From the very beginning when Onica told me about the trip I instantly said yes! I am currently studying to become a future teacher, so without a doubt I agreed to the idea of traveling to Jamaica to visit the country, as well as being actively involved in the necessities of Jamaican children. Along with five other FIU students and alumni we joined efforts to accomplish our mission: helping these kids in need and make them happy. We started by collecting donations including clothes for all ages and sizes, toys, school supplies, and picture books. All of our bags were loaded to the maximum limit! We were very excited to see how the kids were going to react to such contributions.
So, our trip began. The first day we went to the Stratmore Gardens Orphanage, where around 40 kids are taken care of due to their lack of care at home. As soon as we got there, all the children were waiting for us in the front gate aspiring for nothing more than just a simple hug. While having a tour of the place, we realized the extreme conditions in which these kids live in. The place needed a lot of work, from better furniture to a more positive environment. Not only that, but it was also heartbreaking to see that each of the kid’s personal possessions were very few. Therefore, with our minds wrapped around the poor conditions of these children’s “home sweet home”, we tried to work as hard as we could to improve it. Painting the walls, of two rooms, the main gate, some furniture, giving out the donated clothes, toys and school supplies were our influences to the kids. When we finished, we certainly saw a smile on every little face. It was as if we shifted their world to the best. We could not bear to say goodbye so fast, so we decided on returning before the end of the trip.
Our trip was just starting. The next day we went to the Ebony Vale School, a Basic School with many students from low-income families. Our jobs included repainting the buildings from the outside, and rebuilding the playground. It was a long day under that bright sun, but with the incredible help of some parents and school staff that offered us a hand, we finally reached our goals. Moreover, It was amazing to see how the school community was gathered together to renovate the school. I realized that even though they live in extremely harsh situations; the spark of unity and interdependence to join hands and enhance their situation is still there. I am sure that they were very pleased with us being there, but from our part, we were also delighted to support them as well.
The last day was a free day in which we shifted to our tourist mindsets and visited the beautiful waterfalls of Ocho Rios. This location attracts visitors from all over the world, and it was definitely an adventurous and fun experience. We hiked the waterfall from bottom to top, and later rested on a beach; the view was stunning. There was no other best way to end the trip.
Overall, our trip to Jamaica was an amazing opportunity; personally, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. All of these service trips are important because they move people and create awareness of the huge necessities of others around the corner. With that said, ICO is an organization that embraces such ideals and will continue to promote these kinds of life-changing trips. We live in a world that is constantly changing, thus, I believe that education is the richness of every community. Besides, there is no better feeling than to give what we have extra to those that have absolutely nothing.
Florida International University student