Belleville college students build houses in Jamaica

Students and teachers of Nicholson
Catholic college in Belleville, Ontario with
members of a Jamaican family in front of
their recently constructed home.

Twenty-three students from a Catholic college in Belleville, Ontario along with four of their  teachers, spent eight days in Jamaica during the  recent March break.

But they were not there  as regular Canadian tourist  just to enjoy the sun, the sand and the sea.

The students from  Nicholson Catholic college were  hard at work building houses and sprucing up  small shops in one of  the poorest  areas  in Kingston, the Jamaican capital.

As MeaghanWoodland, the teacher who headed the ” mission trip,” noted, it was ” a learning   experience.”

Woodland  told the Caribbean Camera that students of  the school have been going on these ” mission trips ” every two years since  2008 when the (Catholic)  archdiocese  of  Kingston, Ontario of  which Belleville is a part, twinned with the archdiocese of Kingston, Jamaica.

” But this year we had a bigger team and were able to raise funds to build two  homes,” she said.

Students in grades 11 and 12 signed up for the trips about a year ago and immediately began  their  fundraising  campaign.

They raised nearly$20,000 for the materials for the two houses valued at $9,200 each.

Woodland said the first house the students built was for a family of seven in  St. Catharines.

“The mother had asthma and the house in which the family was living was leaking and mould aggravated her health problem. We provided the family with a two-bedroom  house.”

“Using prefabricated building materials, our team was able to complete the construction of the house in two days with the assistance of local workers,”  she said.

Another  house  was  built for  a single mother with five children in Kingston.

Although the building of the houses was the major project undertaken by the Belleville students, they also helped to paint some local business places as part of a program ” to promote entrepeneurship ” in the area and donated a wide range of supplies to the stores.

The students also spent time  in local schools with “students who attend classes only three hours daily.”

Grace  Moher, a grade12 student, said  “the best thing about the trip was that it helped me to open my eyes and see the different living conditions that  people have to endure.”

“However, I really enjoyed the cultural experience in Jamaica.”

Abby George , also a grade 12 student, who helped to paint the houses,  said  that ” one of the best things on the trip was trying to make a big difference in someone else’s life,”

“And I  really enjoyed interacting with the children and  experiencing the Jamaican culture,” she added.

Sean Kim who was on his first trip to the Caribbean, said he was not used to the weather being ” that warm.”

“But it was pretty nice, even  though standing in the sun working on the construction of the houses just zaps your energy.”

“I  loved to see the massive hills and the greenery in Jamaica.It was quite  a change in the landscape,” he said.