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.