Alternative Spring Break – Jamaica – FIU
I found myself putting in an application for Alternative Breaks (aBs) without even realizing what I was signing up for. I did not really expect to become a site leader but I did become one. I tended to doubt myself a lot back then. I went to the site leader retreat completely out of my comfort zone and scared. I met my co, Gabby, the person I was going to have to get to know because we had one common goal: our trip. Still scared, I was always hesitant to move forward or speak up and then I did the 9/11 day of service. I got out of my shell a little. And that was my turning point. I grew more comfortable; I was becoming a leader. When I found out where my group and I were going, I don’t think I could have gotten any more excited that I already was. Jamaica. It was another country we were going to for women’s rights. It was everything I wanted all in one trip. Next thing you know, it is Spring Break and it was by far the best experience I have ever had. Jamaica changed me. It taught me to be patient, to be kind, to be understanding, and the most of all, that I absolutely love what I was doing there. I always smile when I think of our trip. I also smile knowing I was blessed with the opportunity to go with the group of people I went with because I know I have found kind-hearted and genuine people that I can call friends. AB taught me how to lead, but they also taught me how to love and appreciate myself in a way I have never been able to do before and for that I am eternally grateful. I definitely look forward to going on this journey again next year. These girls deserve the best and I want to do everything in my power to make it right for them.
Farah, Florida International University
2016 Site Leader, Jamaica
My experience working with the girls of Pringle Home and the International Children’s Outreach has been a beautiful, eye-opening experience. The girls have been through so much in their short lives that no child should have to go through and to see them open up to newcomers makes me believe that their tragedies haven’t scarred them enough to shut out people who really want to help them. A lot of the girls have dreams and aspirations far beyond the Home and Jamaica and I wish to help them as much as I can. I was worried that the girls wouldn’t accept me or open up to me because I haven’t walked a single step in their shoes, but I was completely wrong. I’ve pledged to go back to Jamaica at least once, hopefully twice, a year from now on to keep an eye on them and to let them know that I haven’t forgotten and I never will.
Gabby, Florida International University
2016 Site Leader, Jamaica
My first trip with Alternative Breaks was one to remember. Not only was it my first time with this organization, but it was also my first time visiting Jamaica and first time traveling with a group of people that were not my family members. The group and myself spent months raising money for this trip and definitely earning trust, commitment and value with one another as well as our expected cause. I somewhat had an intuitive idea towards what would be expected from us as well as the outcome of the trip, but I was still very much surprised with our work and overall experience. I traveled to Jamaica with an open heart, mind and arms. I was the happiest I had been in months over there and I would drop everything I am doing today to go back right now. It is difficult for me to put into words everything I have experienced over there without becoming emotional, so I leave this summary with this:
“It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed, is you.” -Eric Roth
Ana, Florida International University
2016 Participant, Jamaica
I think it is safe to say that before our Spring Break trip, we did not know exactly what to expect. I knew that we were going to be conducting a beautification project on the outside of the building and that we were going to work at an all-girl home, but what I did not realize before going was that those girls would impact me as much as our group impacted them. This trip gave us unforgettable memories and I feel grateful for the opportunity to get out of our comfort zone and experience what we did.
Esther, Florida International University
2016 Participant, Jamaica
Alternative Breaks gave me an opportunity to travel to Jamaica to perform volunteer work. Our particular social issue was women’s rights. My experience was more than I could ever ask for. It was a life time experience for me where I was able to work with girls who were sexually abused at a very early age of their life. We did beautification projects at the orphanage where we painted the outside of the wall. Later in the afternoon, when they came back from school, we spent time talking to the girls. Once the girls were comfortable sharing their stories with us, we were able to do the empowerment session with them. In the empowerment session, we talked about how we, as women, need to be strong and also about things that these girls could do to improve their situation. I personally had an opportunity to have a one-on-one session with some of girls. Overall, it has changed my life, allowing me to view things in a different way. At the same time, I feel stronger and more confident. Also, there was a day where we went to visit the infant school and to work with the children directly in the classrooms. The children were very excited to have us there. I am so blessed and thankful that I had this great opportunity to work with these beautiful girls. It was a very diverse cultural experience, not to mention that I have made unforgettable memories and close friendships and new friends. Also, this entire trip made me realize I have so much more to help or offer to my community in the future that I want to continue.
Aisha, Florida International University
2016 Participant, Jamaica
When I signed up for Alternative Breaks, I had no idea what I was getting into. I thought “What’s the worst that can happen: I meet new people? I travel somewhere?” What I didn’t think about was who I was going to inspire, who was going to inspire me, and how this experience would change my life. When we arrived at Pringle for the first time, I didn’t quite realize the gravity of the situation. These girls needed us, and I needed them. I instantly gravitated toward the smaller children and they became close with me instantly. I read to them, smiled with them, played with them, and held them. These girls are not in the best of situations but they smile and keep their heads up. They became the strongest people that I know. After spending a few days with these girls, and realizing that they made a difference in me, they wrote me letters letting me know that I made a difference in them. I still think about them every day, and I hope they realize how much they mean to me. It was an unforgettable experience, and I hope to come back to Pringle with my new insight on life and do the best I can once more.
Noah, Florida International University
2016 Participant, Jamaica
How can I describe the recent trip I took to participate in Alternative Breaks (aB) ICO Jamaica Spring experience at the Pringle Orphanage near Carron Hall, Jamaica? Amazing, challenging, fun… No word seemed quite right until my sister asked, “Was it rewarding?” Yes, it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
I need to start with the people: I prepared for this trip and traveled with an amazing group of FIU students. We all brought our unique familial, cultural, racial, gender (there was a lone male amongst us) and age-related experiences and shared them with each other in an open and trusting way. As a result, each one of us was better able to impact the girls we met and worked with. The girls’ stories were painful to hear and their continued suffering was heartbreaking, but their spirits and life dreams were still alive and inspiring. My fellow participants are like family. The girls are unforgettable.
Then there was the work we were sent to do. At first, it seemed insignificant to be painting the outside of the building. However, the finished product spruced up the grounds. In the process, several of the girls who had not gone to school joined in with the effort, worked alongside aB participants and continued the bonding process that had started on Day One. The games the students brought served as a perfect way to join our worlds. Uno was a big favorite, along with Jenga and War. The girls were eager to play, as well as eager to learn and teach new games. In a way that we could not see at the beginning, these “tasks” led up to the empowerment session, with Noah working with the younger group who had become so attached to him (and he to them, too) and the rest of the students facilitating a “girl talk” session in the TV room. We had heard stories about the “mafia,” bullying, lack of privacy, etc. during the week; even so many of the girls joined in and shared. And at the end, the girls got the students dancing “Pringle House” style.
And now the fun: getting to know Kevin and Auntie Bev, sampling the delicious food they made for us, the conversations (serious and not) we shared, enjoying the scenery from our hilltop, the cultural day at Duns River Falls, and a chance to see more of the country.
I want to go back, but not to a resort. I did not like the “tourist” interactions in the Ochos Rios Craft market. I thoroughly enjoyed the short trip some of us took to Highgate with a local cab driver to find local spices, teas and patties. I would want to go back to the Pringle House and continue efforts to improve the physical, and to whatever degree possible, the emotional issues of the orphanage. I would want to see more of the country and learn more about the people and the history. I am starting to save my spare change to be able to do this!
Lisa Simpson, Florida International University
2016 Staff Participant, Jamaica