FIU aB-Winter Break 2015 Experience
by Aujanae Watson-Site Leader
For one week, 9 students from Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, Florida, traveled to Montego Bay to work with the girls at Pringle Home.
Starting out, we knew that we would be helping remodel their home by adding a new coat of paint to their bedrooms, hallways, and living areas. What we didn’t know was that we would make interactions and friends that we would never forget.
Our time at Pringle Home impacted us in so many ways in just one week.
On our first day at the home, we immediately received a tour of the place and we got to know our surroundings. As we walked around, many of the girls gave us confused looks and we figured it may have been because they’ve never seen such a diverse group in their home.
However, once the tour was over, we decided to go outside to their Yohan Blake themed court and playground to ease the awkwardness and it worked.
Less than 30 minutes later, the girls were talking with us, asking questions, wanting to take pictures, and more. We were so excited to see them break down their walls.
Then it came time to paint. For a few of us from FIU, it was our first time ever handling a project like this one. We soon realized that many of the girls we were working with had never painted either and we used that knowledge to get them to interact with us further. Over the span of two days, we had a blast painting every room with the girls while listening to music, dancing, and discussing any topic that came up.
Once our beautification project was done, it was time for Pringle Home’s annual Christmas dinner. We were so proud to show off our progress on the house for the many guests that arrived for the dinner, and the girls were more excited than ever to spend more time with us and receive their awards for their academic and extracurricular achievements in front of all who attended.
This dinner turned out to be a complete success as we enjoyed food, laughs, and a couple of items performed by both students from our FIU group and the girls from Pringle.
Following the Christmas dinner, it was time for us from FIU to host motivational workshops. While we were happy to complete the task of beautifying the girls’ rooms and spending every minute with them, we knew that we needed to use our time constructively to ensure that we left a lasting impact.
During our workshops, we tried to help the girls and some visiting boys realize their potential. We began by discussing simple topics that may not come up in their usual conversations, such as aspects of their personality or appearances that they love about themselves. We also made it a point to discuss things we loved about each other, as we knew that at their varying ages relations can sometimes get hostile or demeaning between one another.
It was very important for us to speak to the girls and boys in small groups in order to get to a more personal level so we could really focus on helping them. Those of us from FIU discussed our personal stories of challenge and triumph, while we listened to the kids and teens tell us theirs if they were willing. We realized that by sharing our own stories, which may have been similar to those of the kids from Pringle, would made them see that any goal is achievable despite any obstacle or roadblock, if you truly believe you can succeed and put your best foot forward.
By the end of our trip, we could see that the impact and friendships we made were truly genuine. We never expected to find something in these girls they would make it so hard to say goodbye. In our group from FIU, each of us individually made a genuine, compassionate connection with at least one girl from Pringle, prompting many of us to deem our trip a success.
On our final night, we spent it outside of our volunteer accommodations down the road from Pringle and danced away the night awaiting our special dinner, featuring homemade jerk chicken and festivals. We truly enjoyed the simple nights like these where we danced to typical Jamaican music all of the girls and their house mothers enjoyed, eating traditional foods, and just having down to earth conversations, no matter the age difference.
At the end of the night, it was time to say our final goodbyes. We had danced, ate, loved, and played and we would not leave without being remembered. During our time leading up to the trip, we collected donations from churches, our own personal homes, and other volunteers to bring to the kids we would work with at Pringle Home. We ended up bringing bags of donations from clothes, to hygiene products, to hair accessories, to games. At the end of our final night, we dispersed these donations as presents to all of the girls, something we believe that they really enjoyed. We imagine living in a place like theirs may sometimes make them feel forgotten and we wanted them to know that is certainly not the case. These girls gets so much appreciation and compassion from the staff and motherly figures at Pringle Home and we only wanted to continue that with our donations.
Our alternative breaks program with International Children’s Outreach truly gave all nine of us memories that will last a lifetime. We received so much love from those we connected with and we can only hope that we returned at least half of that love and openness.
Thank you to everyone we interacted with during our time in Jamaica for opening your arms to us and treating us as though we were one of your own. We will never forget the memories made here and we hope to see you again.