Teaching in Jamaica by Rosene Simpson
During my time with the Community Literacy Project in Manchester Jamaica, I was based at the United Salem Church of the Brethren in Christ. A typical day volunteering at my placement consisted of teaching English literacy and language skills to adult participants of the Community Literacy Project (CLP) in New Green district – a rural farming community in Mandeville.
The way I got to work each day was by taxi - Caribbean style – two in the front and up to four seated in the back! I was the first volunteer and was able to establish basic teaching practice leaving initial methods and records for other volunteers from the organisation Projects Abroad to continue with after my departure.
Local employment opportunities within the area are fairly low, unless directly related to farming the land in season. My teaching spaces spanned across the church hall and even the deacon’s office! I was also situated in two rooms set up as classrooms for sessional group teaching – with some individual support available to attendees on an appointment basis.
Outside commitments of CLP participants were a barrier to learning. These included finances; home / work commitments and childcare arrangements. I spent an hour each day with the summer school attendees that were also based at United Brethren, for arts and craft sessions, where children of the CLP were often found.
Resources were an issue which is very different to what I have seen England where we often access basic items conveniently and instantly. This would mainly include photocopying facilities and available quantities of writing tools like pen and paper!
I was immediately invited to attend worship in the local community at New Green Baptist for their Youth service and for that I was grateful. I also went to Andrews Memorial United Church for Communion service with my host family - the Millington’s - and their friends.
Vacation Bible School was in progress across many of the churches in New Green and other surrounding areas of Mandeville. These were run by visiting missionaries specifically there for the Jamaican youth. They came from Kentucky, North Carolina and California branches in the United States.
It was an inspirational time, and I was lucky enough to see a river baptism take place at Porous in Manchester, by New Creation Church, which had a mainly youth congregation in attendance. Girls and Boys Brigades alike were celebrating their 90 years anniversary in Jamaica this year and I was able to attend a fundraiser for it, a prayer breakfast - with the best of Jamaican dishes! - to mark the occasion at Ridge mount United Church, a branch of the Presbyterian Church in Jamaica and Grand Cayman in Mandeville town.
My Host Family
My host family was the Millington’s who are an inspiring and articulate Jamaican family. With a famous connection – grandfather Mr Vincent Hill – the first Jamaican Geologist to travel abroad and work on behalf of the mineral trade.
There was always someone around to talk to, offer advice and guidance on Jamaican culture, etiquette and cuisine! I was later joined by two other volunteers in the hosts beautiful home, who also brought their experiences to our time with the family. I must also not forget to mention Echo – the family pet – an African parrot, of extreme intelligence!
There was ample opportunity to travel out at the weekends and see Jamaica. I went to visit Ochio rios; Negril; Blue Mountain and other tourist beaches and attractions in the surrounding parishes.
A tranquil favourite of mine was Treasure Beach in St James – a natural and untouched beach. It took just under three hours’ drive – but was well worth the afternoon trip.
A busier alternative was Kingston, where we stayed at Reggae Hostel- in the area of Halfway Tree; visiting the home of the late musical legend Bob Marley, a Museum on Hope Road; and tourist attractions like Devon House in Hope Garden where people were selling traditional crafts; Devonshire pasties and ice-creams. This was a real throwback to the colonial past!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at Six Ways Baptist Church in Birmingham, who made this journey possible by supporting my time at the teaching project with the CLP this year, and including me in their prayers for my safe return.
I would also especially like to thank the Projects Abroad Country Director Bridgette Barratt-Williams, Country Desk-Officer Cherricha Jacobs and ground staff alike Sanikia Powell; Patrina Thomas-Morrison; Claudine; Stacy-Ann Barratt and especially my project supervisor Collette Kerr of the Projects Abroad Jamaica team.