International Development, Disaster Management in Jamaica by Hollie Batters
My name is Hollie Batters, I am 22 years old, I live in the north of England and over the past 3 months I have been working on a Disaster Management Project, located in the Disaster Preparedness Department of the Manchester Parish Council in Mandeville, Jamaica.
I first began looking into volunteering abroad after I had completed my degree in Sociology at the University of Birmingham and I had a little money saved from working at Harrogate Borough Council following my studies. I always wanted to go travelling but I also felt like I didn’t want to just be a tourist, but that I wanted to really engage with a community and gain a true experience of a culture completely different to my own. Volunteering abroad seemed like a great way to achieve this balance.
I came across the Projects Abroad organisation simply by searching for volunteer schemes on the internet. The website looked very professional and after reading a number of extremely positive web blogs from past volunteers I decided that Projects Abroad was something I wanted to be a part of. The wide variety of interesting projects makes it difficult to choose but I decided to select a volunteer project that would be relevant to my previous work experience, which also meant I could use the further skills from working abroad towards a career in local government. It was a welcome bonus that the project I wanted to do was located in Jamaica, a vibrant country, packed full of history, culture and delicious cuisine!
My project offered a certain degree of flexibility which was great for me as I was able to outline the topics I am most interested in, and my supervisor La-Jean did her best to design a specific program that incorporated my skills and personal interests.
During my 3 months working at Manchester Parish Council, I worked on 3 ongoing projects. The first was to sensitise the people living in the Manchester Parish Council to the dengue fever virus, and I delivered presentations to community groups and schools as well as creating a leaflet for both children and adults to outline the causes and prevention techniques of the virus.
Secondly, I was involved in sensitising the community to climate change by creating a brochure to outline the actions individuals can do around their home to help reduce energy consumption, such as recycling.
Thirdly, I was involved in the relief measures of the Council before, during and after the event of tropical depression Nicole which devastated a number of homes and families in the Manchester Parish, especially those living near to the coast.
In addition to this work I was also invited to attend all Council meetings and other events such as those organised by the national body ODPEM (Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management). I am very thankful to have the opportunity to be a fully integrated member of the Manchester Parish Council during my time in Jamaica.
During my three months in Jamaica I stayed with the fantastic Stewart host family. They looked after me like their own daughter and cooked me wonderful meals and made me feel completely at home.
Also, I met some lifelong friends in Jamaica; not only the Jamaican people but through Projects Abroad I have been able to meet fellow volunteers from all over the world from places such as Australia, America, Holland, Germany and Denmark. Weekends were a great opportunity for all volunteers to meet up and travel to various fantastic places around the island such as Kingston, Negril, Ocho Rios, Port Antonio and plenty of others. We even tried our hand at surfing in Bull Bay!
Throughout my 3 months in Jamaica it was very reassuring to know that Projects Abroad was always around the corner (literally!) to provide support and assistance with any problems that came up. The team works very hard to make volunteers feel welcome and comfortable in an environment and culture that can be very different from what they are familiar with back home. As well as weekly project meetings, Projects Abroad organizes social events for the volunteers such as reggae dance classes, patois lessons and trips to places like the Bob Marley museum in Kingston and Rose Hall in Montego Bay.
Volunteering with Projects Abroad has been a unique experience that I would not get from the tourist travellers experience of moving from one place to the next. I met some great friends all over the globe and seen some beautiful places along the way. I have also grown as a person developing both my confidence and professional skills that I can use to further my career in the UK. In addition, I hope both Manchester Parish Council and Projects Abroad feel like I have helped by sharing knowledge and also cultural differences which makes volunteering abroad such a vital exercise.