Michelle Sivilla - Alternative Spring Break, Care in Jamaica
I am a 25-year-old student from northern California studying elementary education. I actually came across Projects Abroad while reading an article on Alternative Spring Breaks for university students in Cosmopolitan magazine. I immediately looked into Projects Abroad and decided that the Care project in Jamaica would probably be the best fit; I had never been to Jamaica before and loved the idea of spending a week working with children in such a beautiful country. Within a few days I had booked my flight and was counting down the days until my departure.
Arriving in Jamaica
After catching three separate flights, I finally arrived at Montego Bay airport where I was picked up by our lively taxi driver, Patrick, along with two other girls. The drive to Mandeville was about two and a half hours but felt like mere minutes considering there was so much to look at; beautiful greenery for miles and people everywhere!
My Host Family
I was incredibly lucky to be staying with the family I stayed with. They were so kind and welcoming. There were several other girls staying at the home with me, six of which would also be volunteering with me at the orphanage. It was nice to be able to come back after a day of volunteering to a place that truly felt like home.
My mornings here were especially relaxing and one of my favorite memories of my time in Jamaica; I would usually wake up before 7am and enjoy a cup of coffee outside until the rest of the girls were up. We were provided with delicious fresh fruit every morning as well as cereal and pancakes. I must have eaten my body weight in fresh fruit while in Jamaica and that is probably the thing I miss most!
The other girls and I were picked up by a taxi at our host family's home every morning at around 8am, although our taxi driver was notorious for not being on time! Time spent in the taxi driving around with the windows down blasting reggae and American pop songs are also a favorite memory of mine. There was always so much to look at while driving around Mandeville.
My Care Placement
We split our volunteering time at two different placements - an orphanage for children with special needs and an art school that was in need of some painting.
Volunteering at the orphanage was an experience I will never forget. We mostly played with the children and helped out with cleaning and laundry. Many of the children were not able to speak but just being with them, playing with them and singing to them made such a difference. It wasn't always easy but it was always rewarding and usually quite exhausting.
We would usually eat our lunch (sandwiches kindly made by our host father with some of the best bread I have ever had) at the orphanage before heading to our next placement. After volunteering at the orphanage, we would head over to the art school where we helped paint a classroom and bathroom. The painting was actually a lot of fun and the classroom looked great afterwards. It was also fun to interact with the students who thought we were quite interesting!
After our days of volunteering, the other girls and I were usually quite exhausted. We would get home, shower and relax a little before eating dinner with our host family. Our host mother always went above and beyond when preparing our dinners. We never went hungry, that is for sure!
After dinner we would go out into town for a few well deserved drinks and interact with locals and other Project Abroad volunteers. I had heard a lot about safety concerns in Jamaica but not once during my trip did I feel unsafe or scared, not even when I was proposed to by a stranger on the street!
Projects Abroad Mandeville staff did a great job at making sure we were safe, comfortable and happy. They were always available to chat if we needed advice (both before and during the trip) and also organized amazing events for us like our fruit tasting, waterfall trip and reggae dance class! It was hard to leave after only a week but if given the opportunity again, I'd go back tomorrow!
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