica was very fun! The girls I worked with and I went to dinner at amazing local restaurants then walked into the town to experience the local nightlife.
Everyone in Jamaica was very interested about us, asking us questions about why we had come to Jamaica and what America and other countries were like compared to Jamaica. The Jamaican people had such a great sense of hospitality, asking us if we have enjoyed ourselves in Jamaica so far, as if it were their home we were staying in.
The trip to Jamaica was the best opportunity I have stumbled upon thus far in my life! I have stories, memories and friends to last a lifetime! I would travel back to Jamaica in a heartbeat, hopefully I can return soon! I would recommend taking a trip like this to anyone of any age! There is so much out in the world to know and travelling through Projects Abroad definitely makes the experiences a once in a lifetime opportunity!
And remember “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” –Winston Churchill”
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.