From January 2-15, Stevenson University students had the opportunity to travel to Jamaica for a three-credit class and volunteer work.
The Winterim class, Topics in Human Services (HSR 250), was offered to students studying education, humanities, human services, psychology, and interdisciplinary studies. Professor and chair of the human services department, Dr. John Rosicky, led the seven students on an excursion to Petersfield, Jamaica, for the opportunity to volunteer at a local primary school, as well as engage in cultural activities and short tips around the island.
They partnered with the Global Service Learning organization Amizade, which promotes “fair trade learning,” giving students the chance to perform significant work alongside local hosts with great impact to the community. Stevenson’s students participated in the program in order to learn about the social service and educational systems in Jamaica and in turn compare them to the American educational system.
Junior Ally Herr, early childhood education major, said she was amazed by the classroom feel and education system. Herr’s “house mother” was the principal and teacher at the local primary school where the Stevenson students volunteered, which allowed Herr to understand some of the differences between Jamaican and American schools. Herr was surprised to see classrooms provided with barely enough materials for the students. “I was reminded of how fortunate we are in America,” she said.
Junior human services major Shanelle Abdullah recalled how kind and generous the children were even though they did not have much. She said that some of the children came from poor families but would still share their snacks and supplies with others without any hesitation.
The Stevenson students also worked to give back to the community by rebuilding a playground for the primary school.
“It was several days of hot work– digging, leveling, pouring concrete and spreading sand all with simple hand tools,” said Rosicky.
Abdullah said that after they completed the playground, they were able to play with the children in their newly-created space, seeing the smiles on all the children’s faces paid off for all the hard work.
Both Herr and Abdullah were delighted with the hospitality and warmth the people of Jamaica showed them. The nation’s motto, “Out of many people, one people,” emphasizes the sense of togetherness found throughout the island. Although the Stevenson group were foreigners, the primary school children would still hold their hands and others would act as if they had all known each other for a long time.