Sarah Moring - Medicine in Jamaica
I have always been intrigued by volunteering in another country, but never knew how to go about it. I came across Projects Abroad when a friend was researching for her gap year. I never thought I’d have time to volunteer before going to university, as I was not considering taking a year out, but when I noticed a section on ‘Short-term Specials’, I wanted to find out more.
I had never travelled to the Caribbean before and so Jamaica was the destination that stood out to me. I decided that a medical project would be the ideal opportunity to go and see more of the world and get life experience while giving my time to a valuable cause.
From the moment I applied for the trip, Projects Abroad staff were incredibly organised and calmed any nerves I had about the trip. The ‘MyProjectsAbroad’ page ensured that I knew every detail of the trip before I left (which also put my mum at ease) and I even got put in touch with a girl who I would be flying out with. My journey to Jamaica went without a hitch, and as planned I was greeted at Montego Bay airport.
My host family
When I finally arrived at my host family’s home in Mandeville, I was exhausted from the long journey. Although I was feeling really nervous to be so far from home, my host family made me feel so welcomed despite our late arrival. I quickly formed friendships with the five other girls staying with the family who were also on the same project.
Throughout the two weeks my host mother and father made us all feel like part of their family, and even put on a surprise birthday party for one girl. We were able to share so many stories of our lives and learn so much about Jamaican culture. I felt completely comfortable in the family home and could share any problems or worries I had, as well as the amazing experiences we were having.
My Medicine placement
My team was placed in the Percy Junior Hospital. We were able to rotate around the various wards of the hospital and see the amazing work the staff carries out; despite their limited resources and the amount of patients they had to attend to.
Although we could not do a lot of hands-on work due to us being unqualified, we were given lots of opportunities to help out and feel as if we were making a difference. The Jamaican hospital was so different to the hospitals I was used to at home, and although some things I saw were shocking, I came home appreciating the high quality, free healthcare I am entitled to in my country.
As part of our project, we carried out a medical outreach in a rural community, taking blood pressure and blood glucose tests and educating local people on diabetes, hypertension and the importance of nutrition and exercise. It was amazing to see how grateful the people were for the small ways we could help them.
We received training in first aid every afternoon and by the end of the two weeks we were qualified first aiders. My placement made me even more passionate about working in healthcare and also opened my eyes to working abroad.
The Jamaican experience
The Projects Abroad team organised social activities for us every evening, ranging from a lesson in the local language Patois, to learning to cook Jamaican dishes, to Reggae dance classes. These activities added so much to my experience and gave me a taste of what it is like to be truly Jamaican.
The staff at the Projects Abroad office were so caring and made sure we were happy at our host family and placement, and quickly resolved any issues. I always felt safe and looked after which allowed me to enjoy every minute of the trip.
My final thoughts
From the moment my plane landed, I fell in love with Jamaica. The island is a beautiful place with numerous waterfalls and beaches that we were taken to visit. Every Jamaican we came across made us feel welcome in their country. I was immersed in the culture and learnt so much about the Jamaican way of life.
When I think back to my time in Jamaica, I remember driving along in a taxi that was blaring Bob Marley music for everyone to hear, looking out of the window at this new country that felt like home.
It’s hard to imagine forming close friendships with people in just two weeks, yet the Projects Abroad experience made this come naturally. I enjoyed so many evenings sitting on the balcony of my host family’s home with the other volunteers, looking out at the breath-taking sunsets while sharing stories from home and learning from each other’s lives.
I can truly say that my two week trip to Jamaica was life changing, and given the opportunity, I would return in a heartbeat.