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Partnership Jamaica: Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Apply Now.

Since 2010, Boise State students have been going to Jamaica for a service project to help improve local schools. Every student has a unique takeaway from their journey, and commonalities as well. We talked to two women who participated last March.

Delaney Watson is a junior in health science from Bow, Washington and plans to go into nursing. She is on the women’s soccer team.

Kyla Oetting is from Tucson, Arizona and found Boise State on a whim and fell in love. She is pursuing a degree in media art and public relations.

Delaney: I already had ties to the Jamaica trip because my soccer teammate came back from a previous year and told me about it. I tried not to go into it with any expectations, because of what I had heard from other people. I just wanted to have my own experience and see it for myself. One of my takeaways was being thankful for what you have and being surrounded by other people who are grateful. No matter how much or how little you have, there’s always a reason to be happy.

Kyla: I did another alternative break program in Boise where we partnered with refugees and Treefort. I’ve also had internships and have been in the Work U program, but I loved the incredible experience in Jamaica.

Beyond the work, my takeaway is the conversations I had with the locals and connections we made with them. My favorite conversation was with Lileen, the parent of one of the students at the school where we were mixing cement and stacking bricks. I asked her “what do your family and friends do for fun?” She told me “We love to go to KFC.” I was so surprised that something so mundane for us brings them such joy. We stood back and asked “don’t you make fried chicken that’s way better than KFC?” She said “Yes, but it’s the experience.” They make experiences out of everything they can.

Delaney: When we arrived at the school, the kids welcomed us with open arms, they were so excited. Even if they weren’t sure why we were there, they wanted to help us as much as we wanted to help them. We worked on putting up a fence around the school because the kids were kicking the soccer ball out into the bushes and it was hard to keep track of students; some of them got lost.

We mixed A TON of cement. I didn’t realize how much hard work was going to go into this and the fact that people do this every day. To be able to take some of the work off their hands for a bit so they can take a moment and enjoy life was so fulfilling. We were carrying buckets of cement across a field and a little kid, half my size, came up and said “Miss, let me help you.” He grabbed a bucket heavier than him to help me. That was the simplest thing, yet it was something that little that made my day and changed my perspective.

Kyla: We had locals there to help us and they were incredibly happy singing and dancing. In Jamaica the value of money is not the same as for us so no matter where you are you have to work incredibly hard. They say if you work, why not make it fun no matter what scenario. There’s less competition among people because everyone is in the same boat. There are people living in shoe boxes, with no clothes, who go to the beach maybe once in their life even though they live so close to the ocean. Yet their perspective on life is so light and free. We could have been a bit overwhelmed, but every night we would write in journals and talk about what we experienced.

Delaney: My takeaway for the whole trip was being present and living in the moment. Those kids at both schools didn’t care or think about anything future or past, they were just happy in the moment.


How to apply for Project Jamaica

  • Trip dates: Jan 3-10, 2020 (winter break).
  • Applications are open now through midnight October 1.
  • Must have valid passport by November 2019.
  • All inclusive cost: $1,700 per person if paid before November 1.

Engage with local Jamaicans in Negril and Treasure Beach and learn about their culture and values. This year we will continue building a sports facility, including roof work, painting bleachers, and finishing concrete structures.  At another school, we will continue the construction of a library and complete a fencing project.  We’ll also explore the beautiful beaches, zip line past a jungle waterfall at YS Falls, go on a safari through the Black River, eat local Jamaican fare, and tour both urban and rural parts of the island.