Jamaica Mission Trip, February 2019

Maeve Callahan '20 and Andalushia Reilly '20

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Day 1 (travel) 2-13-19

Maeve: I’ll admit that when our plane landed at Kingston, I didn’t know what to expect at all, save for my limited preconceived notions of the trip, and what the seniors had told us juniors. “What expectations did I set for this trip?” I asked myself, and realized I had set none. As we went through customs and exited the airport into the dark, humid, and unfamiliar night, I soon realized that nothing could’ve prepared me for what we were about to experience. The only thing I had experienced at this point was the exhaustion of travelling, a bit of excitement of going someplace new, and a healthy dose of apprehension. Not to mention, we were now thousands of miles away from home. However, these feelings melted away the instant we were greeted by some of the most welcoming human beings I think we could’ve asked for–– the amazing Praying Pelican team. Any foreboding thoughts left my mind as the team passed out banana chips and Jamaican patties which were just a small taste of the delicious food that was to come. After taking pictures and exchanging greetings and hugs, we all boarded the worn but trusty bus that would be our sole mode of transportation for the duration of the trip. Though we were headed for an unfamiliar destination in an unfamiliar country, I somehow felt more at peace with that fact than I was expecting. As the crisp night air brushed our faces and dim streetlights, honking cars, and various people whipped by the open bus windows, I felt my fear change into exhilaration. Though none of us— save for the Seniors— knew what exactly was in store for us, it didn’t really matter anymore; we were just where we needed to be, physically and metaphorically. We had finally reached our destination, and now it was time for the real journey to begin.

Andi:

All that I can say about that day of traveling is that I woke up in the morning stressed out about packing and boarding passes, but I ended the day in a completely different place, physically and mentally. On the bus ride from the Airport to the Oberlin Convention Center, where we were staying, I found myself trying to take in as much as I possibly could. A large part of me was worried about what the school and the children would be like. Yet, in that moment, all that I could do was sit on that bus, sing songs, and look out my window. When we arrived at where we staying, I was exhausted to say the least, but we were not done yet! We still had to do night prayers and reflections and I realized that I really did not know why I was there. We were asked why we came on the trip and to be honest, I wasn’t sure. So that night I went to sleep in a different country, with a confused mind, but a content heart.

 

Day 2, Christ the King, 2-14-19

Maeve: Morningtime Jamaica is truly an experience to behold. Where shadows and darkness filled in the gaps of the terrain at night, sunlight and mist were now swirling along the palms and between the valleys. I had no clue just how mountainous Jamaica was until we passed along ravines that overlooked some amazingly beautiful sights. Schoolchildren and adults were making their way up and down the hill, a few waving as we passed. From smaller huts to larger residences, almost all homes were proudly adorned with bright colors and hand-painted details. Smells and music of all kinds flowed by us while we made our way to Christ the King, eager to catching a glimpse of sunny Jamaica for the first time. Finally reaching our destination, I began to feel a bit nervous again as our group stepped off the bus. What would the kids be like? What if they didn’t like us, or even just me? What if I did something wrong? Walking past the playground and into the schoolhouse, these thoughts continued to swirl around, but little did I know how silly they actually were. It only took me a few minutes of coloring with them to realize the insane amount of love these kids radiated. Whether it be through piggy back rides, playing tag, or tying their shoelaces, all these kids expected of us was love. You could still feel the echoes of it while painting the walls of the school after they went home for the day, and by the end of ours, all I wanted to do was go back for yet another day of pure happiness and love.

Andi:

Waking up in the morning after a late night was very hard, but we got up, though everyone was a little confused, sleepy, and disoriented. We headed down to our eating area and began our day with breakfast provided by the fabulous Mrs. Pearl and the people from Praying Pelican and morning prayers. Soon we were on our way to Christ the King Preschool and I became very nervous. I didn’t know what to expect and I worried about what the kids would think of me. However, when we arrived I met the most amazing and open children that I have ever met. Soon all of my anxiety faded away, because it was truly apparent that these children had so much love in their hearts. The work was exhausting, but I loved the children and the work was so rewarding. In the afternoon we painted their jungle gym and then returned back to the convention center. That day I felt content, but I was still missing that big epiphany that everyone seems to have on this trip.

 

Day 3, Christ the King, 2-15-19

Maeve: Probably the most challenging day, personally. As it turned out, my muscles were completely sore from so many piggy back rides the day before, that the mere thought of giving just one more made them groan. Today, thankfully, seemed slightly more low-key. Though it was very sad knowing that it was our last day with the kids, I took comfort in just being able to spend this time with them, however short it was. Today was definitely bittersweet. Saying goodbye is tough, but I know that there are still other kids for us to meet and other people to serve. Tonight’s prayer service was especially moving, not only for myself but everyone on the trip. Like mentioned earlier, I had gone on this trip setting no expectations for myself, but tonight I, and others, found the purpose and missing piece I’d been longing for on this trip. On only the third day, I felt so much of a change within me, something I never expected for myself. Here’s to day 4!

Andi:

Once again we woke up and went to Christ the King. Today was exceptionally bittersweet, because I was so excited to see the kids again, but I also knew that this would be my last day with the children. A part of me knew that this could be my last time seeing them ever, but the other part knew that even though I had only known them for a short while, they had touched my life, and I truly hope that I touched theirs. That night we had mass, confession, and adoration. Praying in that space despite being tired and dirty, I really did feel at peace and so completely comfortable in my own skin. It was an amazing life changing night and I was overwhelmed by the amount of emotion that I felt.

 

Day 4, Maxfield Children’s Home, 2-16-19

Maeve: New place, new emotions, new fears. By now I should’ve learned that the unknown isn’t always something we should be afraid of, just because we don’t know what’s going to happen. Though today was probably the most eye-opening of them all, it was also probably one of the most fulfilling. It wasn’t an easy day, but being able to play catch with the kids at Maxfield and spending time with the infants and toddlers evoked such a mix of inspiration and sadness within my heart. There were so many children without families, and yet you could see how they’d found family amongst themselves. How despite their circumstances, they lived each and every day to the fullest, which brought a lot of perspective into my own life. After we headed home, weaving bracelets on the grass outside together gave us a good opportunity to reflect on the day behind us while also living in the moment as we watched the golden sun vanish below the horizon.

Andi:

On this day we went to the Maxfield Home, an orphanage, where we worked with kids from ages six to eighteen. On the bus there we had an awesome time playing games and singing songs with two Praying Pelican leaders: Zari and Corine. At first I was nervous to be in a different environment at Maxfield, but once we arrived we started drawing and playing catch, basketball, soccer, and football with the kids. It was easy. We had so much fun and felt like just a bunch of kids playing games. After Maxfield we went to a cathedral, and we saw the grounds. Pretty soon the day was over and we headed back to the convention center. That day we all sat out in the grass at the compound and journaled and made friendship bracelets as the sun set. It was truly blissful! The night ended with mass and night prayers and I was feeling exceptionally content to be where I was.

 

Day 5, Maxfield Children’s Home, The Devon House, 2-17-19

Maeve: Well, this was it. How could I describe the last few hours in Jamaica? First and foremost, I was overwhelmingly sad to leave. So many bittersweet moments, lessons, and experiences, not to leave behind, but to take with us. I’d felt so much love in such new, unexpected places that the reality of leaving Jamaica was almost too much to bear… but all good things must come to an end. The challenge now was to apply these new skills, experiences, and aspects of personal growth into our daily lives back home. Until next year Jamaica, thank you for the outpouring of love.

Andi:

This was our last day of work in Jamaica and we once again went to Maxfield. That day we played with the kids and I visited the nursery. In the nursery the kids were adorable, but they very clearly wanted to be loved more than anything. I held on as tightly as I could to this toddler in a blue mickey mouse onesie, but I knew that I would have to leave eventually. I was so sad to leave him, because I knew that all he wanted was to be held and I did not want to disappoint him. Sadly I did have to leave, but before leaving, we went to a place called the Devon House that used to be an old sugar plantation and is now an ice cream parlor and shops. We had fun and had one of our last small group talks with our Praying Pelican leaders, Zari and Tanya. When we returned to Oberlin, there was a surprise, which I will save for you if you decide to come next year! That day was amazing, but also sad, because I knew that I would be leaving soon. That night I packed and took in my last few moments of bliss in that beautiful place.

 

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