Labour Day in JA: the power of the community

Jamaicans love a good 3-day weekend just as much as Americans do, and lucky for overextended employees, they’ve got nuff ah dem. Last Monday, Jamaica celebrated its version of Labour Day and teachers and students alike enjoyed a nice mid-term break.

Cleaning up bits of trash on the roadside
Cleaning up bits of trash on the roadside

In America, Labor Day serves as one last hoorah before the new school year starts and one last opportunity to wear white for the year (why was that ever a thing?). In Jamaica, Labour Day is a day of, well, labour.

Communities come together on Labour Day to do public service projects, repair roads, paint public spaces and fix up local schools. From a community development perspective, it is a day that Peace Corps Volunteer dreams are made of.

Our welcome sign got a facelift
Our welcome sign got a facelift
Pot holes getting patched up
Pot holes getting patched up
Raking up green waste
Raking up green waste

My host father is the Justice of the Peace in our community, which is similar to a notary public, but with more responsibilities. He organized community members of all ages and genders to do a clean up of our main road, including trimming back plant overgrowth, building a retaining wall, patching up pot holes and cleaning up litter.

IMG_9011
My neighbor Mike, pictured left, getting ready to mix cement
IMG_9004
Out in full force, working together
My host dad, in the green shirt, helping to give directions
My host dad, in the green shirt, helping to give directions

“You just have to find people’s strengths and target certain leaders, and they get the people in their circles to turn out. You have to be smart about it,” my host father remarked in reference to mobilizing the community. I guess sometimes it really is that simple, especially when you’re the type of person who garners well-deserved respect.

IMG_8998

It was beautiful to see so many people working together in harmony to give the area a face-lift.

True to Jamaican style, there was music blasting all the while. Even those who did not feel up to the task of manual labor came out to spectate and show their moral support.

IMG_2865
We filled lots of bags

 

Ari helping to clean up the gully
Ari helping to clean up the gully

I noticed that there were lots of bits of trash around, especially plastic food wrappers and empty bag juice casings. I started picking up trash, wrangled my host sister into helping me, and before we knew it, we had a posse of kids cleaning up the gully and the roadside.

IMG_2856

My host sister, left, and our neighbor in the middle of trash collection
My host sister, left, and our neighbor in the middle of trash collection
Ari took lots of pictures of me...
Ari took lots of pictures of me…
IMG_9015
Looking good!

IMG_9012 IMG_9013

Even though she complained the whole time (lol, so teenage angsty), I think my host sister ended up enjoying herself even more than I did.

It wouldn’t be a Jamaican event without food. Mr. Bodden, the owner of the corner shop, made and served up cups of soup to everyone.

IMG_2868

I could only manage a couple of hours in the sun, but my host dad and many other community members were around cleaning up from morning until late.

Our welcome sign got a much-needed face lift
Our welcome sign got a much-needed face lift

IMG_2858 IMG_2867 IMG_2859

I loved all of the camaraderie that day
I loved all of the camaraderie that day

IMG_2861 IMG_9006 IMG_2852

The naive often think of Peace Corps service as a one-sided giving experience. I heard a lot of “wow, you’re so selfless to give up two years of your life to help others!” before I left for Jamaica. Give up? In my year of service, I’ve gained more than I could possibly quantify. I’ve perhaps done more learning than I have teaching.

Labour Day in my community left me feeling inspired and impressed. It is a testament the power that comes with community service and loving thy neighbor.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Labour Day in JA: the power of the community

  1. This was awesome! The pictures were crystal clear and your descriptions were vivid. What sector are you serving in? I will be serving in the Education sector in China. Thanks for this post 🙂

    1. Thanks! I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed. I’m serving in the education sector, I work to improve literacy at a small primary school. Congrats! I know a couple of RPCVs who served in China- they loved it

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s