USC Project Jamaica: Day III

Saturday, December 19

Today we got to venture outside of Montego Bay. As many schools in the area were out for the Christmas holiday, it was hard to schedule a site for the day. Fortunately, we were able to visit SOS Children’s Village, an orphanage on the outskirts of Montego Bay. Since they had ongoing activities for the children, we made a quick visit.

SOS Children’s Villages are an international network of orphanages, with a significant presence throughout the world. On top of the site outside of Montego Bay, another of its campuses is in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital.

When we arrived at SOS, I was truly impressed. It houses 100 orphans from childhood to late teens in 11 houses. Each house constitutes a family, with a house mother, a spacious living room and kitchen, and a room with 5 bunk beds for girls and another with 5 bunk beds for boys. I liked the sense of kinship this environment fostered and the “mother” (the caretaker of the house) we spoke to was so friendly.

After touring the house, we presented SOS with donations. If we hold the trip again next year, I’d like to get in touch with SOS much earlier on and schedule a whole week with them to present a new lesson each day. However, we added SOS after our plans with the Good Shepard Foundation fell through. So it was a last minute addition to our itinerary.

From there, we ventured to Dunn’s River Falls, an attraction that Jamaica is famous for. I wish we were able to secure a time with another orphanage in the area, but realized that becoming culturally competent was just as important as serving a new community. After all, the purpose of this service-learning trip was to both volunteer at different orphanages and to learn about the community we’d be working in. So, we selected Dunn’s River Falls as a team-building exercise. The waterfall park presents different features about Jamaica’s rich history. As we walked through the park, we learned about Jamaican culture, such as the saying irie which means “no worries.”

We then ventured to the waterfalls. With the aid of two guides, the eleven of us climbed the waterfalls from the bottom to the very top. We held hands throughout and instructed each other as we dodged slippery rocks and fast currents. By this time, our group had bonded rather well. But this trust exercise reaffirmed our sense of team and family.