Laura James - Care & Community in Jamaica
I have always been interested in travelling, discovering new cultures and helping others. When I heard about Projects Abroad 2 Week Specials I was very enthusiastic, the Care & Community project in Jamaica jumped out at me straight away as I had always wanted to go to Jamaica and helping out in a local primary school sounded amazing.
My journey to Jamaica
I was very nervous about travelling without my parents because I have always had a fear of flying, however my mind was put to rest as I had contacted a few of the volunteers before the trip and we were all getting on the same flight. We all got on straight away and we were very excited.
When we arrived we were all thrilled to be in Jamaica and were eager to meet our host families. After a long car ride in the night from the airport I got dropped off first and I was warmly welcomed by my host family, they made me feel comfortable and at home straight away!
Placement - week one
When I woke up the next day I realised there were 9 other girls staying in the house, I was happy and excited to get to know them all better. We all went to the office and met the other volunteers doing the same placement, there was a big group of us but funnily there were only 2 boys. After meeting everyone and having a tour around Mandeville we went and visited Bethabara Primary School were we would be working for the next two weeks.
When we entered the hall there were lots of very excited children awaiting us all with massive grins on their faces. It was heart-warming at how excited they were for us to be with them and I couldn’t stop smiling! The children were split into two age groups, 7-10 and 11-16. For the first week I was with the 11-16 years old, we played many games, activities and arts and crafts. I loved working with the children as they were so polite and always in a happy mood.
The children loved singing and dancing and at every opportunity they would put on a talent show for us, they were all great! At the end of every day I was always so tired and couldn’t wait to get home to my host family and have dinner. My host mother would always make such tasty dishes and my favourite was jerk chicken! Once we had eaten the other volunteers and I would watch a film in one of our rooms and have lots of snacks.
Placement - week two
After having so much fun with the 11-16 years it was time to change groups. The 7-10 years old were all full of energy and so cute! We played lots of games; duck duck goose was their favourite. The main activity with the younger children was arts and crafts, they made crowns, masks and a ‘my life story book’ which was filled of pictures of themselves and friends. The children would always play with my hair and ask me to pick them up for cuddles. Every day was fun and rewarding, making new friends with the children and volunteers.
After being at the placement and saying goodbye to the children for the day, all volunteers and staff would go to the Projects Abroad office. We would get involved in lots of activities and have time to relax. One night we went to a cafe and did karaoke, it was fun to hear everyone sing! A few times we went to the supermarket to get snacks, I would always get far too much! Another time we did a patois lesson, and then a Jamaican dance class. I wasn’t very good at the dancing but always liked to get involved.
After a tiring first week working in the primary school I was excited to explore more of the island. First we went to the craft market in Ocho Rios, it was a exciting place full of little treasures. After the market we went to the beach, it was so beautiful.
We got the chance to either go snorkelling or go on jet skis, I decided to go on a jet ski and it was so much fun. After a good day at the beach we all climbed back onto the bus and went back to Mandeville. The next day our host family took us to YS falls, it was such an amazing place. We went zip lining across the waterfalls and got to rope swing into the water. It was such a good day and I was very thankful that our host family could take us there.
Last day in Mandeville
I was sad that the last day had come round so quickly, I would miss the children, staff and volunteers so much. The children put on a talent show for everyone, they sang, danced or acted. I felt so happy to have been able to spend time with such amazing children. We had a little party with cake, ice cream and we handed out gifts to each child, and they appreciated this all so much.
After tearful goodbyes with the children I was very sad to be going home. My 2 weeks in Jamaica had been filled with love, fun and friends! It was such a rewarding and thrilling experience and I would love to do it again.
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.