Jamaica—land rich in diversity and culture. Jamaica—island of amazing water everywhere. Jamaica—island of breathtaking beauty and heartbreaking poverty.
Jamaica, like life, like so many places, is a place of paradox. Lush tropical forests, waterfalls, plants and flowers everywhere, surrounded by the ever-wondrous Caribbean. So many of the people here are beyond beautiful—full of joy, rhythm, and a passion for life. And at the same time, here, the legacy of slavery lives on even as people work to make their own destiny. The gap between those who “have” and those who “have not” is huge. Many people live in shacks made from scraps of wood and metal even as tourists come and spend hundreds of dollars a night to stay in hotels and resorts in places like Negril and Montego Bay, and land is sold to wealthy foreigners who come build huge houses on them only to visit Jamaica as their holiday home.
Near to where I am are large acres of land and jungle being farmed on the rogue by locals. They tell me the land is owned by a wealthy American woman who never even comes to visit anymore. They say for now, they farm the land until someone someday comes to kick them out. And at the same time, all around, people eat more and more packaged food, which creates tons of trash, which is then burned as a common practice. The island of Jamaica only recycles plastic. Everything else goes into the waste stream to be exported off island to I don’t even know where. I am praying they are not just shipping it out to sea and then dumping it, but considering how sad our human behavior is sometimes, I would not be surprised if that is what I were to find out.
With the awareness I have, I can’t help but walk around every day making lists of what I want to help change in Jamaica. There is more than a lifetime of work for me here. I begin by working with the homeless shelter in Portland Parish, helping them fundraise, craft letters to governmental agencies, as well as just spending time with the clients of the shelter, sharing love, caring, and support. So, as I embark on making this amazing place my new home, I am present to both my privilege and my commitment to doing what I can to help this gorgeous island and its beautifully amazing people.