Jamaica Service Project
By Nicole Jandrucko, Service Project Volunteer
Tucked away in the hills of Jamaica, lies the Barrett Town All Age School. The school was founded in 1972 with the motto: Strive for Progress. The classrooms are not filled with computers and smart boards. There is no high tech science equipment for the children to learn on. The students sit 2 and 3 to a desk.
Hanging from the ceiling are large paper signs reminding the kids to be respectful, and how to behave properly. On first glance, one might be shocked by the condition of the school. However, what I found in this school was tremendous joy and a true desire to learn.
As the bus pulled up to the schoolhouse, we could see many of the children playing outside the building. The girls wore the most beautiful lavender uniforms with lavender checked shirts underneath. The boys wore brown uniforms with lavender epilates on the shoulders. The happiness on these students’ faces when they saw us was just wonderful. We were given time to hand out small dolls, trucks, princess crowns, balls and action figures, that we had brought.
These little kids were all smiles and giggles, hugs and silliness.
Upstairs the 4th and 5th grade students were waiting. Because this school is so near to many of the resorts the children are used to getting visitors. However, as the principal said afterwards, they have never had someone speak to them the way Ananda Giri spoke to them.
Ananda Giri talked about the interconnectedness of everything:
“Are your lungs a part of your body? Do we get oxygen from the trees? Do we need oxygen to live? Therefore are the trees not an extended part of your body?” He told them to look at their shirts. To see the cotton growing that made the shirt, the farmer picking the cotton, the cotton being shipped to the tailor and being made into thread, the thread being woven into a shirt, the shirt going to market to be sold, parents buying the shirt and eventually the shirt ending up on the child. How many people went into the making of just one shirt?
At one point Ananda Giri asked “What does it mean to be a good person?” The most beautiful answer was from a young boy who said “being a good person means being a peace maker.” He then asked the children to close their eyes….
How can you describe magic? The children closed their eyes and began to settle down. As they slowed their breathing you could see their little faces begin to relax. Ananda Giri asked them to visualize their parents and to thank them and to visualize their brothers, sisters and family members, and to thank them. He guided them to thank their teachers and all the people in the world, to thank all the animals and plant life on the planet.
Finally he asked them to visualize the planet and to thank the planet for all it has provided us. The pure serenity and peace on these children’s faces is something we will all never forget. There was a heaviness of love and true presence that filled the room. It was magical.
Going to the Barrett Town School is a memory I will have for life, but the images of the children’s peaceful faces will be in my soul for all eternity. Thank you to the Barrett Town School Children, Ananda Giri, Matthew, Doug and our entire group for a truly extraordinary service project!
This article highlights one in a series of recent community service projects undertaken in Jamaica by Ananda Giri and Matthew (Uttama). We would like to thank Doug Allen for his passion and commitment to making this happen.