Weeks later, Rachel Duff Anderson is still talking about how great the food in Jamaica was.
As Lourdes University’s first year experience director, Ms. Anderson recently led a group of students and representatives to Manchester and Kingston, Jamaica, for a service project.
“They grow almost everything that was prepared for us, so it’s very fresh,” she said.
Sister Barbara Vano, director of campus ministry at Lourdes, agreed. “They really have some wonderful recipes. I woke up one morning to a pig roasting outside my window,” she said.
In May, a team of 10 students and four representatives from both Lourdes and Siena Heights University in Adrian Mich., went to volunteer at the St. John Bosco Home for Boys, which is a residential child-care institution that serves about 150 boys between the ages of 3 and 17.
Ms. Anderson traveled to Jamaica for the first time 12 years ago and since then, she has continued to return with groups of students. During the most recent eight-day trip, the team participated in many service projects, including helping set up volunteer housing at another school, the Alpha Boys School, in Kingston, Jamaica.
Sister Vano joked that many trips were made to the dump, to toss out materials and furniture that were unable to be repaired.
The group visited during the country’s Labor Day, so the students were out of school, which gave them more one-on-one time with the Lourdes and the Siena volunteers.
Andrew Switzer, a Siena Heights student, recalled spending days working with students.
“We would play soccer, catch and run with the boys. That encompassed the bulk of our days. Even though the labor work was significant, the one-on-one time with the boys meant more,” he said.
Anna Stoiber, a Lourdes student, said going on the trip caused her to get out of her comfort zone.
“Going into it was a struggle because of their culture and because they are very relaxed and go with the flow,” she said.
The volunteers didn’t have an itinerary on the trip, and did not know what to expect on a daily basis.
“It’s really about meeting the days need,” Ms. Anderson said.
She said the culture emphasizes a focus on the present moment and not thinking about the next day before it happens.
Mr. Switzer said he was initially nervous to work with the students, but after arriving, that soon disappeared.
“Everything that was nervous before, we ended up loving,” he said.
Ms. Anderson said going on the trip included educating participating students about the country and encouraging them to share the gift of time with the school.
“It’s a privilege to go there,” she said. “Our students really had the opportunity to know one another. No one was invited to take technology on this trip — no phones or iPads. It really generated a lot of opportunity for students to be with each other.”
Ms. Stoiber and Mr. Switzer said the no-technology policy created a tremendous benefit.
Instead of texting at the table, the experience allowed them to spend more time conversing with each other and the boys at the school.
“With being there 24 hours a day for that length of time, spending time with people and seeing how it meant to each of us, the opportunity to provide resources is needed,” Sister Vano said. “The one-on-one time, the kids were hungry for that.”
While the group found much to be thankful for during the visit, Ms. Anderson said the work is not done and hopes the students will go forth and share what they’ve learned.
“It’s all part of our story now. It’s not enough to just go to Jamaica. Now they know something and they are responsible to do something with that knowledge,” she said.
Contact Kelly McLendon at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-206-0356.