Volunteer in Jamaica
Volunteer work in Jamaica
Are you ready to get your groove on the coolest island in the world? If you are intrigued by the Rastafari culture and looking forward to listening to Reggae music against a backdrop of palm trees and sandy beaches, this is your chance! As a volunteer abroad on the island of Jamaica, you can experience all of this while you help Jamaican communities. Get to know the people and the difficulties this Caribbean island is facing and get involved. Discover the natural gems the island has to offer and experience why Jamaican culture is famous worldwide.
Volunteer opportunities in Jamaica are focused on helping the communities that are facing difficult times. Teachers, humanitarian assistants and human rights supporters will find challenging but rewarding volunteer programs where they can truly help with the development of Jamaican communities.
Volunteer work in Jamaica
Most of us associate Jamaica with a Caribbean paradise where life is perfect. There is, however, an ugly side to the island which is tainted by violence and poverty. These issues have escalated to the point that it is unsafe for people to travel to certain areas of Jamaica. The main victims are the Jamaican people who are struggling to maintain basic rights as they build a sustainable life within a safe community. Some of the major challenges Jamaica is facing are:
- Human Rights
- Domestic violence
- Health Care
There are a great number of possibilities to help with the development of these problems, but the most hands-on and active way is to volunteer in Jamaica for one of the many projects. Whether you are passionate about teaching, child or elderly care, human rights, sports or animal care, volunteer programs in Jamaica will give you the chance to make a difference to the Jamaican community.
Continue reading to find out how to volunteer in Jamaica, which volunteer project awaits you in this Caribbean destination and what your tasks will be while volunteering abroad.
Education in Jamaica
Poor education that is failing the required academic standards is leading to a lack of self-confidence with young adults. This has lead to unemployment, hostility, decreased development and poverty. Providing quality education for children and empowering young people is the first step to end these problems and pave the way towards a better future for the next generations.
Due to a high number of underfunded schools, children and young adults are often overlooked. Volunteers are needed to help provide support in the field of education and integration. As a teaching volunteer in Jamaica, you can support the staff at a local school and assist in the progress of children by providing extra help and attention or you can empower young people with special needs. There are a great variety of tasks you can help with depending on the volunteer program you choose. As a volunteer in Jamaica, your tasks might include but are not limited to:
- working with individuals or small groups of students
- helping with class work at a local school
- providing individual attention and assistance to the children
- supporting teachers in English and Mathematics
- assisting different school subjects
- teaching children sports
- teaching children about your culture
- assisting teachers with preparing lesson plans and charts, educational games, small workshops
- teaching and assisting in a school with recreational, developmental and therapeutic activities for children and young adults with special needs
- playing and taking care of underprivileged children and young adults
- organizing and leading intercultural events and regular meetings for local community members and international volunteers, expats, and travelers
- helping with fundraising events
- cooperating with other organizations
- assisting in English teaching
- assisting with maintenance and restoration activities of the school building
- assisting social worker with youth, family and community development
- creating your own project or activity within a school
Support community services
If you want to immerse yourself in the Caribbean culture and get in touch with the locals during your volunteering experience in Jamaica, a community program is a perfect opportunity. Community work calls for open, outgoing and empathetic volunteers that aren’t afraid of getting involved and can face difficult realities. The Jamaican population is struggling on a daily basis with things we take for granted in the west. Help relieve the community by providing different types of community service. Whether it be helping with the construction of a new school or raising awareness about women’s rights.
Depending on what your skills and qualifications are, there are a number of possibilities to help in community development programs as a volunteer in Jamaica. Some of these volunteering projects include:
- assisting in advocacy
- organizing cultural events
- leading workshops
- supporting women empowerment
- raising awareness of human rights
- helping people that are suffering from issues with domestic violence
- renovating community building, houses, and schools
- supporting construction activities
- providing assistance for elderly people
Before you decide to volunteer at an orphanage or a women’s shelter, make sure you are prepared for your task and understand what to expect. While working with orphans might sound noble, it is important to realize that more than 80% of children living in orphanages are not orphans. They are separated from their families because they are poor, disabled, from an ethnic minority or because they are suffering from other exclusion factors.
Many of the children and women you will be working with have experienced violence or abuse and are traumatized. For this reason, it is essential that volunteers MUST have the appropriate skills. If not, you could be putting yourself and the people you work with at risk. Therefore, if you wish to volunteer at one of the orphanage programs or women’s shelters, you should meet at least one of the following requirements:
- experience in working with traumatized clients
- training as a child caretaker
- training as a psychologist
- training as a social worker
Medical and healthcare
The global trend of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer is also reflected in the medical and healthcare system in Jamaica and other areas of the Caribbean. With poverty comes a high level of unemployment and many are unable to acquire proper healthcare.
If you are a trained doctor, nurse, medical student or pre-med, you will be able to get hands-on experience abroad. This is a great opportunity to support doctors in hospitals, small clinics, and health centers. Some of the areas where specialized help is needed are:
- general surgery
- child health
- adolescent health
If you are not a trained professional, there are still projects available where you can help out. Support the administrative staff in hospitals and clinics, educate Jamaican locals about hygiene, illness prevention, nutrition, and many other topics.
Although most of the projects in Jamaica are focused on the community, there are several volunteer opportunities in the Caribbean dedicated to taking care of animals. For some projects, it may be required to have a veterinary background or be a veterinary student. Besides caring for the animals, you will also spread awareness about how people should take care of their pets. What you can gain from this experience as a volunteer is the following:
- Hands-on experience in the field of animal care and veterinary medicine
- A better understanding of animal care in an international environment and the different regional approaches to veterinary medicine
- Raised awareness about responsible animal care in the local community
- Help many local, wonderful animals in need!
Things to know before volunteering in Jamaica
Before embarking on your trip towards doing volunteer work in Jamaica, it’s important to think about the cultural norms you’ll need to adjust to. In addition, it’s also a good idea to learn about the precautions you might need to take when volunteering abroad. The following list will help you with that:
Safety & Precautions
Before you leave on your volunteer trip to Jamaica, make sure to read up on the safety advice your government has for tourists. Most projects are in relatively safe areas but it is important to use common sense at all times and be aware of the current political situation.
Here are some tips you might want to follow during your volunteer work in Jamaica:
- Keep your personal belongings and important travel documents with you at all times! It also makes sense to bring attested photocopies of these documents, in case you lose them!
- If you are going out, do not take a lot of money, jewelry or other fancy possessions with you. Take only the money you will need and leave everything else back home!
- Do not use unregistered taxis! Doing so increases the risk of becoming a victim of a crime.
- You're advised to stay away from the inner city areas of Kingston and New Kingston and avoid wandering around alone at night in Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, and Negril. Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.
- Avoid walking or driving at night.
- Avoid public buses.
- Avoid secluded places or situations, even in resorts.
- Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
- Review the Crime and Safety Report for Jamaica.
- U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.
Although it’s very common, it’s terrible to get sick when traveling or volunteering abroad. Here are some basic precautions you can take to prevent it:
- Get all proper vaccinations a few weeks before any volunteer trips to Jamaica. Find out which vaccinations you need for Jamaica on the website of the US-based health protection agency CDC.
- Plan for how you will get health care during your stay. Get travel insurance and bring medicine along, especially if you take prescription medication.
- Protect yourself from mosquitoes because they can carry diseases such as dengue fever. The cornerstone of prevention is protection against insect bites.
It's nice to have an idea of what to expect from a foreign country. It's also great to know which packing essentials you should definitely bring along for your trip. This makes life a lot easier when it comes to preparing for your time as a volunteer in Jamaica. It is always a good idea to ask your project coordinator what volunteers should bring for the specific programs as well.
- Apart from the essential travel documents, like passport, travel medical insurance information, and visa, you should also keep photocopies or scanned copies of these.
- Always carry sunscreen with you! The sun can be unforgiving!
- Keep enough cash with you! You might want to consider getting a money belt.
- Carry luggage with you that will aid, not complicate your trip, like daypacks or backpacks; as well as lightweight bags.
- Pack appropriate clothing and shoes!
- Don't forget to bring locks for hostel lockers and also for your luggage!
- Mosquito nets that are treated with Permethrin will help ensure your safety from Mosquito bites. Also, try to buy bug sprays and Sunblock containing DEET for the trip.
Who can volunteer in Jamaica?
As you will have noticed by now, there are many different projects that expect different skills and abilities from their volunteers. While you can find the specific requirements for each project on their program page, here are some general requirements that apply to most volunteer opportunities in Jamaica:
- You need to be at least 18 years old for most of the volunteer projects abroad. When in doubt, we advise you to get in contact with the local project manager, as in some projects you can also volunteer when you're 16 years old.
- You need to have English skills to join a volunteer project in Jamaica. Please note that some teaching projects might ask for more advanced skills though.
- Depending on the project you're interested in, you might need to provide a criminal background check and a health declaration before volunteering.
How to volunteer in Jamaica
Are you ready to volunteer in Jamaica but not quite sure how to get started? Take a look at the following 3 steps that will prepare you for your volunteer work in Jamaica and an unforgettable adventure abroad:
- Check whether there’s a match between you and the project by looking at their requirements.
- Take a look at the location of the project and decide whether it would be a location you are excited about.
- Get in touch with the organization and see whether your expectations and your schedule match up.
Once this is sorted. Let’s take a look at the practical steps:
Insurance (Health & travel)
We recommend all our volunteers to get both health and travel insurance. In fact, this is even a requirement for most programs abroad. Get in touch with your program contact person in Jamaica to find out if an insurance plan is already in place for volunteers.
Visa, passport, and documentation
- Look into the visa requirements for Jamaica for your country. Many countries don’t need a Visa for the first month to the first three months in some cases.
- Make sure you have a valid passport considering the requirements of the immigration department in Jamaica.
- Prepare the correct documents to fulfill the visa application.
And that’s it! You’re ready for your volunteer abroad adventure in Jamaica. Get ready to fall in love with the Caribbean spirit and meet incredible people.