Throughout my university career I have been fortunate to experience a multitude of events that have contributed to my growth and shaped me as an individual. This past week’s trip wit the iLEAD Jamaica Expedition is just one example of this type of event. Traveling to other countries is life altering in many ways; the culture, geography, struggles and ingenuity of the people bring about perspective in one’s own life and conjure the need for self-reflection.
Shortly after departing from the airport on the way to our hotel, the social and economic divide present in the country became apparent. To the side of the highway were makeshift shacks and shelters, small roadside vendors with dilapidated carts and old cars in a state of disrepair. In the far off hills were stately houses on large plots of land surrounded by fences and walls. It was clear early on into our travels that there was a need for assistance in these communities, a place for our expertise, an opportunity to make a difference.
The visions of, and goals created by the owners of Fern Forest Eco- Village reflected their kindness, generosity and caring towards the people and welfare of their community. The village itself is being constructed in a manner that honours the need for sustainability, and the protection of our environment. There is a conscious effort to substantially reduce the ecological footprint not only during the construction phase of the business but also for when business becomes operational. There is an understanding that, to improve a community, job opportunities must be available. The business already employs local men to assist in the cultivation of the grounds and the construction of the living quarters. The desire is to one day be able to employ other members of the community to fill the variety of job positions that will be created. Lastly, there is a commitment to the future of their community in the form of camps for local children, provided free of charge. These weeklong camps educate children as well as their parents on positive health practices and ecological awareness, while building self-esteem and creating a safe learning environment. These business owners have an abiding commitment to helping their community and, with our group’s input originating from knowledge obtained through various streams of study, we hope to assist these owners to explore options available to help them realize the short and long term potential of our suggestions and feedback.
Although we are still in the beginning stages of development regarding the creation of a business plan/suggestion package for this business, the ideas presented by group members, and our desire to understand the needs, and overcome the logistical challenges of the Fern Forest project, gives me confidence that our final product will benefit these owners and ultimately, the community as a whole.
Our journey to Jamaica left indelible memories and impacted us personally. The joy on the children’s faces at Breadnut Hill Elementary School will remain etched in our memories. Overcoming our fear of jumping into a pool at the base of a waterfall at Blue Hole gives us confidence we can overcome many of life’s obstacles. The respect and kindness exhibited by the Jamaican people inspires us to live our lives in a similar fashion, and the vision of the Fern Forest resort owners reminds us to be generous towards our community while honouring the planet we call home. Traveling opens our eyes to the world around us and lets us experience, if only for a short time, the struggles of those less fortunate than ourselves. We are privileged to have had this opportunity to be part of an educational institution that places value in experiential learning and to have the means to share our journey with all of you. Thank you for following us and providing us with your continued support.