Sarah Lewis - Medicine in Jamaica Short-term Special
I have always loved to volunteer locally but last summer I decided that I wanted to do more. I started researching ways to volunteer abroad and I came across Projects Abroad. It took some convincing, but my parents warmed up to the idea pretty quickly and helped me fill out all of the application.
A week later, I received an email saying I was accepted to the programme. I was ecstatic! I chose Jamaica as my destination because from what I had heard, it was beautiful and a very fun place to visit.
In the months that followed, my family and I were preparing for the trip and I kept getting more and more excited. I don’t think it actually set in that I was really doing this until I was waiting in the airport the morning I left.
Arriving in Jamaica
This was my first time flying completely by myself so it was a little bit nerve wracking. Once I got on the plane, I began to feel excited again. My journey was not very long so I arrived in Montego Bay, Jamaica very shortly! I was so confused by the airport; I was running around like my hair was on fire trying to find all of my stuff and get to my driver. This was stressful at the time but thinking back now, everyone was so welcoming and nice and it is always a funny story to tell!
I finally found all of my stuff and saw my driver once I was through the arrival gate. He gave me a hug and welcomed me to the country. This was a great way to start off my day in Jamaica! The ride from the airport to my host family’s house was roughly three hours of very narrow and twisting roads. I had a good conversation with the driver, though and he told me all about Jamaica!
When I arrived to my host family’s house I was nervous to meet everyone. Their son was the first one out of the house to help me with my bags. He was very sweet and welcoming. I then met the mother and the two other volunteers who had already arrived.
We all sat on the couch awkwardly trying to find something to talk about, who knew these girls would turn out to be some of the best friends I have ever made! Later, it was dinner time and my first Jamaican dinner which was fish and rice. It was spicy but very, very good!
Late in the evening, the three other volunteers arrived to the house. They were exhausted from long flights so we all went to bed. I was ready for the hospital work to begin!
At my placement
The first week we had so many incredible experiences in the hospital. We met all of the people we would be working with and paired up in the wards of the hospitals. I observed so much more than I ever thought I would.
Even when there were slow days, we still got to assist the nurses or talk to the patients. Sometimes, there was just down time where you could get to know the volunteers working in the ward with you, this was always nice!
One of my best memories from the first week was when a teenage girl came up to me and one of the other volunteers and started talking to us. She was mostly speaking in Patois, which at this point we could not understand much of, but we caught what we could and asked her about her day.
The smile on her face while we were talking to her was truly remarkable. Just to know that we had made someone’s day a little bit better made everything hard about the trip worth it! We had Red Cross certification in the afternoons and then an activity planned by the staff at night. I have to say one thing! The Projects Abroad staffs are amazing! They make sure you have fun and feel right at home while still trying new things!
We had a cooking class; we danced on the roof, karaoke night, a Patois class and so many other fun things. We also had some free time which gave us a chance to look around the town we were staying in and buy souvenirs for our friends and family back home.
Every afternoon, the same taxi driver took all the Medicine Project girls home. He was amazing! He showed us some really great music and there was singing almost every evening! When we got home, dinner was always ready for us and our host Mom and Dad always provided tasty food! It was always so good, you couldn’t get enough!
Every evening after dinner all of the girls would go out on the patio and talk. We talked about everything! Our cultures, how school was different, our friends and families and we loved looking at each other’s pictures! It was amazing having the opportunity to meet so many diverse people. Whether they were from the United States, like me or somewhere else in the world! These girls made the trip so much more fun. I was blessed to have gotten to meet them!
The weekend trips
Over the weekend we went to the beach which I was really excited to see! It was better than I thought it would be it was so beautiful, just like I had heard! My two best memories from the second week were the Paediatrics ward had a birthday party! In the Paediatrics Ward, the kids were so cute and sweet and they loved us! We read to them and carried the babies around just to help however we could!
The girls loved to play with our hair and braid it. They all knew our names by the time we left. One of the volunteers had a birthday while in Jamaica so we threw her a surprise party one night. She had a huge, colourful cake and sparkling juice and we sang to her! It was one of the most fun nights I had there. She was so excited, which was awesome to see!
The night before everyone was to leave was sadder than any of us thought it would be. I think we hadn’t realised how close we all were by the end of the trip. We all sat on the patio and ate pudding talking about the trip and promising each other that we would stay in touch!
Then we went to bed but since everyone was leaving at different times throughout the night, we all woke up with each other to see them out and hug them bye. Meeting them was truly life changing.
I am so thankful for Projects Abroad and the experiences the project gave me. Not only did they give me the opportunity to meet some unforgettable girls, but they also taught me so much. They taught me how to be a leader, how to interact with people in a professional setting, and about a whole new culture. For this, I cannot thank them enough!