Cross Keys, Jamaica- Portland, OR High Schools

Jamaica mon! We spent an incredible week in New Broughton, Jamaica where we made new friends, tried new food, and worked harder than we have ever worked before!

Each morning our days began by packing up our belongings and storing our beds as we were lodging at the local elementary school. While we worked hard, class was in session and many students’ parents, cousins, and other relatives came out to help us build the court. It was a challenge for a few of us to wake up, but we were always greeted by the local students and the smell of breakfast cooking. Miss Bobbet was one of our cooks who prepared a lot of different dishes for us to try. It was an adjustment for many of us to eat fish for breakfast, or goat soup for dinner, but we all tried everything and generally really enjoyed the food. The jerk chicken was by far everyone’s favorite!

Once we finished breakfast it was off to work. Our contractor’s name was Parnell and he was an expert. Additionally, we had a few people in our group who had gone on a Courts for Kids trip before, so we were able to organize ourselves and finish the court on time! We had a smooth system going and were always thankful for help from the locals (who never got tired!) and even some students while they were on break.

Our week wasn’t all about getting full of concrete and working hard though; each night we played a game with the locals. They were really good at soccer, and we took the opportunity to teach them how to play capture the flag. We’ll never forget the beautiful sunsets that set over the soccer field each night, nor the showers with barely a trickle! After playing and hanging out, we’d have to rotate to use the showers and this took a few hours because there was barely any water. We learned a lot from this trip, and all agreed that we now have a greater appreciation for our accommodations back home.

The time finally came to say goodbye to the community of New Broughton, and for many of us, it was one of the hardest goodbyes we’ve ever had to say. Throughout the week we became close to certain locals and had some unforgettable conversations. Mr. Ian, the school principal, led the closing ceremony. It was neat to see some of the young kids stand up and sing for us, as well as one local woman, who helped us every day, recite and dedicate an original poem to us. We finished the ceremony by playing on the court the together. We’ll never forget this moment: all the students, parents, and contractors enjoying their new court with us. –  Jordyn Strege, Niagura In-Country Director

“One huge moment that stood out to me personally was the official opening of the court. This was because we all had worked so hard over the past week and had made so many close connections in the community that when we all got to play on it, it brought joy to me.” – Talia

“I feel like the world needs to be exposed to more diverse communities to see how common we all are.” – Ricky

“Before coming on this trip I thought my life revolved around my phone, social media, and opportunities that I have been handed down to. After 10 days of being off my phone I realized it is just a piece of metal, a useless piece of medal. If you count how many times a day we look at our phones it is crazy. This community and 10 days has taught me that I do not need that phone and that I should go out and do more but phone-less. Another stereotype I had was social media. I thought the amount of followers I had mattered but they really don’t. This trip has taught me not to care about that anymore.” – Palin

“My favorite memory from this trip was when the little girls would play with my hair. It was so interesting to see how fascinated they were with it and realizing they had never played with hair like mine, let alone see it in person before. Coming on this trip I had never guessed that would be a huge deal, and how it would impact mine or the kids’ life. My first time out of the country was a success and widened my view on what necessities we really need.” – Sally

“What I understand now is the idea of “fake” and “genuine”. Sometimes American culture and some of its people could be viewed as fake, but in Jamaica it was different. While working with the community everyone seemed really honest and genuine and I felt shocked that everyone was so open. Later, While I was on a walk with a local getting some food he said how in his community a lot of people are “fake” and us Americans were “real”. This was a little hard to believe with how kind and open everyone was, but I decided not to choose one side. Leaving Jamaica, I’m not so sure if there is such a thing as “genuine”. I think we are just all people, sometimes good, sometimes bad and we cannot be put into a single category. It feels like I got to know the community, but in truth I only saw one part. I hope it was the good part and they treat each other the way we all treated each other during working, but I don’t think a single person can make that call.” – Emmie

“I have learned a lot about myself from the community and the people I traveled with. I learned to be more free and worry less about time, food, and more. I learned to value my opportunities to travel and learn new cultures so I can connect more and become more involved. With this work, I learned I can do anything and to not be discouraged by a man or anyone. I learned I am strong and capable.” – Ella

“I learned from the community the meaning of universal kindness. Through this experience with these amazing people I have never felt more welcomed and loved. All the community members treated me as a long lost family member they were welcoming home. I will forever be grateful for their kindness. I hope to carry this nostalgia home with me and continue universal kindness throughout my life and to the world.” – Megan

“The most difficult part of going home is the act of saying goodbye. Not the goodbyes of friends and others who were on the trip, but of the locals you made a connection with. Personally the goodbyes to a few special locals throughout the trip I have made a deep rooted connection with my new lifelong friend L, or Lenny, by the end of the trip I had felt I’d known him for years, like he was my brother. Saying goodbye, I was holding back tears trying to be tough, but knowing that that was one of the hardest goodbyes I have ever had to do in my life. Although in my stomach deep down I can feel this isn’t the last time I will see my friend.” – Clayton

“What I understand less clearly now is how money and material items reflect happiness. For example, I was listening and participating in a conversation involving many people, but more specifically, two locals with differing views on money. One of them thought that more money = more happiness, while the other was happy without money. This trip has given me a lot to think about.” – Whit