I sent this email to my friends and family the other day, but didn’t want the rest of you to miss out. 🙂
As I write this note from my studio apartment in Kingston a soft breeze is coming in through the open patio door. A giant grey moth camping out in my kitchen is keeping me from thinking too seriously about making dinner. The spicy sweet scent of a ginger beer beside me on the table invites me to stop writing. It is hard for me to believe that in just one month + 4 days I will be leaving all of this – leaving Kingston, and Jamaica, this warm-hearted country I have so quickly fallen in love with.
My time in Jamaica has been stretching, challenging, heart-breaking, heart-healing and restorative. I have let the sea wash away tears. I have laughed until the tears came back again. I have watched sunsets on the mountains. I have dashed through tropical rains and over puddles that 10 minutes later have disappeared. I have explored waterfalls and ancient forts and changing cities. I have met fabulous and beautiful people from across Jamaica, across Canada, and around the world.
But of course I have not been here on an extended holiday. The real challenge and reward of Jamaica has come through my Cuso placement. I have taught employees of non-profit agencies how to share their stories to help build a stronger Jamaica. I have fed and clothed homeless people. I have watched business leaders be rewarded for their volunteerism. I have had lunch on the ground with children who had no parent to be seen. I have grown, and I have being reminded who I am. I arrived in Jamaica depleted, exhausted and sad. It will be hard to leave this healing, challenging, complex land.
My over-arching impression of Jamaica is that it is a land of great disparity. There is a joke that you know Jamaica when you recognize that it has the most churches per capita in the world, and the most bars. Young children riding to school in a brand-new Mercedes roll past children their own age begging for breakfast on the street. Windshield washers, fruit vendors, and rug weavers start their days early and end their days late, working hard to barely get by. International corporations enjoy the benefits of cheap labour and send their profits elsewhere, while Jamaicans leave for Canada, England or the US and send their wages back home.
Being in Jamaica has reinforced my pride in being Canadian – these two countries have a long history of cooperation and partnership. The Canadian government is working steadily to reduce corruption in the public sector, to foster civil and just society, and to show Jamaicans that positive change can happen. Likewise, Cuso and its local partners work to reinforce the social service sector, to enhance efficiency outreach to those in need, and to foster sustainable development. Long after I leave on February 27 Cuso will still be here using volunteers like me to build the capacity of Jamaican people and organizations.
Next Friday January 30 I turn a shocking 47 years old (though I feel ever younger being here – maybe the Caribbean is the fountain of youth?). While many of you wouldn’t normally give me a birthday gift, I’m asking you to consider supporting Cuso to help me take a little sting out of marking this passage of time. To make this a little more fun, some suggested donation amounts are
- $47 – for obvious and painful reasons
- $68 – the year I was born (or $1968 if you want to be specific and generous 🙂 )
- $130 – my birth month and day
- $227 – the day this adventure ends.
Of course any amount you can give will make a difference. Through generous matching grants Cuso will turn your donation into another volunteer placement here or in one of 20+ other countries in which they work. All gifts are eligible for tax receipts.