Jamaica was beautiful from the blue waters, to the white sands, to the miles and miles of green country side. It was a pure delight to be surrounded by the tropical flowers and sit under the warm sunshine. However none of those reasons would make us go back to Jamaica. Similar scenes exist all over the world. What would make us go back: the people. We absolutely fell in love with the people. They were happy, carefree, and genuine. Yes, it was their job to accommodate our requests and show us a good time but my friends, they were even nice to each other. While driving down the road they waved at everyone they passed, a few short honks were exchanged as a way to say hello, and people along the streets yelled greetings to each other as we passed by. While on our tour we approached a 14 year old girl who was walking to school. Our tour guide stopped and said, “Should we give her a ride?” which was met with a resounding “Yes!” by the 8 of us in the jeep. She hopped in and was a great sport for all the questions she was immediately bombarded with. Can you imagine a child in America getting picked up by a tour company and then chatting with a bunch of people they didn’t know? That ride saved her a good 30 minutes off her walking commute. We had the great pleasure of stopping at a school on our way up into the mountains. We literally just walked onto the playground and children swarmed around us, with large eyes, listening carefully to what our tour guide was saying. Then out of no where, they came up and just started hugging us, smiling, handing me cookies! Their joy: taking pictures with my camera.
In Jamaica they teach self confidence in school. They believe it is essential to well being and include it in the curriculum. This was painted on the wall:
There were over 1700 children in this tiny elementary school that we visited. Due to the amount of children, sessions were split in two. A morning session and an afternoon session. At 9am, several children from the afternoon session were already on the playground. School was where they wanted to be, where they were safe.
All children, in all schools, wear uniforms. They are not allowed to wear any name brands. This creates an equal playing field and creates no differentiation between the rich and the poor.
There is a 30% unemployment rate in Jamaica. That isn’t a recession people get worked up over, it is reality. There is no welfare, if they want money, they get creative.
Bob Marley said, If you starve in Jamaica, it is because you are lazy. You can grow anything you want to eat or you can pick it up fresh at the grocery store.
All around you see clusters of rickety looking tin shacks- for lack of a better word. These little clusters are known as a Squatter’s Communities. In Jamaica, they have Squatter’s law, which means anyone can build a structure on any piece of land and if after 7 years no one kicks you off of it, its yours. After 7 years the tin shack is replaced with a more solid structure. In addition there are many unfinished looking homes that one might think are abandoned. In order to get a loan in Jamaica you can expect to pay anywhere from 12-25% interest. A gorgeous house isn’t tempting enough to sign up for that, so they buy their land and begin to build. When they run out of money, they stop until they can afford to build more. Most people live in their partially finished homes while they wait to add on.
Only buy what you can afford and don’t take on any debt. An interesting concept, no?
Most Jamaicans live up in the hills. Why not live near the beach? Hurricanes. The beach front properties generally belong to foreigners because Jamaicans know better. Our Butler, Anna, had a 45 minute commute to work one way and she took a taxi. I believe I could learn a lot from a population of people that have nothing. It is amazing what technology, what abundance, and what things do to your outlook and your attitude. I met one man who wanted to go to New York, just so he could see snow and another who had been saving his wages so that he could buy his mother a new stove for Christmas. I asked what they did for Christmas typically, if they exchanged gifts. He looked at me and said no, maybe small gifts but not like you, we just spend time with our families.
While in the resort it was all too easy to forget about what Jamaica was really like, the people living in poverty, the homeless people, and the hungry children. Life isn’t blissful for them but like I said, they are happy. Their lives are not based around tangible things. Electricity is in short supply and dirt floors are common. It was truly a humbling experience to see the way other people live and what they are grateful for and to compare that with how I live and what I complain about. Luckily not only did we stay at a beautiful resort but we stayed at a resort that has heart. Reaching out and empowering the community has always been important to the Sandals company which is why they offer skills training and good wages. However in an effort to expand their reach, they created The Sandals Foundation. Sandals CEO, Adam Stewart, said, “I learnt from an early age that the playing field is not always equal and that we all have a responsibility – as individuals, as companies, as communities and nations to do what we can to help each other no matter where we are in life.” While most major companies donate to various charities in an effort to get a hefty tax write off, Sandals goes into communities and makes an active effort to make life better. Their goal is to improve the communities, the education and the environment for the people of the Caribbean. Projects include toy drives, renovations at children’s homes, spaying and neutering programs, dental clinics and much more.
While you are relaxing in the lap of luxury, you can rest assured knowing that you are supporting a company that cares about the community that they are in. When planning your next vacation, consider staying at a Sandals Resort (No they aren’t paying me to tell you this. I wish.) , you won’t be disappointed and you will know that the people, the wonderful people you meet, are not forgotten. I have seen several advertisements for Sandals Resorts and never once has the Sandals Foundation been mentioned. I thought you should know that even your Honeymoon can give back.