A Travellerspoint blog

Day 11: Our last and final blog

Thank you to everybody who followed along on our journey! For our last day we just wanted to relax, unwind, and enjoy the last few hours of Jamaica.


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Day 10: Annie Dawson's Children Home

Today’s visit was to the Annie Dawson’s Children Home, which is a group home for young girls between the ages of 5-18. It was founded 6 years ago by Ms Ivilie Nickie, and named after her parents. She explained to us that her parents inspired her to establish the Home because she grew up in a household of children that her parents took in. She said that made her passionate about working with vulnerable children and she noted that It has always been her dream was to offer a home for children. She shared one of her mother's quotes that guides her work with her girls:

“If you never learn how to love another person's child, you will not know what love is”.


We had the chance to learn about the different documentations and funding for the Home. Annie Dawson Home is one of 40 private residential care facilities for children in Jamaica. It is overseen by Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), which is a government agency that aims to protect and transform Jamaican children lives and strengthen families. Ms Nickie used her money from retirement to establish and maintain the house. She also receives funding and support from the government and private entities for the girl’s education, health care, food, and other daily needs. She has a series of logs that she keeps for government records which includes visitor logs, daily logs, injury logs, medical logs, critical incident logs, and police logs. When we entered the house for a tour, we were immediately greeted by the girls with attention and affection. They were eager to get to know us and engage with them. For confidentiality purposes and to protect the girls from any harm or vulnerabilities we were not allowed to take pictures of or with them.


There are approximately 22 girls in the Home. The house consists of multiple rooms with multiple bunk beds for the children. There are also separate rooms for staff, washrooms to share, multiple purpose room where they can wash their clothes, watch T.V., play games, and a clothing room that holds all the girls’ clothing. There is a play ground in the backyard that has a swing set, a slide, a jungle gym, patio sets, and other areas for the girls to play.


We had the opportunity to interact with the girls in different ways. The girls had many talents and interests including braiding hair, sports, writing, reading, and card games. Most of the girls have been braiding hair since age 7 which we thought was an amazing skill because it shows self sufficiency and independence. We connected with the girls as they braided our hair, played card games, colour, read, draw, and had “girl talk”. From these activities we saw relationships forming among ourselves and the girls.


Some of the girls gave us a quick tour of the fruit trees that are in the back yard. They have mangoes, breadfruit, soursop, June plum, Jamaican apples, and star fruit trees. The girl picked starfruit and gave us to try. It had a unique mixture of a texture of a pepper and taste of a green apple.


The girls also taught us some new games, One of the games that the girls showed us was a game that is similar to dodge ball called “Dandy-Shandy”. The game requires a group of people to stand in the middle while the two people on the either sides of the field aim and hit the ball at the group in the middle. We also did homework with the girls. The girls had so much energy, the boys could barely keep up.


Our thoughts about the day were very profound. It was easier to connect on a deeper level with the girls today because it was a smaller group of children and youth. We also found today was a test for our social and emotional boundaries in relation to interacting with the children and youth. Since we built a strong rapport with them, it was bitter sweet on both ends when it was time to part ways. Although our time was short with them, the experience will impact our work in the future for a lifetime. We believe that more young practitioners like us should engage in experiences like this to help children/youth create a strong foundation for individual growth.


Our day and final trip activity ended with an interesting twist. Our bus had mechanical failure and broke down at the side of the road in the rain. This tested our patience and resilience. Although rain and the bus threatened to dampened our day, we all decided that it is important to remember that after every storm, comes a rainbow. In this case the memories of engaging with the girls earlier in the day and the learning experiences of the entire trip is our rainbow.


Written by Leah and Stephanie

Posted by fscs_jamaica 16:59 Archived in Jamaica Comments (0)

Day 9: Rio Cobre Juvenile Correctional Centre

storm 30 °C


Today we volunteered with the We Transform Labour Day project at the Rio Cobre Juvenile Correction Centre. The 'We Transform' project aims to reduce the number of youth to reduce recidivism and successfully reintegration young offenders in their communities and society. They do this by engaging youth in mentorship programs, vocational training in fields such as carpentry and agriculture, and educational engagement.


When we arrived at Rio Cobre, we were greeted by security. We were instructed to leave significant valuables (i.e. cell phones) in a secure room away from the rest of the institution, and were given themed t-shirts that we were required to wear; courtesy of We Transform. We were all pleasantly surprised by the open nature and colourful appearance of the facility, which differs greatly from the grey and gloomy facilities we tend to see in Canada. Rio Cobre had colourful buildings with inspirational messages painted onto the walls.


We were then led into the facility classroom, where we were introduced to the Facility superintendent, Martin Dryden. We also met up again with the director of the We Transform project, Ella Ghartey and the Minister of State from the Ministry of National Security, Hon. Rudyard Spencer. His appearance was brief, as he was also scheduled to attend the other Juvenile Correction Centres as part of the We Transform project. Before his departure, he expressed his deep gratitude towards us at Humber for coming out to volunteer for the Labour day project. We also provided the boys with some gift bags as token of our appreciation.



The labour day project consisted of two components - one was agriculture and planting crops, while the other had surrounded takng care of newborn chicken and building their coops in order to prepare for the boys to raise them. The chickens and plants were donated by Hi Pro which a large Jamaican company that sells agriculture and farm products. Our group only assisted with the former. After the debrief, we were split into two groups - consisting of agricultural work (planting crops). Both groups responsible for agriculture planted various crops in the freshly dug up gardens of the facility; including bok choy, peppers, tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, and callaloo. While taking part in this activity, we were able to interact with a number of youth offenders who shared their backgrounds and interests. The boys also asked about Canada, including how multicultural it is, how the weather varies from season to season as well as the variety of cultural cuisines available at our disposal. After wrapping up the planting portion of the day, the boys were given a tutorial on how to care for the crops in the coming weeks after planting them. This indicated that the youth offenders have significant roles and responsibilities when it comes to caring for the facility, as well as their vocational training.




Lunch commenced shortly after the tutorial; it consisted of barbecue chicken, rice and peas, and salad. The group ate together on the adjoined picnic tables, and a rigorous thunderstorm ensued shortly thereafter. For approximately one hour, the group congregated itself under a large tent, which did not seem to make much of a difference, as the pouring rain was much too consistent - soaking us in the process.

After the rain let up significantly, the group branched off to play a game of basketball with a couple of boys in the facility. Although conditions were wet and sticky as a result of the aforementioned storm, the game was very fun nonetheless. After about an hour, the group then wrapped up the jam-packed day with a game of soccer with other boys from the facility (including some who played basketball, as well).

While this game was going on, a different group of students spoke to some of the correctional officers who work at Rio Cobre. They educated us on some of the strategies and programs they use at the facility to assist in rehabilitation. They spoke about activities such as yoga being offered, as well as a "model boy dorm" - where boys who display good behaviour are granted a separate dorm with extra activities available to them. We concluded as a group that the staff at Rio Cobre collectively take a rehabilitative approach to young offenders. They ensure that they are doing their best to assist the young offenders in taking a new path in life.


Posted by fscs_jamaica 15:34 Archived in Jamaica Comments (0)

Day 8 Volunteering at Boys' Town Infant and Primary School

Chantal & Evan

semi-overcast 32 °C

We started our day with our bus driver losing his keys resulting in us being late to our second volunteer day at Boys Town Infant and Primary School in Trench Town. Even though the children were suppose to be on break until next Monday, many students and parents still showed up for a day of sports, arts and crafts, getting to know you activities, and reading & counselling provided by the group. We all split up into different sections, and facilitated activities with the kids.


One of the first activities we did was sports. After asking the group of boys what they wanted they wanted to play, it was easy to see that football was their number one choice. By football, we mean soccer for those who don't know. After dividing the group into two teams (kids vs us) we played one of the most memorable games. Surprisingly, the boys were actually very talented when playing. They were sure to make us break a sweat and keep us on our feet. The experience as a whole was very enjoyable with everyone cheering and encouraging each other when good plays and/or goals were made.

Another activity that we was conducted at the same time was arts and crafts. We brought the students into the classroom and started to prepare our activity. We asked the teacher who was present at the time if there were any arts and crafts materials we could use with the kids to which she replied by stating she only had a few pieces of paper. Thankfully, we brought some colouring books and crayons to donate to the school that we were able to use. We interacted with them by working on their basic colour recognition. For those who didn't want to participate we had them point out different letters and numbers. There were some students who didn't finish colouring in time so we let them take their pictures and a selection of their favourite colours home to finish their work. Throughout out our time with them we noticed that they were very inclusive and helpful with one another.

One of the other activities offered to the students was reading. Once we brought all the kids together, we focused on reading books and stories to them. Thankfully all the kids were very involved and interactive throughout the readings! One issue we did come across however, was running out of stories to read. Thankfully we were able to redirect and find other activities to do like colouring and games. While there were some arguments, we found that our redirection worked overall to help keep the kids occupied.

One of the last activities we facilitated with the kids was a getting to know you session. This session was supposed to be focused on a variety of ice breakers however as the kids we had were of younger ages, it was quite difficult to do so. We focused on colouring and positive reinforcement. We utilized a reward system of stickers to promote positive behaviour and encouraged the kids to participate in the activities we did. We found that as the session went on, the kids loved receiving the stickers and often followed through with what was asked. When they were no longer available we found many of the kids began to act out and not participate as much.

The last activity that was facilitated went in a completely different direction. We provided an opportunity for the parents to get together and speak about issues they had with their children. This was an eye opening experience for all of us who participated. With the help of Humber faculty, the sessions went by amazingly. To begin, we brought all the parents into the same room and gave them an opportunity to speak about issues they are having with their children. To our surprise all of the parents were very eager to participate, ask questions, and ask for our advice. We worked on explaining theories that we have learned and provided simple activities they can do with their kids to help encourage and promote positive behaviour. We then had an amazing opportunity to find a closed room and take parents in for individual sessions. These were eye opening as the parents explained trauma, and past experiences to both themselves and the children. With this information we were able to give them more specific and detailed advice on how to help get the children out of behaviours.


Unfortunately a theme we came across was not being sure of policies and procedures that were put in place to the school. This made it difficult when children asked to go to the bathroom and go see their parents as we were not sure how to answer their questions, and often found ourselves going to confirm with teachers and other faculty a lot. Additionally, like yesterday, another thing we noticed was the consistent lack of water around the school. This was most prevalent during the soccer match as it was very hot and the constant physical activity was draining for everyone. We had many students asking us for water so we decided to split what we had as best as possible.

We wrapped up our time at Boys Town around 2:30 where we then made our way to a meeting with the Jamaican Constabulary Force where we spoke to Deputy Director Desmond Brooks. During our time we spoke about various topics such as the prevalence of firearms in Jamaica, the JCF involvement in Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO), youth diversion from the justice system and the overhanging cloud of corruption that surrounds the JCF. The main pieces of information that stood out from this discussion was that in the parish of St. James, from January 2016 to December 2018, there were 259 people charged for murder. Out of the group, 140 of the perpetrators were within the age range of 12-25. This is just over half of the total group and emphasizes the importance of crime prevention and intervention in ones youth years. Additionally, it was interesting to see the response of the Deputy Director when questioned about the public perception that there is a significant amount of corruption within the JCF. He stated that no matter where you look, there will be some degree of corruption. However, the JCF takes every measure through their oversight bodies to reduce it as much as possible.


Overall today session left an inedible impact on the group. We all learned how to deal with different behaviours and had a very specific debrief once the day was completed. We all spoke about why we think children began engaging in negative behaviours at times and analyzed trauma in regards to how that could make an impact on daily behaviours of the children.

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Day 7- Memories for a Lifetime

Today began with an early rise at 6:30 am where we set out to prepare for an inspiring and adventurous day of play with the kids for sports day at the Boys' Town Infant and Primary School, located in Trench Town.


Through this opportunity, our placement compromises of using our acquired academic skills in which we have all obtained through our various programs at Humber. We went into the school aiming to apply theories and knowledge we have acquired in community development, child/youth engagement and criminal justice.

Upon arrival, we were graciously welcomed and introduced by Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Black from the Infant Department. We were taught the age range of the students which was 3-6 in the infant category and 6-12 in primary. They explained that the school went up to grade 9 but took it out a few years ago, now the school goes up to grade 6.

We were then brought over to the Boys' Town Vocational Training Centre on the same campus where Mrs. Yyonne Hewiit, the Manager, was introduced to us and explained how the Centre works . She explained that the Boys' Town Vocation Training Centre is one of the many training institutions owned and operated by the Human Employment and Resource Training Trust, National Training Agency (HEART Trust/NTA), which is a government subsidiary that provides training and qualification for Jamaicans 17 years old and older. She explained that the centre provides certifications within the culinary field. They prepare students for a variety of opportunities including working on cruise ships, the restaurant industry, hotels and so much more.


We then headed to the Primary section and took a quick tour of some other areas around the school. We were welcomed again by many students as they proceeded to begin their morning routines, which included devotional prayer and song. Today was special as it was the school's sports day. The principal, Ms Banks, began getting the children excited, encouraging them to participate in chants and cheer for their teams.


All the children from the infant and primary department were placed in 4 teams:
Red House
Yellow House
Blue House
Purple House


The teams participated in a variety of activities such as track and field, bag races, and cheerleading.

We divided ourselves into groups of 4 and each group joined a team. Our tasks included encouraging and motivating our teams, as well as overseeing the children who were not competing while the teachers focused on those who were on the field. We played games with the chidlren and helped to keep everything organized while the activities were happening.


Despite the hot weather, the contagious excitement kept us going throughout the day. Once the races were completed, we went to a separate room and had a delicious lunch of fish, chicken, pork, and a few other sides. Once that was completed, we had a while to continue playing with the kids and proceeded back down to the field to continue the day.


We had the pleasant surprise of being honorary judges in the cheerleading competition and making the deciding vote that the blue team would win!

After the cheerleading was finished, we went back onto the bus to head home after a fun filled day.

As usual, we debriefed by reflecting on our day's experience. Despite the perception of Trench town being considered to be a low income town, the children remained in high spirits and remained happy and excited throughout the activities.

While attending the school we all feel as though it was a culture shock. Many of us spoke about how the schooling system was very different from the ones we know in Canada. We also discussed how continued development efforts such as appropriate resource allocation (water) and other basic necessities can beneficial towards the student's experience, learning and success. We also spoke about how this experience can enhance our practice in field when working with children from diverse backgrounds.


One of the things that stood out to many persons in the group, there were many posters displayed around the school promoting positive suggestions of behaviours to engage in when you are mad or upset, for example, tell a teacher that you are being bullied instead of hitting someone. It also provides suggestions on how to show politeness which was demonstrated by many students within the school. Our group discuss the meaning and relevance of these.

All in all this was a very inspiring and eye opening day for all of us. We are looking forward to going back to the school and continuing the activities with the students.


Posted by fscs_jamaica 21:13 Comments (0)

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