My Third GSI Trip

Attending one GSI is an unforgettable experience, and I would have never have imagined being able to attend this experience not once, not twice, but three times. My expectations for my third GSI experience were more difficult to cultivate than the previous two. My first year, I had one goal that summer and that was to find a way to get my chapter to care about the Global Service Initiative. My second year goal was to live more in the moment, and to support the other North Dakotan DU attending. For this year, I didn’t really have a set goal until I got to the worksite and realized the amount of work we had ahead of us. My goal then became to do what would be necessary to finish our part of the project.

Immediately, this task was daunting, but as we got continuously closer to the finish line, it became evident that our continued actions and commitment to serving the school drove our unstoppable work ethic as a group. It was bittersweet knowing that we left the worksite just short of reaching my goal for myself and the overall goal as a group. Regardless, we know that we gave it our all, and I know that I did as much as I could physically do to support the team. 

Taking my thoughts away from the worksite and service, there was something different this time in Jamaica. It wasn’t the state of emergency because the feeling that I felt was lighter and more beautiful in a sense. For example, at the church service we attended on Sunday, the congregation seemed more lively. I told Kaye that I had never seen the church like this and I couldn’t help but smile the whole time. Moreover, when we went to Zimbali, all the vegetation had grown since last year. This only increased the beauty of the mountain and the awe that overwhelms me every time I go to the Rastafarian camp. Regardless of the state of emergency, the island appeared to be thriving and remained to be the happy, free of worry people I know. 

Overall, from when I first set foot on the island in 2017 to when I leave for the third time in 2019, I can never say enough how thankful I am for this experience and for the work Kaye does for this program, for the people of Jamaica, and for the brothers of Delta Upsilon. This experience will always be near to my heart and will motivate my own aspirations to be an active global citizen.

Jacob Haugen, North Dakota ’20

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Building the Future in Jamaica

Overall, GSI has been an incredible and life-changing experience. Coming from small town North Dakota, it gave me the opportunity to visit Jamaica, which I probably never would have been able to do without GSI. This trip lets you truly experience Jamaica and not just the touristy beaches. You get to see all the nitty grittyness and the awesomeness at once.

While the country is absolutely stunning, the people here are what truly make it. Giving back to the people that are less fortunate with your brothers from around the country is amazing. Seeing the looks on the children’s faces as you work on building them an addition to their school is better than any extrinsic reward. Knowing that you are helping build and shape the future for the next generation of Jamaicans is an awe-inspiring feeling.

From hiking up Zimbali Mountain and eating fresh fruit from the trees with Rastafarians to mixing and pouring concrete for six hours straight, I can honestly say there is nothing like it. For anyone who has even the smallest of chance in attending this trip, take it! You may never have the opportunity again, and you can’t let a once in a lifetime opportunity pass you by.

-Kyle Larson, North Dakota ’20

Day in Zimbali

Today, we had a rest day from the worksite and were able to immerse ourselves into Jamaican culture. We headed to Zimbali, a Rastafarian retreat, for an incredible daytime excursion. Up on the mountain is a community of people that farm the land around them, and they use the resources of the land to feed themselves and others. While on this retreat, we hiked up a mountain to see a Rastafarian’s dwelling. We spoke with him on the hike up, and he occasionally stopped along the way to pick different fruits and foods from the vegetation along the path.

After a tiring hike, we got to sit down with a couple of musicians, and a drum circle was created as we learned how to play some of the instruments onsite. Following the jam session, we got to enjoy a deliciously cooked meal from the people at Zimbali. The meal was cooked with the ingredients that grew on the land, and everyone loved it. It was a cool experience to peek into a lifestyle not very familiar to us, and the experience helped us to understand what life is truly like for some Jamaicans.

Tim Paschal, Nebraska ’19

Rastafarian Living

Today was our day off from the worksite at Higher Heights and our chance to further submerse ourselves in and experience different aspects of Jamaican culture. We did this through going to Zimbali Retreats, a lodge in Negril that offers a farm to table dining experience, as well as tours throughout the farming community and to the mountain top home of a Rastafarian man.

Fire, the Rastafarian, met us at the base of the lodge and brought us up a long winding trail through the forest. Along the way, he was able to show us the numerous naturally growing foods surrounding his isolated home. Although relatively short and in his upper 60s, Fire walked up the steep trail at an remarkable pace that was tiring for many in the group. His health was impressive for his age, and it was clear that his diet and the constant labor required to maintain his mountain side crops of maze, yams, beans and much more has kept him young. 

Fire’s entire lifestyle is very simple and carefree. He grows the food he needs to survive and spends the rest of his time enjoying the peace and tranquility of the area. His home could be described as a glorified treehouse and consisted of a small cooking and a common area on the ground floor and a sleeping quarters on the second, none of which had electricity or even walls on all sides.

 What was most interesting to me was how he came to practice this Rastafarian style of living. Fire said he went to school to be a mechanic and eventually came to the conclusion that the stress and overall lack of joy from a daily job of that sort was not how he wanted to spend the rest of his life. So at an attempt to escape the unnecessary aspects and stressors of society, he moved to the mountains where he has now lived for more than 30 years.

Overall, I found the concept of escaping main society and stripping down daily life to the bare minimums to be quite enticing. If given the chance, I think spending even a few months living this way would be eye opening and peaceful.  However, while it may not be realistic or even possible for many to ever experience life in this fashion, I think that keeping in mind how basic our true needs are can be a beneficial and sobering exercise in and of itself.

Fire had many wonderful insights regarding humanity and the equality of all people. While not the main purpose of the trip, seeing this piece of Jamaican culture was truly awesome and impactful. Zimbali as a whole was also a very neat place, we had a great lunch and were able to listen to an impressive drum performance. It was a great day.

Benjamin Nordwick, Syracuse ’19

A Hike With Fire

Global Service Initiative 2019

Delta Upsilon’s Global Service Initiative has taught me more than I ever could have expected. Whether it be that an election year, the summer Olympics and leap year all occur in the same year or that the average Jamaican makes $72 (USD) a week, my understanding of this culture and the world has been significantly altered by this experience. Thursday in particular provided an incredible opportunity. 

On this day, the group visited a Rastafarian community and hiked up a mountain. However, this was not your typical hike. The group was lead by a Rasta man known as Fire and it seemed like every 3-5 minutes he would stop and pick a fruit off a tree and coerce everyone on the hike to take a bite. Soon enough, I found myself eating ripe kobe beans, soursops and guavas. Not only that, but there was a natural spring where the group was able to refill its water bottles. This place was truly a tropical paradise. 

Once we reached Fire’s house, we could see several miles of land over the other mountains. It is notable that this “house” was made by hand by Fire and was mostly wooden. While at his house, Fire told us that he never needs to go to market and spend money because everything he needs to survive is on this mountain. He has a substantial amount of fresh fruit and a natural water spring at his disposal. He also has several medicinal plants that heal a number of injuries or rashes. Fire then went on to say that he hasn’t been to a hospital in 35 years. Could you imagine? This man is walking definition of what it means to live off the land and from what I saw, it makes him incredibly happy.

After talking and learning and taking in the view for awhile, the group walked down the mountain and said our goodbyes to Fire. Now that was an experience that very few people on this planet will ever get the chance to have. 

Joe Budd, Nebraska ’20

Servicing True Jamaica

This trip has been a very unique experience. I have done service projects in the past but nothing like this. It feels good to have a hands-on experience because the change is seen first hand. That’s one of the reasons why I joined Delta Upsilon and why I think the Global Service Initiative is such an important program. Other organizations collect money throughout the year and hand it off to their program of focus, but that is the end of the story. For Delta Upsilon, that’s just the beginning.

After being on this trip for five days now, I have learned more than I thought about Jamaican culture, GSI and the impact our work has on the community. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience for me and something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

I am the first member of my chapter to be on this trip, so coming into this experience I didn’t have any knowledge or preconceived notions on what to expect. What I found was a lot of sacrifice and hard work, along with blood, sweat and tears. The days are hard and labor intensive, but once I see the kids come running out to the playground filled with laughter and smiles on their faces, I realize that all the sacrifice I am giving is worth it. I would do it 1,000 times over for these kids to ensure they get the best education and learning environment to enable them to succeed. On the first day at the site, the principal told us that before GSI came in two years ago, she was just a woman with a dream of opening a school. She had one school house with hour kids, and she was the only teacher. Now, thanks to the GSI, she has numerous schoolhouses with nine employed staff teaching 71 kids with 50 more on the waiting list. Her dreams of running a school came true and flourished into one of the more competitive pre-schools in the region. The joint efforts of the GSI and Higher Height’s Academy make the education of the next generation of Jamaicans possible and proper.

There are two types of people who come to Jamaica. Most people look toward the beaches, but there is a select few who look toward the culture as a whole. If you come into Jamaica focused on just the sunsets, white sands and turquoise water, yes, it may be beautiful, but you are blinding yourself to the rainbow of colors, culture and people the entire country has to offer. The work we as members of Delta Upsilon and participants of the GSI are doing is for the people of Jamaica, the culture of Jamaica, the true Jamaica.

Casey Attallah, Christoper Newport ’21

Brotherhood in Jamaica

What I have noticed about my time in Jamaica is that spending time with and working around all of the Delta Upsilon men, we all share values and have very similar guys from Nebraska, Iowa, even to New York. We all show the Four Founding Principles in our daily actions, and we all show the upmost respect to those around us, trying to be an influencer, yet also be open to experiences when we need.

Spending time with the men, I have felt at home like I would at my home chapter. Any of these men would be able to come to the University of Nebraska and they would fit in well in the Fraternity. We all understand why the Fraternity was founded. There was no animosity or hesitation between any schools, there was no competition to try to be the best school of DU. We all had an understanding that we were brothers, no matter where we come from.

I really love this about DU. I felt like it was meant for me the day I stepped in the Fraternity, and I do believe that it has brought out the best qualities in me. I have a feeling many of these guys around me would be able to say the same. Whether it made them more responsible or more open to allowing themselves to join different situations they may not usually be in, it is a Fraternity every member knows. No matter where from, no matter how far, we are a brotherhood.

Matthew Ferguson, Nebraska ’20

Feeling the Impact

The first two weekdays here in Jamaica were full of work and fun. I have had the opportunity to help out with the infrastructure inside the new classroom we are building. I’ve enjoyed working directly alongside the workers who are assisting us because I have gotten to learn about them and what the project will look like whenever we have to leave. The rest of the week will have more excitement and opportunities for us to continue developing Higher Heights Academy and strengthen our brotherhood within the group. 

When I first got here and saw the school, I couldn’t imagine growing up and learning in these environments. We are even being loud and working just outside their classrooms. Even though we may be disturbing them, they never forget to smile whenever they get the chance to see us. It brings warmth to my heart to know that we are giving them a place to excel and grow. 

I chose not to wear gloves because I really wanted to feel the work that we were doing. Whether it be a hot nail getting ready to be hammered into the wood, the cement running through my hands, or the shovel getting ready to be used on my hands, I know that when I reflect back on this trip I will remember those feelings on my hands and the lives that I impacted. 

John Sauseda, Oklahoma ’19

First Day of Service

Global Service Initiative 2019

Today was our first day on the worksite. After a 40 minute van ride, we arrived at the school and met the children and teachers. It was very hot and sunny, but several coats of sunscreen and a lot of water helped me through the day.

Our group worked on many different projects today. We filled in divots in the road with marl, mixed and laid cement, and put plywood up on the roof. It was hard work, but it was fun playing with the children, drinking mango juice during water breaks, and seeing our finished work.

Overall, our first work day was a success. We got a lot done, and even though I was tired from the work, my group and I felt like we accomplished a ton. It was great reflecting on our experience at the end of the day and exploring what service is to us.

Patrick Lindh, Indiana ’22

 

Trip of a Lifetime

Finally, after all the excitement, the day finally came to leave to Jamaica for the Global Service Initiative! After a couple of long flights and car rides, we arrived at The Whistling Bird, our home for the week. The hotel is on the beach and externally nice. The food has also been amazing, and learning about the Jamaican culture has been an experience. Everyone here has been very open and welcoming to their environment. It has been refreshing seeing welcoming and nice people in a foreign environment. On the car ride to The Whistling Bird, the driver even encouraged me to say famous Jamaican sayings in their accent. What could be a better way to be welcomed into a new country? 

Today was a lot of fun, and it was awesome to experience a lot of different environments. We started the day off by going to church, but it was not anything like my normal Sunday Catholic service. It was a fluid service where they sang and danced. We were encouraged to participate, and we were even given a Bible when readings were happening. It was amazing to see the love and enjoyment everyone in the congregation had for each other. We also gave out gifts to the mothers of the congregation. Next, we went to a restaurant for lunch where we were able to experience cultural Jamaican food. It was very interesting but also extremely good. After that, we came back to The Whistling Bird to go on a glass bottom boat and snorkeling. I’ve been snorkeling before, but never in a cave. This was the first time I saw a stingray and a school of fish. I was overwhelmed at first but after getting comfortable, it was one of the coolest experiences of my life. Being able to snorkel with my brothers will be a memory I will never forget. After snorkeling, we came back to the hotel, ate dinner and went to bed. 

Tomorrow begins the real work; we will begin to build the roof of a local school. I am very excited for what is to come for the rest of the week and the opportunity to serve this wonderful community here with my brothers. They have been so welcoming to us. This is something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, and I’m eager to put in hard work and observe the results. It has also been a lot of fun getting to know the members of the different chapters here so far. Knowing that this group really cares to make a difference and help this community reassures that I have joined the right fraternity. I am proud to call myself a DU and look forward to bringing this experience back to the Indiana Chapter. Thank you to everyone who has allowed myself and other members to come on this trip.

Zachary Elson, Indiana ’22

The Meaning of Community

After 20 years of experiencing a diverse life in the United States, I finally got the opportunity to undergo my first international experience through the GSI trip. Stepping out of the airport, I was immediately hit with the humid, hot climate of Jamaica, which was much different from my home in Indiana. During the hour and half ride to the hotel, I observed a culture unlike anything I have ever seen, resulting in emotions of excitement, curiosity, and a little bit of nervousness for the journey that lied ahead of me.

The next day, we were gifted with the opportunity to join part of the local community at a Pentecostal church service. Growing up as a Catholic, I had an expectation on how church is run; however, that was changed the second I entered this local worship space. As I entered the church, I grew a sense of confusion and shock as I saw some people kneeling in quiet prayer while others sang and danced through the aisles to loud music. However, I soon grew out of this slight discomfort as I joined the congregation in clapping along to the worship songs. At this moment, I began to feel a sense of community with these complete strangers as I noticed the smile on my face continue to grow. 

Through the seemingly chaotic worship in front of me, I learned a crucial lesson. I learned that despite everyone in the congregation seeming to worship in their own way, they ultimately all came together for one common cause: to worship God. The people were not told how to worship, but rather did so in a way that best fit their needs. The musically talented and those who were more vocal worshipped through loud music and preaching, while the more introverted members observed and prayed in silence. Whether it is a church in Jamaica or my DU chapter at Indiana University, I have realized that in order for a community to succeed in its goals, it must encourage each member to contribute in a way that best fits his or her strengths and character. As I continue my journey on this trip, I hope to implement this lesson in my experiences while serving at a local school with my fellow DU brothers and in my growing my understanding and appreciation of the Jamaican culture.

Hunter Lang, Indiana ’21

Experiencing Jamaica

Despite the fact that only two work days and three total days have passed, this trip has been profoundly rewarding, strenuous and poignant, and I’ve managed to have some fun along the way. The nighttime curriculum has laid the foundation for a deeper understanding and appreciation of my surroundings as we visited the church and worksite, for instance. Moreover, the opportunity to connect with members of my Fraternity from other chapters while I serve a cohort of the Jamaican community is one that seldom presents itself, and likewise, one I am elated to have taken advantage of.

The first aspect of the trip I would like to address is Higher Heights Academy. As someone who was not entirely sure what to expect upon arrival, I was glad to discover that we would be conducting very impactful work, i.e., literally building an addition to the school. Although we are subject to unrelenting and intense heat throughout the day, our numbers and our ambition have resulted in significant progress over the course of a mere two days of construction. Furthermore, the opportunity to interact with the children of Higher Heights is one I did not expect. The playfulness and gratefulness the children have shown toward us has rendered the work extremely rewarding.

I would like to conclude with topic of novelty. As someone who has never been outside of the United States before, essentially everything in Jamaica except for certain foods, is new to me. I was simply blown away by the glass bottom boat and snorkeling experience. I have never seen exotic animals in nature, thus, seeing a sea snake, sting ray, bats and other tropical fish was an amazing experience that I will never forget. Furthermore, I have never witnessed poverty to the extent that exists in a majority of the Jamaican community, and this has contributed to the rewarding aspect of the trip as I feel it is my duty as a privileged human being to serve those in need.

Chase Galatro, Cornell ’20

Improve Lives

This trip has been very touching and eye opening. From learning new skills to realizing how I can better the world, this trip has changed me for the better. I now have a desire to go out and use my privilege to make the world a better place. I want to help the world achieve social equality and make the world a more just and fair place. I now realize that there are people in the world who truly struggle and do not have access to the things in life that I don’t think about, such as an amazing education and even health insurance.

The most touching experience I have had was the opportunity to give the kids piggy back rides. There was one child who was sitting in the classroom frowning, and I couldn’t figure out why. I found that it was due to the fact that he was inside and wanted to be outside playing. I gave him a quick piggy back ride. He was then smiling and went to work happily, and made progress on what he was doing. It was amazing to see that something as simple as putting a kid on my back and running with them made them laugh, smile and have joy. It opened my eyes to the idea that it does not take massive effort to change someone’s life and even improve it.

Another eye-opening experience I had was with the divers and beach sellers. I never realized how hard some people work to be able to feed themselves and their family. They will do almost anything for money. Coming from a privileged background, I never realized that people struggle to feed their families. I knew there were impoverished people, but I did not ever see it firsthand. I now have a desire to go out and help people overcome poverty.

Nick DeFrancisco, Cornell ’21

A Visit to the Mountains

Let me start by simply saying that Jamaica is one of the most wonderful places I have ever been. I have been blown away by the kindness and friendliness of every Jamaican I have met. This experience was continued on our trip to Zimbali, a mountain retreat. We got to met a Rastafarian and see his home. His lifestyle was so different then ours, and very eye-opening. It made me reflect on how important it is to not worry about money and time but the things that really matter to you.

Getting to meet Mark was also eye-opening. He is a man who owns Zimbali and started from nothing in Jamaica and has made a successful life. Also to see how Mark supported us impressed me. Like many people in Jamaica, he was there to support the people who are working to better his country. Getting to work in this beautiful country has been an unbelievable expirence. To see how we have helped to shape a commutity over the last decade makes you realize that you can make a difference no matter how small you start.

Connor McNorton, Kansas State ’21

Hiking to Fire

Today we got to really experience the culture of Jamaica in a way I never thought I would be able to. We met a Rastafarian named Fire who shared with us a piece of his world. He took us on a hike up through the fruit trees and sugar cane up to his camp. The way he lived and how simple his life is was incredible.

My favorite part of the day was at the end of the hike, sitting and talking with Fire. Hearing about his life story and how his life has changed was very impactful. He knew so much about his surroundings and had a refreshing outlook on how everyone should interact with one another. He was so welcoming and just brought joy and a positive attitude to all of us. Then, at the end of the trip, hearing from Mark (the owner of a mountain retreat we visited) about the impact of our work really made it clear that we had a farther reach then we ever knew. We have all learned so much from this trip, and I hope to continue to learn more.

Maxwell Anderson, Kansas State ’21