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
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
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
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
This whole week has been an eye-opening experience, but today was extra impactful. I was able to further my own understanding of the Rastafarian religion, but also to become more open toward the differences in culture. We were able to talk to a Rastafari named Fire. He explained to us how he lived in the woods for the last 35 years and how he has committed his life to finding peace and love in everything he does.
We visited a resort called Zimbali, and we were able to see the culture they have created here in Jamaica. The owner of Zimbali, Mark, was kind enough to give us the chance to dive into the food, especially the fruits, and the Rastafarian culture and lifestyle. I have seen how shaping a community through service is possible through Mark’s actions, and I hope to be able to bring that back to my chapter of Delta Upsilon in the future.
Nick Koechner, Kansas State ’21
Jamaica is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. The ocean and nature have amazed me with their beauty and awe. This idea was strengthened with the hike to Zimbali (a mountain retreat) today. We got to experience the true feeling of the forest and the stunning scenes of the mountainside. Our travel guide, Fire, showed us how it meant to live with very little and still live life to the fullest. He taught us lessons on love and brotherhood. The owner of Zimbali also showed us love by opening his home to us. He realized the work we were doing was great for the community and wanted to pay it forward by giving us a day we will never forget. I will always remember my time in Jamaica.
Owen Tenbrink, Kansas State ’21
Today completes my fifth day in Jamaica and our third day on the worksite. I cannot believe where the time went and am a little bittersweet that there is only one more day on the worksite. Today was the day that I turned and saw all that had been accomplished since arriving. What was once a plain field has now been transformed into the skeleton of a new classroom. Leaving day one I felt like I did something, but all that could be seen was a trench dug. Leaving day two, I had that same feeling, but still a similar sight: a trench with a few steel beams and some concrete. But today, I turned around and saw a completed skeleton of a building, and that was an amazing sight. Today also was the first day I really was able to interact with the children attending this school. That was a very heartwarming experience. Jamaica has much more poverty than what I am used to in the United States, and upon coming, I felt as though many of the citizens here may be unhappier than those of us back in the States. I could not have been more wrong. Everyone here has been the happiest person I’ve meet, and that really became apparent today while interacting with the children. These kids are just excited to have us here.
When I signed up for GSI, I did not think that the experience would be this eye-opening. I thought I’d just be coming to a worksite and doing a week of hard work to make a difference. While that is happening, I am taking away so much more than I thought. I feel like I’m coming back more enthusiastic and ready to make a change in my local community, as well as work even harder to raise philanthropy money to go toward GSI. I have learned so much in the past five days and cannot wait to see what the next two days will bring.
Ian Jones, Michigan Tech ’19
Delta Upsilon’s Global Service Initiative has been more valuable than I ever could have anticipated, both in terms of personal growth and the impact we have on the community. I have realized and appreciated my privilege to a greater extent, reevaluated my commitment to service, and made friendships outside of my chapter—and the week isn’t even halway over.
Today in particular made me consider just how fortunate I have been in nearly every aspect of life. Through the “privilege activity,” I now realize to a greater extent not only how privileged I am, but also, and perhaps more importantly, how to use that privilege to help the less fortunate as opposed to abusing or feeling guilty about it. Having such amazing opportunities for education throughout my life is something I did not realize just how lucky I am to have. The fact that Higher Heights Academy is one of the better schools in the area, and the staff is unable to fund its growth without assistance, is very upsetting. Being responsible for more students receiving an education is an unparalleled and humbling honor.
It has also been very striking to see the level of poverty in Negril and its surrounding area. I have never had to worry about food on the table, being evicted from my home, or anything of a similar nature, whereas many Jamaican families deal with such issues on a daily basis. Going forward, I would like to take what I have learned from the GSI and spread the word about how valuable the experience is to hopefully inspire a call to service in not only the brothers in my chapter, but anyone willing to listen.
Wes Porter, Cornell ’21
My GSI experience is different than many because of my career interest. I’m a music education major, so naturally, I will be working with children the entirety of my career. Knowing that we are working to build classrooms for a school, Higher Heights Academy, is quite reaffirming toward my beliefs that education is a powerful tool. These children will have their lives completely changed because a small group of people helped them out a little bit. Making this sort of change in someone’s life is incredibly rewarding. It gives someone a sense of purpose, and it encourages people to change more lives in the future.
This path applies to me quite accurately. I can’t say I would have gone on GSI had I not been involved in similar service trips with my church youth group in high school. Looking toward the future, I want to teach music to underprivileged communities, and I am even considering working abroad and teaching in developing countries full time. These types of aspirations seldom occur without a source. They occur because someone experienced something and was impacted by it. GSI is that source, that impact, that experience, and the resulting decisions made by those who go on GSI extend out incalculably. This puts the “Global” in Global Service Initiative. Even though GSI occurs in Jamaica, with its impact on the future decisions of its attendees, GSI’s outreach is to the entire globe.
Eli Weiskirch, Western Reserve ’21
Today we finished digging out the foundation, as well as adding two new trenches for an additional bathroom. We also began putting together rebarb and started laying the concrete into the trenches. It was very satisfying to see how much we accomplished in so little time and finally seeing a structure form.
On top of that, we also had some time to spend to with the kids and play with them on their playground. It reminded me of a time when I would run around and play on the playground with my friends. These kids were so full of life and happiness, even given the condition the were living and learning in. I spent a lot of time pushing the seesaw up and down, and the smiles on these kids faces made me realize how important the work we do here in Jamaica is. Some of the smallest things in the world make these kids gleam with joy. Whether it be a fist bump or playing with bubbles, they always see the brighter side of the world.
Matthew Magee, Iowa State ’20
This trip, I have had the privilege to serve the community of Jamaica. We have made a trip to a local school two times now. We have two more visits left. Today, we have mixed cement for the first time, finished digging our trench, and officially got the rebar up in the trench!
We had the ability to be with the kids and see how little we have to do to bring them so much excitement. Today’s lesson on privilege has helped me learn how I can give back to the kids of Jamaica in a more effective way.
This trip has given me the ability to come back to my chapter and inform everyone of all the fun activities and lessons we have learned so far. The trip is only half way done, and I am already satisfied with what I have given to these kids. The fact that we have more days to donate time to these kids is exciting. I will be going back to my chapter to inform them of what more we need to do in not just our local community, but around the globe. I can’t wait to see the future of Jamaica and the GSI trip success.
Bennett Kammermeier, Iowa State ’20
Today was a very eye-opening experience! Being given the opportunity to be back at GSI for the second year in a row and be at the same work site as last year really put the work we did in perspective. Being able to see the rest of the progress made in what we started last year, and see what happens once the week is over is really awesome. Seeing the finished product of what we started last year was really great too.
The work today was just as I expected it to be: hard but rewarding. Seeing the progress made in just one day of work is awesome and makes me excited for the rest of the week.
The work we did today mainly consisted of digging the trenches so we can build the foundation for the new addition to the school. Progress is already way faster than it was last year, not only as a result of great prior planning, but also great teamwork in part of all the DUs.
Overall, I’m really excited to see what progress we can make on the worksite by the end of the week!
Gabriel Serrano, Kansas State ’21
Today was an awesome start to our work week. We broke ground on GSI’s newest project, an addition to a school so they can educate more students. We were able to experience a lot of Jamaican culture during the drive to the site, and we saw some of the beautiful nature of Jamaica. At the jobsite, we met the teachers and took a tour of the school. We saw the finished project from the previous year (another addition to the school) being used, which was a positive sign showing that what we did was greatly benefiting the children.
The first day of work was challenging. We began digging the foundation for the addition, which was very difficult because we had to dig through a lot of rock. This was our main project throughout the day. The wonderful cooks at the school made us an amazing lunch, which all of us were incredibly grateful for. We were also able to interact with some of the kids and parents—another rewarding experience.
Today I learned much more about Jamaican culture and the importance of education within Jamaica. I tested my limits through the heat and hard work. We reflected on the importance of serving, as well as learning how to become active global citizens. We were able to put these values into action today, allowing us to open our minds and gain a stronger understanding of the world as a whole.
Dugan Hult, Kansas State ’21
The first few days in Jamaica have been incredible. After flying in on Saturday, we got a chance to get to know the island and local culture a little better on Sunday. We snorkeled through some breathtaking coral caves in the afternoon, but the most impactful experience we had that day was our visit to a local church service. The energy in the room was amazing. Everyone was extremely welcoming and thankful to have us there, and it seemed like everyone was truly there to participate in the service rather than just “sitting through” it. This visit gave our group of 22 DU brothers a powerful insight into the culture and strong sense of community here in Negril, Jamaica.
Today was Monday and our first day on the work site. Showing up this morning, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but I certainly was not disappointed. We drove onto the school property (for pre-K through second grade students) and were warmly welcomed by the principal, teachers, students, and even a handful of parents. I could tell right away how much the principal (Corrine) cared about the students and educating the youth of Jamaica by the look on her face when we got off of the bus. The children were a little shy but very friendly once they got more comfortable with us, and we could feel their excitement when we played together during breaks. They even continued to ask questions as we worked. Meeting these incredible children and hearing the sincere gratitude of their parents for the work we were doing made our work extremely rewarding.
The manual labor was difficult in the hot Jamaican sun, but working alongside my brothers for such a great cause made the day fly by. By the time rain hit and we called it quits, we had excavated the majority of what will soon be the foundation of a two-classroom addition to the existing school. This work certainly left me exhausted, but our progress and the potential impact of our service has me excited for another day at the school.
Jack Billings, Rochester ’19
Today was a very impactful day! We started working on the newest project for Delta Upsilon GSI in Jamaica. We began digging the foundation to for a new classroom at Higher Highs Academy for kids aged 3-6 years old. We got about three quarters of the way done with the trenches.
I was also one of the few people who got to go to the hardware store in town. This was a very unique experience to be able to go walk the streets of downtown, see the different stores and how they compare to back home.
I had a great time getting to spend time with the kids. They were so happy to see us and play with us when we got there. I also talked to a parent as he was driving away after picking up his child, and he thanked us for our work.
All in all, it was a great experience and I’m looking forward to the rest of the week!
Trenton Schroeder, Kansas State ’21