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A Reflection of My Service Trip to Jamaica

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Siena chapter.

This past January I had the privilege of traveling to Negril, Jamaica through Siena College’s own Franciscan Center. This life changing trip opened my eyes to the quality of life in a third world country. Although many Jamacians did not have the basic necessities, such as running water, their morale was generally extremely high. Here is a look into the most interesting part of each day.

Friday January 4th, Day 1:

Our flight landed in Montego Bay around 3 p.m. Going through customs to enter Jamaica was a lot different than customs entering the United States. There were no lines, everyone was sort of grouped together with no clear direction of where to go next. Of course there was paper work, but I did not have a single border officer question me about my stay in Jamaica. I felt as if one were to sneak into Jamaica, it would be relatively easy.

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The picture above is the view from just outside the airport. When our ride arrived, immediately a Jamaican man was persistent that he put our bags in the van. Without much of a choice, we handed over our bags. He loaded them into the truck, then asked for a tip. We were caught off guard, as we did not ask for this man to put our bags in the van, let alone think he would as for a tip if we did not agree to this service in the first place. This was my first exposure to the Jamaican culture, and how it differes from Upstate New York.

Saturday January 5th, Day 2:

A few other Siena students and I went to a church in Little London. Here, there was a building where mass is held, and a seperate building for the kitchen where food is prepared and cooked. Our task was to paint the building that the kitchen was supposed to be, inside and out. Since there were cockroaches in the inside, I painted the outside. After about an hour of painting, some of the teenagers who regularly attend mass at this church stopped by. They ended up staying to paint with us. I’m guessing the typical American teenager would not willingly spend hours in the beating sun painting their local church, when there were people that were already painting. 

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Above is a picture of all of the Siena students and a few of the Jamaican teenagers all standing in front of the building that was painted. 

Sunday January 6th, Day 3:

On Sunday morning, we attended mass at the Mary Gate of Heaven Church. This mass was different than any mass I have ever been to before. For the first fifteen minutes, all of the children lined up at the altar. They were sang upbeat songs while shaking tambourines. It was really cool to see the Jamaican culture immersed in their religious practices.

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This is outside of the Mary Gate of Heaven church. 

Monday January 7th, Day 4:

We attended the first of three schools. St. Julie’s – the only private school we went to – was very small. There was a church and two classrooms with about eight children in each room. Here, we painted the church, and played with the kids during recess. These kids were very young, some were shy and some were not. During recess, one girl cried when we were there because she was scared of new people; yet another girl sat on my lap the whole time and played with my hair. When school was out, we played with the kids while we waited for them to be picked up. Something interesting I witnessed was that a group of four girls that rode home on the back of a motorcycle with a man. Two in the front, two in the back, and the man who was driving in between them. These girls did not have seat belts, helmets, or any extra form of safety. It was crazy to see as that never would have been allowed in the United States.

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The man and four girls riding away on the motorcycle.


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Here is one of the classrooms during lunch time.

Tuesday January 8th, Day 5:

The second school we visited was called Negril All Age School. It basically was three long buildings. Within the building, there were chalkboards that divided it up into three classrooms. This school was very crowded with about 35 to 40 kids in each classroom. Here, we helped the kids do their classwork. I was with a group of first graders that were learning how to tell time. I helped them differentiate between the big hand and the small hand.

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This picture was taken as I was about to leave. The girl in the front with the braids across her head, told me how happy she was that I was at school with her. I realized I was a role model to these children. By coming to their schools, I showed them just how important education was.

Wednesday January 9th, Day 6:

The third and final school we visited was called Mount Airy. This school was only made for about 200 children, yet 600 were enrolled. That being said, it was very over crowded. However, the teachers and principals did a very good job of keeping things organized. This school actually had several different buildings with actual walls that enclosed a classroom. Here, I worked with a first grade classroom. They were learning the difference between singular and plural words. When I was walking around helping the students one boy seemed like he was struggling a lot. I knelt down to try to help him write, but the teacher stopped me and said, “Oh he doesn’t write.” Here in the United States we are very lucky to have the education system that we have. We are lucky to have a very high literacy rate.

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In this picture, the children are lining up to wash their hands before lunch. There was only one fosset with running water, so the teachers would have the children line up behind the fosset. She sould then take a bottle of soap and squirt a drop all the way down the line. 

Thursday January 10th, Day 7:

On our last day, we had a beach day! We reflected over this amazing experience, that we all will remember for the rest of our lives. The feeling of doing service for others is a feeling I hope every Siena student encounters one day. Below is a picture of all of the Siena students that went on the Siena Stands with Jamaica Immersion trip.

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Emily Weinert is a Siena College Class of 2021 alumna. During her time at Siena, she studied Economics and Actuarial Sciences.