During the summer of 2019, a group of five dynamic and determined ladies traveled all the way from the United Kingdom to volunteer at the Jamaica National Children home through us at Jamaica International Projects. Following the spectacular work done at JNCH by Girlguiding Anglia in 2017, the group was tasked with painting the central tree of the home, painting the stones and benches, as well as repainting the wall over the Tegwyn unit that houses disabled children.
The faithful trip began August 1, 2019, and ran until August 15, 2019. During their volunteer vacation, the team stayed at the Grand Port Royal Hotel just outside of Kingston. During the days when they volunteered at the home, we transferred them to and from the project, as well as provided home-cooked Jamaican dinners. On other days, the ladies embarked on some fun tours and adventures and explored the various sides and scenes in Jamaica that are rarely experienced by the average visitor.
Here we see the ladies that embarked on this volunteer vacation in Jamaica with us. From left to right they are Michelle Dodds, Holly Emmerson, Joanne Lambert, Kyra Chapman, and last but certainly not least, Wendy Donnan-Chapman.
Since 2015, we have partnered with the Jamaica National Children Home in Papine to provide them with volunteers and interns to assist in many areas, such as renovations, childcare, nursing, training, etc. Team Sunshine & Stars’ work was as crucial as that of any of our previous volunteers and interns, as they beautified the premises to help lift the spirits of all the children and staff there, as well as engage with the children. They also brought along multiple suitcases of items that were donated to the children, many of which were collected from, or paid for by the generous donations of the ladies and their sponsors back home.
Each day, the ladies would awake and have their breakfast at the hotel. Afterwards, they would be picked up and transferred to the children’s home to begin that day’s volunteer activities. Their volunteer group was divided into two, with Joanne and Holly volunteering to paint the central tree and garden, and Wendy, Kyra, and Shelley painting the wall at the Tegwyn unit. At the end of the volunteer day, they would be transferred from the children home back to the hotel, where they would relax, swim, and reflect upon the day’s activities before enjoying dinner.
On Friday, August 9, 2019, just 15 minutes after we had departed JNCH after that day’s volunteer efforts, the home was beseeched by a fire, which destroyed the dorms, and rendered the premises uninhabitable. Fortunately, none of the children or caregivers were hurt in the fire, though there was over $150 million JMD worth of damage done. Once we became aware of the fire the following day, we postponed our planned trip to Montego Bay and immediately head for the home to see what help we could give. After ascertaining that the kids were safe and had been relocated to a temporary new home in Stony Hill, we gave the Director of the home Mr. Anderson a ride to go and see the kids, and the ladies got them some toothbrushes and toothpaste.
On special days, the ladies embarked on some of the greatest adventures Jamaica has to offer. Throughout their journey, they traveled to or through 12 of the 14 parishes in Jamaica, to locations such as Negril, Portland, Ocho Rios, St. Elizabeth, Trelawney, and more.
The Blue Mountains as always offered up stunning views, long winding roads, and amazing adventures. We passed through Croydon Coffee Plantation, had an all you can eat buffet brunch at Strawberry Hills, Stopped at New Castle to see soldiers training, and went to Holywell Recreational Park for a hike.
It was a nice and sunny day (busy as well) at Dr’s Cave beach, which offered the ladies a chance to go swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling. After catching a snack at the Starbucks on the Hip Strip, we headed to Rose Hall Great house to catch the last day tour of the haunted mansion.
Our visit to the lush Portland saw us visiting two of the most beautiful natural attractions in Jamaica. Our first stop was to Reach Falls, which had a surprising amount of locals cooking, eating, and having a blast. We also enjoyed ourselves there as well, and few of the ladies even climbed through the underwater cave behind the waterfall. The next stop was at Boston Jerk Center for a jerk lunch. Blue Lagoon didn’t disappoint either, as team Sunshine & Stars did a boat tour of the lagoon and stayed on a private beach where they made full use of the hot and cold water.
In Negril, the Seven Mile Beach was the first stop for the group where they enjoyed the white sand beach and the warm Caribbean Sea. At Rick’s Café the ladies enjoyed the ambiance of catchy music and watching the divers jump off the steep cliff before taking in a breathtaking sunset.
I think every member of team Sunshine & Stars would agree that the drive to Appleton Estate was by far the most scenic of them all. The vivid colors of the plants, tree, mountains, and even buildings as we drove through so many rural communities was a truly unique experience. The tour of Appleton Estate was nothing to scoff at either, as Wendy even remarked that it was her favorite tour out of all the others. I must admit that I find it to be my favorite experience in Jamaica as well. There was rum, sugar cane, and molasses tastings, a quick movie on the history of rum and sugar in Jamaica, a tour of the distillery, and even a donkey! After our escapade at Appleton, we headed to Pelican Bar, where the ladies took a boat ride out to the bar in the middle of the sea. After returning from the bar, our final stop was at Little Ochi Seafood restaurant, where even though we got there at night, the ambiance of eating seafood on the beach with the sea behind you was great.
After the final day of volunteering, the ladies headed out to Lime Cay where they enjoyed refreshments and let off some steam on the white sand beach/island, just a 15-minute boat ride from their hotel.
On select days, I gave the ladies introductory lessons on Patois, which is our local dialect, which I hope came in handy for them to better understand the children at the home. Conducting the lessons was fun, and now I know that if all else fails, I can try my hand at teaching.
We also had a games night, where we played Ludy (ludo). It was a fun and competitive game that Kyra won by a mile.
On two occasions I brought the group to my home in St. Catherine, where the ladies enjoyed food prepared by my mother. They also met the other members of my family, including my father and my niece and nephew.
After such a successful trip, dampened by the shadow of the fire that destroyed the children home, we have decided to reopen this trip for the same time frame in 2020, to anyone looking to volunteer in Jamaica on a program similar to this trip to help refurbish the children home in any way we can, as well as to support the children. At Jamaica International Projects we believe in finding the perfect balance between working hard at the volunteer projects by doing work that will leave an impact, with embarking on bucket list-worthy adventures and enjoying the beauty of Jamaica. By joining this trip, you will have the chance to do both.
Do you want to be a part of this trip to help the children pick up the pieces of the devastating fire that destroyed their home? Then follow the link to learn more about this 2020 Summer Volunteer Vacation in Jamaica. There are only 25 spaces available, and they will go quickly. You may also make a 10% deposit and pay the balance in 5 monthly installments.
On behalf of Jamaica International Projects and Jamaica National Children’s Home, I would like to say a big thank you to all the lovely ladies that took their time, effort, and money to fly all the way to Jamaica to help make a difference in the lives of the children. I would like to also thank their donors and sponsors as well. Thank you for all you have done and we hope to see you all again soon!
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