Daily life for volunteers in Jamaica is scheduled for sure, but there’s plenty of time for laughter, play, and impact. Our intern Jamee Mason describes a “typical day” for a SuperKids volunteer (typical being a matter of perception, flexibility being the mantra of the day).
7:00 a.m.: Volunteers eat breakfast together at the resort (including American dishes and Jamaican fare – breadfruit anyone?). We often sat with our teams, which varied from 9-12 people. Spending more time together as a team helped create a strong bond.
7:30 a.m.: Updates, opportunity to share “ambassador moments” (joy moments and/or info we got to share as guests asked questions), plus breathing exercises with Lucinda Kay to get us focused and energized for the day.
8:00 a.m.: Load up the buses which took us to one of the four schools in the Negril area: Pell River Primary, Kendal Primary, Mount Airy All Age, and Broughton Primary. My bus driver for the week, Presley, drove our team of twelve: Dylan Wells, Esther Clinton, Sarijana Clark, Diane Saramaga, Michelle Trowbridge, Pierce Donley, Lucinda “Cindy” Patterson-Goodwin, David Goodwin, Tika Melroy, Derek Bentoff, and my dad Walt “Mr. Walt” Mason. I loved our team! There’s always plenty of conversation and napping on the bus ride.
8:30 a.m.: Arrive at Mount Airy to hear the children reciting their morning prayers and announcements. Our team would then split up and get started in our first classes for the day. I led the sports teams along with my dad Walt, my partner for the week.
9:00 a.m.: We started by teaching Ms. MacKenzie’s 1st graders, a group of absolutely adorable children! Mr. Walt and I taught the kids “Duck Duck Goose.” Before introducing the game, my dad and I taught the young ones how to spell both “duck” and “goose”, to incorporate the literacy component of the project. At the beginning of each day we would check to see who remembered how to spell the new words. After some time getting settled, “Duck Duck Goose” eventually turned into a huge hit with all of the children! Everyone ran around laughing and having a blast!
9:30 a.m.: After first grade, we picked up Ms. Daley’s 5th grade class. In addition to explaining the importance of teamwork and taking turns, we taught the older kids a variety of games, such as hacky sack, basketball, and football. Football seemed to be everyone’s favorite! When we arrived, the school only had one ball for all the kids to play with at recess, but we got to gift several – this proved a very big deal!
10:00 a.m.: During the school’s mid-morning break, the school provided volunteers with delicious snacks- typically fresh fruit, crackers and juice. I loved break because it gave me an opportunity to hang out with all the students, not just the ones I had in class. I tried to leave art supplies on the table outside during break for the children to use. At the end of break, numerous students ran up to volunteers with pictures and drawings as gifts.
10:15 a.m.: After break, Mr. Walt and I would pick up the second class of 1st graders we had, taught by Ms. Getten. Once again, we taught them new words and played “Duck Duck Goose,” along with “Red Light Green Light,” and we passed around the footballs.
11:00 a.m.: The fantastic lunch, provided by the school, usually consisted of chicken, rice, fruit, and other traditional Jamaican foods (I never had the opportunity to try “chicken foot soup”, too bad…). Volunteers would finish then join the students outside for recess. During recess, I divided my time racing students, playing “Bully in the Pen”, dancing, playing freeze tag, or just talking with students. Recess, while a bit chaotic, stands out as one of my favorite parts of the day.
12:00 p.m.: We had Ms. Russell’s energetic 3rd graders after lunch. This class loved moving outside! Setting up scrimmages of football helped the students learn the value of teamwork as well as learning to incorporate everyone in the game. Jamaicans love football!
12:45 p.m.: Following 3rd grade, we had Mr. Samuel’s 5th grade. Yes, I do have favorites! This group of students showed so much interest and excitement in everything we did! All week they told me about their Friday band practice and luckily I had the opportunity to hear some of their amazing drumming and singing at the end of the week. One day the entire class sang a beautiful song they had learned in music club.
1:30 p.m.: By this time of the day we only had one class left, Ms. Harvey’s sixth grade. We taught a number of football drills to these students such as working on headers, chest balls, passing, and scrimmages.
My favorite game we played with all the classes is a balloon relay. We divided each class into two teams. The first person in line had to spin around in place eight times. After spinning they would dizzily run to a chair, receive a balloon from Mr. Walt, blow it up, and pop it on their chair by sitting on it. Competition, as it turns out, is what drives most of these students. They totally dug it and everyone laughed, cheered on their teammates, and moved fast to win. Even the principal, Ms. MacKenzie came outside with a huge smile on her face to watch the excitement. Success surrounded the entire balloon relay!
2:30 p.m.: After school ended, we boarded the bus and headed back to Beaches Negril. During the ride our team participated in a daily decompress. This decompress routine is taught to us by the SuperKids leadership to help us process the day’s challenges and celebrate the successes. The process consists of questions about the day, what could be improved upon the next day, and what successes and challenges volunteers experienced with the students, teachers, team, and communication. This time gave each person on the team a chance to share and reflect, and allowed our team to come together one last time for the day.
Once we reach the resort everyone goes their own way to rest, or meet in the sea with a beverage for sunset, or to get ready for dinner and the entertainment of the night. Although long, the days leave each volunteer feeling extremely rewarded!