Today we had a nice day off from the work site. We got in the bus and went up the mountain to Zimbali. There we went on a hike with a real Rastafarian. He showed us the place they get fresh water to drink, and we had a try for the spring water. Next, he showed us the place he has lived for the past 30 years. It was very interesting to learn how the Rastas live day-by-day and are happy for what they have. We then walked back to Zimbali and had a very fresh meal that was amazing. We got ourselves back to the hotel and enjoyed a nice relaxing afternoon on the beach. During our nightly meeting, we talked about our Four Founding Principles and about how we are using these on this trip.
Kyle Isaacson, Oregon State ’20
This opportunity was truly a unique experience that has brought me closer to my chapter and myself. The moment I arrived at the hotel, I new this trip was going to be different. Meeting my brothers felt like I was in my own chapter. Motivating each other throughout the week and encouraging each of us to be the best we can be and truly embody the core values of this Fraternity felt enriching. I’ve become much more appreciative of my community and more aware of the impact I have in the world. I wish to continue this in my chapter and community.
Adrian Henderson, San Diego State ’19
Today is Wednesday, and Day 3 of the adventure. I woke up that morning around 7-7:15ish to get up to make it to 7:30 breakfast. As my alarm blared in my ears, I drowsily awoke and stumbled around John Chewit to find my roommates trying to wake up from the early rise. I put on some shorts and headed down to the table for the usual breakfast, eggs, bacon, etc. As I went through the motions of eating and trying to wake up, I kept thinking to myself how excited I was to go back to the school and work my tail off with high hopes of seeing some more progress like we had made the previous two days.
As we arrived at the work site, we worked tirelessly on both the lunch room and jungle gym, and at the end of the day the most rewarding moment occurred. Some of the guys brought two kids over from the school to the jungle gym. The two kids had smiles that stretched to the edge of each of their mouths, and looked genuinely happy to see the jungle gym finally take shape. Seeing the kids’ excitement for something that we had done put me in a state of awe and happiness. I had felt a feeling of accomplishment and final realization that what we are doing here in Jamaica is really making a difference. As the two kids were lifted up on to the jungle gym and seeing them standing up there, I thought to myself, “Those two kids will be the first of hopefully many other kids to step foot on that jungle gym,” and immediately got butterflies. I knew going into this trip we would make an impact on these children’s lives, but seeing the excitement in those children’s eyes made me feel like this work was paying off. This manifestation of all our effort to make impacts on those kids was all I wanted from this trip, and I had finally seen the first glimpse of it. This was by far the best moment of Wednesday.
Matt Large, San Jose ’19
On Thursday, June 22, I had the immense privilege of visiting the Zimbali Mountain Resort. This location is known not just for its incredible food, but also its promotion of cultural experiences such as African drumming concerts and hikes into the mountains.
Our guide, a Rastafarian named Fire, has lived in the mountains several miles away from the resort for more than 30 years. His diet solely consists of the fruits and vegetables found in the jungle surrounding his home.
We walk up the trail, entering a humid environment many of us described as “alive.” Along the way, Fire began pointing out different edible plants including tumeric, oregano, basil, and passion fruit. We continue up the mountain, stopping at a natural springs to refill our water bottles.
Fire continues up the mountain and we follow. We reach the top where he has built his home, and we meet another Rastafarian who treats us to tastes of jackfruit, grilled plantains and coconut.
They ask about where we are from and about our lives, and we do the same. I am encapsulated by the spectacular view. The whole experience was pretty surreal, and I felt right at home because Fire was so welcoming.
As we hiked down, I thought about the ways different people live their lives. Fire was one of the most positive, welcoming and least stressed people I have ever met. It called into question what my definition of a successful life should be. Is it obtaining a ton of money? Is it starting a family and giving your kids opportunity? I’m still not sure, but I think happiness and satisfaction are my two priorities now, no matter what path that takes me down.
Ethan Kizziar, Oregon ’19
Wednesday was one of the most productive days we’ve had in my opinion. The group was working quickly and efficiently. We were able to do this because, at this point, our group can communicate more effectively. In addition, we have learned from the previous days of work what works for us and what doesn’t.
Seeing the play structure being almost complete after the day was very motivational, and we’re all looking forward to Friday so we can complete the project we’ve been working on.
Jordan Kanady, San Jose ’19
Today, our group was fortunate enough to learn about the Rastafarian culture and experience an amazing eatery in the Zimbali Mountains. We started by arriving at the resort we would later enjoy a meal at, which is where we met the Rasta named Fire. He was a very interesting guy who clearly enjoyed educating us about his lifestyle. As he guided us up the mountain to where he lived, he taught us about the land. He picked fresh turmeric and had us try it, along with other fruits such as the jackfruit and passion fruit, all of which tasted absolutely amazing. After taking some pictures, eating some roasted plantains and talking to the Rastas, we walked back down to the resort and enjoyed a great meal. As we ate, we listened to African drummers, which was a great chance to learn about their style of music and dance.
I believe today was focused around the founding principle of The Diffusion of Liberal Culture. In my opinion, it means to explore and expose yourself to other worldly views. In the process of doing so, you become a more knowledgeable about various lifestyles and cultures and truly learn to appreciate and enjoy them as they stand. As we met and talked with the Rastas, we were educated about their world and hopefully became well-equipped to diffuse any misrepresented views about their culture in our future encounters. It is important that we hold to this founding principle that I believe builds us into better men.
Evan Kosmos, San Diego State ’20
Today our hike through Zimbali Mountain Retreat was absolutely incredible. The hike was a tough and long journey, but the experience that I got was second to none. We got to stop at a fresh water spring that was all natural and safe to drink, as well as getting to try various natural growing roots and fruits such as passion fruit and jackfruit.
Getting to meet the men who lived on top of the mountain was more incredible than the view! Learning the ways of Rastafarians was a very eye opening experience due to the fact that they do not value material items and value life much different than we do in the States. Also the diet they have is very interesting because they eat all natural things and believe that even some things they eat can kill cancer cells within the body.
Afterward, we got to eat lunch at the Zimbali Mountain Retreat and experience African drumming. The rhythm and passion that was put into the drumming was electric and really showed how different cultures put music together. It reminded me of the passion for music within the United States.
Today was a very eye opening experience that showed me a very different view of the world and gave me a better outlook on life. It really embodied the principles of The Diffusion Of Liberal Culture and The Development of Character when it came to getting up the mountain in the heat, and also getting to see a different culture’s viewpoint on life and how to live it.
Morgan Heffelfinger, Oregon State ’21
On Wednesday, we were back at Higher Heights Academy, and it was probably the most productive and enjoyable day so far. The jungle gym was coming together nicely, the floor tiles were completed, and we made great progress on painting the lunch area. I can speak for all of us here in that we almost did not want to stop working even if it was time for lunch or time to leave. The looks and feelings of gratitude from the teachers and students there motivate us to keep working hard for them so that they, too, can have the facilities for a great school environment and experience.
Patrick Bishara, Texas ’20
I’m so thankful to be part of this experience. I’ve wanted to participate for several years. Talking about the difference between “helping” and “serving” has really helped frame this experience and what I hope to both get out of and bring to it. Although the hard work is trying to remind me of my age (already!) meeting and working with interfraternal brothers has been awesome. They keep me going!
John Bulcock, Faternity/Sorority Advisors at Minnesota State University
While a lot of people might think the kids we are serving have it worse than us because they have less than what we have, I think that couldn’t be more wrong. Sure, they appreciate what we are doing and they would appreciate having our nicer things, but despite that, they are all so happy and eager to share with us the little they do have and treat us like we’re the ones with less. And that is the most humbling part. Also, something as simple as giving a kid a ride on your shoulders will give them the biggest smile, and it shows you that you don’t need much to find value in life. This has been an incredible experience!
Andrew Vanasen, Oregon State ’19
Today we started phase one of our jungle gym project. To lay the structural beams, we needed to dig about 2 feet in the clay. Our work crew doesn’t benefit from the luxuries you’d have in the United States; we had to dig the holes with a crow bar and a hammer. Chipping away at the clay, I pondered how draining doing this would be on a day-to-day basis. The work was both enlightening and satisfying. I can’t wait to see the finished product on Friday.
Bryan Schmidt, Central Florida ’19
In the time that I have been here in Jamaica for GSI, I have learned so much from my fellow brothers and from the locals. In order to serve, you must be open-minded and understanding. Those who you are serving may not be as fortunate as you are. To be here and be able to serve the people of Jamaica has been an eye opener. Seeing the joy we have brought the school’s principal and the students has had an impact on me. Helping someone will always give them joy, whether it is small or large, any form of help will go a long way. Having the positivity and the hard working mentality from all of my fellow DUs has pushed me to work hard and enjoy every minute I am here. I am truly grateful for the opportunity I have been giving.
Blake Coan, Bradley ’20
Today I learned many things and had a great time doing so. First of all, I’ve never made concrete foundation, so mixing the concrete and rocks was interesting and tiring. Secondly, I’ve used a saw before, but something about sawing wood with a hand saw in 80 degree heat was different (and trying to keep the line straight was a struggle). Overall, I learned so much about what I can do and accomplish, and it felt amazing knowing that this is going toward a good cause. These children and workers at the school will appreciate it beyond belief, and giving back to a community has never felt better.
Jaime Gaudiano, Illinois State ’21
The Global Service Initiative has been the biggest eye opening experience I’ve ever been a part of. The way we immersed ourselves into the Jamaican culture and actually impacted people on a global scale is amazing. GSI is a way to get in contact with brothers across the nation and conform together to serve Jamaica. I am extremely thankful for every organization and alumnus that has given us a chance to be a part of this experience. I have truly been amazed by the amount of work and brotherhood that has happened over just the course of the week. It’s been an experience of a lifetime and will be remembered as a part of my heart.
Kolton Butcher, Nebraska ’19
I found the GSI trip to be very influential. Throughout the trip, my character and views on the Jamaican culture have developed. Through doing service and experiencing a lifestyle very different than my own, I have grown tremendously as a person.
I have gone on several service trips prior to this one. However, what made GSI standout is that it fully incorporated the work hard, play hard mentality. Of course being in Jamaica includes beach time and hanging out with guys from DU, but what caught me by surprise was how difficult the work was. I did not think it was humanly possible for one man to sweat as much as I did this week. This intense work made the time spent not working that much more rewarding. GSI will surely be an integral part of my fraternal experience for many years to come.
Zack Stanek, Iowa State ’21