The kids of Seaview Primary School pose with our travel study group doing Usain Bolt's sign.

The kids of Seaview Primary School with our travel study group doing Usain Bolt’s pose.

During spring break, seven travel leaders and 18 students (including myself) embarked on a travel study through SPED to Treasure Beach St. Elizabeth, Jamaica that turned out to be one of the most rewarding and humbling experiences of my life.

Our group took with us $4,000 and 2,000 pounds of donations that we gave among five schools (the primary schools of St. Mary’s, Seaview, Sandy Bank, Epping Forest and Pedro Plains), the Treasure Beach Women’s Group, student scholarships and the Project Jamaica fund. Through out the week we visited the schools and the women’s group, and finished mixing and pouring cement for a netball court at Pedro Plains for four of the days. We also conducted music lessons there as well as bird passage readings, and we painted two classrooms.

All of us and the four Jamaican men hired to assist us with the cement project at Pedro Plains. We finished the netball court!

All of us and the four Jamaican men hired to assist us with the cement project at Pedro Plains. We finished the netball court!

Rather than explaining the specifics of our days and how beautiful the hotel and area was, I want to share what I’ve learned and gained from this experience. This service-learning project introduced me to amazing people, both from Winona State and in Jamaica, and for that I am so thankful. At first we barely knew each other, and by the end of the trip we felt like a family and worked together like a well-oiled machine. It’s amazing the amount of work we did and it was extremely empowering, especially since 24 of us were women.

We could definitely feel and see the impact we left on the kids at Pedro Plains and the school itself. The kids were so outgoing and loving, always wanting pictures with us and running up to us to play and ask us a thousand questions. Many of the kids cried when we left, as did we. The bonds that we formed with them in the few days we were there were incredible, and it was difficult to leave them. In addition, we accomplished our goal of finishing the netball court, bucket by bucket, and when we were leaving the children were already playing on the dry portion of it. That alone really struck me, to think that what we did there will last and serve many kids for years to come.

Courtney, a fifth-grader at Pedro Plains Primary School, and I. We especially bonded during our volunteer work at the school.

Courtney, a fifth-grader at Pedro Plains Primary School, and I. We especially bonded during our volunteer work at the school.

Even though we gave our time, money and effort towards this trip, I don’t feel like I really “gave” anything at all, and we all feel this way after holding a post-trip discussion. We all definitely gained from this trip. We gained an appreciation for the Jamaican culture, a knowledge for the tremendous need and poverty that is in Jamaica, a huge amount of love for the kids we met, as well as new friendships in the process. I would do this travel study 100 times over, if I could.

To read more about our trip and view my photos, visit my Jamaica 2016 blog.

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Allison Mueller

Allison was the Blog Manager before she graduated in 2017 with a BA in Journalism major and Psychology minor. She is from Oshkosh, WI and her interests include rollerblading, hanging out with friends, playing soccer and basketball, and watching Netflix.