Hi everyone! My name is Abim (read like “a beam of light”) and I’d like to tell you about a service-learning trip I helped plan over the past semester called USC Project Jamaica. I’ve gotten the privilege to participate in several service-learning trips and outreach programs throughout my time at USC. Many overseas trips go to countries all over the world from Thailand and India to Costa Rica and Honduras. Some of my friends from the undergraduate organization African Americans in Health suggested that we expand USC’s reach and venture to a nation that hadn’t been visited before. So we selected Jamaica, since it’s a country within close proximity of the US, but with vast needs with respect to healthcare.
Located in the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica is a small island country about an hour and a half south of Florida by flight. Though majority of Jamaicans are descendants of Africans, brought to the West Indies via the slave trade, Jamaica hosts a colorful mix of people from India, China, and Latin America. Over the past couple of decades, Jamaica has significantly reduced the presence of infectious diseases, such as malaria and dengue. However, it’s facing an increase in cases of HIV/AIDS, diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease. In light of this, our vision for the trip was to work at a few orphanages and teach the children lessons about healthy lifestyles in hopes of promoting a healthier Jamaica. In addition, we wanted to meet with Jamaican healthcare professionals to learn about the state of Jamaica’s healthcare system. Thus, the motivation behind Project Jamaica was twofold: to meet a global health need and to educate USC’s future healthcare providers about disparities abroad.
Planning and preparing for this trip entailed a lengthy process of phone calls, emails, and prayers. So, I would like to acknowledge several USC faculty and staff members for their assistance, such as Dr. Gaeke (the Director of USC’s Volunteer Center), Mrs. Flores from the USC Institute for Global Health, and Dr. Sanchez from the Keck School of Medicine. The trip couldn’t have been a success without the help of our flight agent Ginny Boyce, Mrs. Codling-Garrett (our lifeline to Jamaica), and the vast donations we received from Cassandra Sutton, Jack Trump, students from USC’s Pharmacy School, and students from the two USC Residential Halls of Webb Tower apartments and Fluor Tower suites. In addition, we’d like to thank our sponsors such as the USC Institute for Global Health, the Undergraduate Student Government’s Philanthropy Board, the USC School of Pharmacy, and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate.
Last but not least, I would like to recognize all of the students that helped the trip come together. They truly made USC Project Jamaica a fun and rewarding experience. Starting on the left at the top row, I’ll introduce each team member. First, we have the lovely Toni-Codling Garrett. Toni was born and raised in Jamaica and is currently completing her second year in USC’s Pharmacy Program. This service-learning trip could not have been planned without either Toni or her mom, who both helped in connecting us with doctors and pharmacists in Jamaica, confirming our different volunteer sites, and opening their home for us to stay in free of charge. Next we have the energetic Ayee Azah. Ayee is a junior at USC, majoring in Biology with a minor in Gerontology. Next to Ayee in the middle is me, Abim. I’m a senior at USC majoring in International Relations/Global Business, with a minor in Natural Science. To the right is Miss Ruth Awosika, a second year student in the USC Pharmacy program. Ruth has played an integral role in planning for the trip and we all owe her great thanks for establishing ties with the Jamaican Ministry of Health, different volunteer sites, and pharmacists throughout the region. To Ruth’s left is the ever-hilarious Aubrey Moreau. Aubrey’s also completing his second year in USC’s Pharmacy School. In the first row on the left, we have the youngest member of our trip, Iyesha Robinson. Iyesha is completing her first year at USC and has declared Biology as her major. Next, we have the lovely Saleema Kapadia. Saleema is new to the Trojan Family, as she just started the USC Pharmacy program in the Fall. In the middle is one of my roommates from the trip, the hilarious Susan Won. Susan is also a first year pharmacy student. Next we have “Madame” Keshia Groves, the co-President of African Americans in Health and a key planner in USC Project Jamaica. Keshia is a senior majoring in Psychology, with a public health minor in Cultural Competency. And, last but not least, we have dearest Christina Yu. Christina spent much of the trip behind the camera, recording many of our reflections, presentations, and activities on film.
Unfortunately, two members of our team are missing from the picture: Gina Jaqua and Alicia Moreau. Gina is a sophomore at USC majoring in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. She joined us for some activities in Jamaica, but stayed with her family in Montego Bay after we left for the States. Alicia, Aubrey’s wife, is a Veterinary student at Western University. She joined us for the first half of the trip, but had to leave a little earlier on account of work. And voila! USC Project Jamaica!
Since I didn’t have access to internet during my stay in Jamaica, I’ll be posting my reflection journal for the overall trip with individual entries from each day. So be on the lookout for additional posts!