Ridge, Top Hill, Jamaica


Two and a half hours southeast from Montego Bay, in the rural breadbasket of Jamaica, is a small town called Top Hill, where 23 volunteers (18 high school students and 5 adults) from Southwest Washington and over 40 community volunteers particpated in a court building project.  We partnered with FOR U (Friends of Ridge, United), a Jamaican NGO focusing on community delevopment in the community of Ridge, which is part of the larger Top Hill area.

FOR U had completed a community center to host after school programs, summer reading camps and a general space for community activity and gatherings.  They had created a makeshift basketball court several years ago in connection with the center, but the court was built poorly and was in a state of disarray.  Together, we created a new court that will not only create space for basketball, but also netball, which is popular sport for Jamaican girls that looks like basketball with a backboard, but actually has quite different rules, including only moving the ball by passing as well as not being allowed to jump while shooting or attempting to block shots.  The community participation in sports has been made up of girls in the community.  The hoops created will swivel from basketball to netball with relative ease.

The American volunteers stayed at the Marantha School for the Deaf in RIdge, which provided the group withnot only a great location  close to the court site, but also a chance to practice their sign language in addition to Jamaican Patois.

The group was fortunate to visit the farm of Clark, a community elder in his late 70’s.  He has numerous animals, fruits, vegetables, and herbs, including pimento trees, of which the seeds, leaves and wood are used in authentic Jamaican jerk.  But what Clark is known for is his coffee, which rivals the famous Blue Mountain Coffee in Jamaica.  He does it all with modest ingredients, picking the beans by hand, roasting them in a skillet over open flame and grinding them with an enormous mortar and pestle.


On the final day in Ridge, we had a big 3 on 3 basketball tournament with the American and Jamaican volunteers mixed together.  It was a fitting way to end the trip, playing together on the court we worked so hard to build. – Derek Nesland


I learned that people don’t always have things that we usually take for granted.  I learned clean drinking water doesn’t always come out of a sink or that sometimes there is not enough water to take a shower after a long day of work.  I also learned that it’s not always weird to say hello to a stranger or ask them how they are doing.

When people work together towards a common goal, nothing can feel better than accomplishing something great.


Living without technology for a week makes you realized that it isn’t really necessary, but we’re lucky to have it.  Same goes with houses, and how big they are in the U.S., but people still complain.


This trip has impacted me in a way that showed me a whole other side to the world we live in.  It has made me a more passionate and sympathetic person to those sho are less fortunate than us.