Kingston, Jamaica - Religious Youth Service alumna Jorja Pearson hosted 11 young people from the US service group Special Task Force and others in Jamaica for a service-learning experience. The group arrived February 22 in the Buff Bay Valley of the Blue Mountains, near Portland, Jamaica. After intensive orientation sessions with Kenzo Tanaka, the group leader, and Jorja Pearson, the participants started service work on February 24, at the Avocat Primary and Junior High School.
The group completed the challenging task of building a picket fence for the Administrative Block of the school. Participants were assisted by a skilled professional, who taught some of the group to use the electric saw. While some participants were cutting and shaping boards for the fence, others were measuring and nailing and digging holes to place the main posts for the fencing. Still others assisted teachers in their classrooms.
The youth group was all about service! After working on the fencing in the mornings and following lunch, participants assisted small farm owners with picking Blue Mountain "Gold" (coffee); they visited homes, singing and praying with neighbors. After the fence was erected, the group returned to Kingston, where they painted more walls and fencing, this time at the Universal Peace Federation Headquarters. The national leader, Dennis Salmon, and his wife Leda received the participants with open hearts.
While in Jamaica it was not all work; the participants worked hard but they also played hard. Since Jamaica is known for being a very laid back, hospitable, and beautiful island, the participants spent free time at the beach and waterfalls. They visited the famous Bob Marley Museum, Fort Charles, and Port Royal (the home of the Buccaneers/Pirates and the Sunken City), where they had the most amazing dinner on a deck accompanied by pelicans, reveling in the ambiance of the island sunset and high tides crashing under their feet.
On Sunday, March 7, the group attended an Ambassador for Peace forum. The team leader gave a report of the work done in Portland. All participants were then introduced to the Ambassadors and Jorja spoke about the work RYS did in 2009 and the RYS projects planned for 2010. After the forum, participants went to Devon House, a National Heritage site, to eat the Famous Devon House Ice Cream. Later they explored Emancipation Park.
The group left Jamaica the following day, but not before gobbling up Jamaican beef patties for the last time.