Our youth group had been looking forward to our trip to Montego Bay, Jamaica for months. After multiple fundraisers we were all able to go! The organization we went with was called Praying Pelican Missions.
Excitement and anticipation surged through my body as I gazed at the clear, blue water below the air plane. The pilot's voice crackled on the intercom, "Please fasten your seatbelts; we are nearing our destination.”
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
Twenty minutes later, we disembarked, stepping into the steamy, Jamaica air. Soon, we made our way to customs. This was an adventure; we spent four hours of waiting to reach the end of the seemingly infinite line of travelers. Finally, our group of 29 made it through. Hopping on a bus provided by Praying Pelican Missions, we traveled to our home for the week, Marcus Garvey High School.
Upon arriving, we realized that the week’s living arrangements would prove to be difficult. Apprehension rose as we surveyed the classroom in which we were going to sleep. Rusty bars hung across the glassless windows. A gecko darted across the room as we placed our suitcases and sleeping bags on the cement floor.
We went to bed early that evening, because the electricity was out and we were unable to do much in the dark. Frogs’ croaks echoed in the warm, night air. Feral dogs were fighting nearby; their vicious snarls and pitiful cries made sleep difficult.
However, we all managed to awaken early. Locals who worked with the organization we were staying with came and prepared our breakfast of goat milk, cereal, and fresh fruit. After dining, we piled into a bus and journeyed through the hills to a church where our group was going to help lead a vacation Bible school, (VBS) for the children.
The first day went great! We had lots of fun playing games with the children and getting to know them. They seemed to love us! After VBS, we returned to the Marcus Garvey high school to eat lunch before heading out to Lime Hall Baptist church, where we were going to help paint. This was our routine for the next three days.
During that time, our group painted the exterior and several interior rooms of the church; the Jamaican pastor was thrilled! After finishing, we were rewarded with coconut milk and popsicles.
Later on in the week, we visited a nursing home in St. Ann’s Bay. This was a life-altering experience. We sang to the patients and conversed with many of them. I distinctly remember one sweet, elderly woman there. After talking to her, she grasped my hang and refused to let go. Tears pooled in my eyes as I said goodbye.
We also visited a home for troubled girls. Some of the girls were homeless, and others were sent there by their parents. These chicks were definitely tough, but they seemed sweet on the inside. They challenged us to a game of netball, a sport similar to basketball. After creaming our team, they asked if they could braid our hair; we agreed enthusiastically. Most of us got cornrows. It was fun connect to girls in a different country!
The whole trip was such a life-changing experience. Immersing ourselves in the Jamaican culture was incredible. Consuming jerk chicken, watching herds of goats, and bartering in the market were just some of our countless cultural experiences. Praying Pelican Missions was a great organization to work with. They may us feel safe and provided excellent food throughout the trip. After this inspiring journey, I look forward to returning to Jamaica.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.