Great Shape! Inc.’s SuperKids Literacy Project is an educational, humanitarian project in Jamaica. Our teams provide resources, curriculum, volunteers, and training in rural areas where the literacy rate is just about 40%. SuperKids volunteers focus on literacy, computers, art, music, and sports for thousands of children.. You’ll work with first through sixth grades to build a strong foundation of reading for their future.
Services and Education
SuperKids volunteers divide into teams and are assigned to different schools. Volunteers inspire and educate with a holistic language arts curriculum, book donations, computers, sports, art, and music.
The IT team gathers and refurbishes computers all year long, shipping about four tons of equipment to Jamaica each year. Volunteers then build computer labs, install software and train school staff on basic maintenance. The IT team also networks the computers and teaches Jamaican children the basics of computer use.
Our literacy volunteers work in communities with little access to books, so we implement a “Book in a Bag” program which sends reading books home with children that they can trade in for another book week after week.
We also collect donations to help provide school uniforms. Children in Jamaica cannot attend school without uniforms; we approve a list of students, the principals pay the local tailors, and we receive pictures of those students at school soon after.
Sports, art and music teams donate their supplies to the schools. These teams also teach sports, art, and music techniques to children, always linking up to the literacy lessons.
Who Can Volunteer?
You can! You don’t have to be a professional educator to volunteer on the SuperKids Project. Certified teachers and specialists make up a portion of our team, plus all kinds of other professionals, retired folks, and students. Volunteers must be 18 years or older. Exceptions may be requested from Great Shape! staff.
It's all about ``One Love``
Each year, hundreds of humanitarian heroes volunteer from all across the island, USA, Canada, the UK and beyond to help over 40,000 people in great need. We ask each volunteer to join with an open heart, a good sense of humor, a willingness to learn and the ability to “go with the flow”. The purpose of this project can be spelled out in four letters: L-O-V-E!
In Jamaica, they have a saying: “One Love” – which simply means we are all brothers and sisters in the highest spiritual sense. That is why we care – that is why we come. Volunteers make new friends, learn about new cultures, learn about themselves and get an opportunity to use their skills for absolute fulfillment. Volunteers tell us they get much more out of the experience than they could ever give.
- Volunteers pay their own airfare and project fee*.
- Hotel, food, drinks, airport transfers on the island and resort amenities are all provided for free by the Sandals Foundation.
- You can be refunded some or all of your project fee and airfare through our Sponsor a Smile fundraising campaign.
- Your project fee and travel expenses are tax deductible. All donations made to Great Shape! in the Sponsor a Smile campaign are tax deductible for the donor.
- Volunteers are required to bring school supplies (list provided); these can be gathered through donors.
- Volunteers pay to ship their supplies to Miami. Great Shape! Inc. pays to ship the supplies from Miami to Jamaica.
* All project fees go directly to offset the expenses of the project to operate and administer a well-organized, safe and productive international humanitarian experience.
You will be asked to gather a list of school supplies and any resources you’ll need to teach your specific lesson plans. We will provide a list and information.
How Long Can I Volunteer?
Volunteers can work for 1 or 2 weeks depending on availability. You must arrive and depart on specific dates (see list of dates). If you wish to arrive or depart on other dates you must get permission from Great Shape! staff and you will be responsible for any additional expenses, including hotels. If you wish to volunteer for more than two weeks please contact Great Shape! staff.
The SuperKids Project is facilitated by Great Shape! and directed by Georgene Crowe, Gretchen Lee, and Brad Adams (Board Members, experts in Jamaican culture, and speak Patois).
Ministries and Sponsors
The Jamaican Ministry of Education provides support, logistics, and assessments for SuperKids. First Book, an innovative leader in social enterprise, donates thousands of reading books to Great Shape!, while Soles for Souls donates hundreds of pairs of shoes for our students and their communities.
Any work in rural Jamaica is challenging. Volunteers work in the humid, tropical heat, often in rudimentary buildings, sometimes with bugs and always with equipment and facilities less efficient than what you use at home. Schools in Jamaica are loud, chaotic and crowded. The communication style between school authorities, educators, and the children may not be what you’re accustomed to in your home country. However, these challenges are all part of the adventure of humanitarian travel and provides great opportunities to model new techniques.
After a long, hard day in the field, you’ll experience camaraderie in the relaxing luxury of Sandals and Beaches All-Inclusive Resorts. While the primary purpose is to help those in need, there is plenty of cross-cultural interaction, learning and free time. In general, work is 8-4 M-F while evenings and weekends offer free time (except for the meet ‘n greet party and orientation).
SuperKids teams travel to rural schools on the West side of the island. All schools are less than an hour’s drive from the hotels. Each morning, volunteers leave the hotel at 8am by van, start work at 9am and return around 4pm. Evenings and weekends are free time except for orientation and training.
3 People to a Room
Accommodations are in the first class, all-inclusive Sandals Resorts. They include all you can eat, drink and play. These hotels are within a 2-hour drive from the Montego Bay Airport. Each volunteer will share a room with two other people, each person who wants their own bed will have one. Volunteers will be matched with roommates by request or in the most compatible way, whenever possible. You can organize your group into three’s so you can be roommates with those you know. Volunteers are welcome to enjoy the many amenities of the resorts during their free time, including various restaurants, bars, entertainment, water sports, scuba diving, pools, etc. – all free!
The airport you MUST fly into is Montego Bay, Jamaica or “MBJ”. Volunteers make their own travel arrangements but must arrive at the airport by the assigned timeline. Airfare to Jamaica can vary from $300 to $900 depending on location, airline and availability. We recommend that you first check Expedia or Orbitz for general pricing, but then, once you have found something you like, purchase directly from the airline carrier websites. Please contact us if you need help with travel advice.
All Americans are required to carry a current passport to re-enter the USA. U.S. and Canadian citizens are not required to use a VISA to enter Jamaica. If you are not a US or Canadian citizen, please contact us to make sure you have the correct documentation for entry and return. You should always carry a photocopy of your travel documents separate from the originals in case the originals are lost or stolen. This will expedite permission to re-enter your country.
We highly recommend you consult your doctor before traveling to Jamaica or any foreign country for current health considerations. You may also wish to visit the US Embassy website or CDC website for latest health updates for Jamaica. In 2014, the Chikungunya Virus spread across the Caribbean, including Jamaica. Chikungunya is a virus that causes joint pain, fever, headache and sometimes rash. It appears the outbreak has run its course and is no longer considered a high risk in Jamaica, but all volunteers will be advised to follow normal precautions of wearing mosquito repellent and long clothes where mosquitos are present.
There are doctors and hospitals in Jamaica, but emergency services can be difficult to obtain in a timely fashion. As is typical in a developing nation, the quality or availability of health care services may be well below what you are use to.
Emergency evacuation to the USA for emergency medical attention may be required, depending on the severity and urgency of the situation. We strongly advise each volunteer secure their own emergency medical travel insurance and contact your health insurance company about what to do and what is covered in the event of a medical emergency. We also recommend you discuss an emergency plan with your doctor and keep phone numbers of primary care providers with you at all times.
According to the CIA World Fact Book, Jamaica has an HIV rate of 1.7% of the population as of 2012. This is far below many countries in Africa and other places (US is listed at 1%). We place a high emphasis on safety with our volunteers to take the greatest of care when working out in the field. In the unlikely event you are exposed to HIV, you will have to decide if you want to take HIV medications (prophylaxis). WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you review this possibility with your doctor prior to participation and have a post exposure plan in place for yourself.
Water and Food
Water in most communities in Jamaica is treated and safe to drink from the tap. Bottled water is also readily available. The food is plentiful, delicious, fresh, varied and safe to eat. Eat and drink well to stay nourished and hydrated!