Derrell Nelson ’15 can truly say that he has family in Jamaica – the one into which he was born and the one he has created for himself.
Nelson was one of 10 Le Moyne students who traveled to the Caribbean island nation this summer as part of service trip led by Campus Ministry. They spent nine days working as teachers’ assistants in Saint Anne’s Primary School in Kingston, which serves students in first through sixth grades. As they helped the children with reading, writing and math, the Le Moyne students learned about the people they met – and themselves.
“Initially what inspired me to go on this service trip was the fact that my grandfather was from Jamaica, and he died before I got to meet him.,” recalled Nelson. “I wanted to experience the culture there and also experience another country since I do not plan on studying abroad.”
During their stay, Nelson and the other students reflected on relationships they formed at St. Anne’s, on the gifts they were able to bring there through their work, and on the gifts they received from the people they met in Kingston. As the students noted on a blog they kept during the trip, they discovered that “community is not just a noun … it is an action that is carried out every day amongst everyone.” They also learned “to walk in solidarity with those in poverty, rather than trying to lead or follow.”
Amanda D’Angelo ’17, who plans to become an educator after she graduates from Le Moyne, said that those lessons have changed her life and shifted her very way of thinking.
“I am more excited than ever to become a teacher now and bring the children that comfort and confidence in themselves that I hope I brought to some of the students in Jamaica,” she said. “I used to want to teach because I wanted to give children an education. Now I want to teach to help children understand the power and potential they have so they can leave my classroom knowing it as a safe haven for them and knowing that whatever their dream may be, they can achieve it.”
During their trip, the students were struck by the poverty they witnessed. Many of the families have difficulty affording the school’s annual tuition, which amounts to about $30, and in one class the students shared a single eraser. But more than that, the Le Moyne students were astounded by the beauty of the country and its people.
“These kids come from homes filled with poverty, yet they come to school smiling, so eager and happy to see us,” said Maranda Welch ’14. “I learned that these kids may not have a lot, yet they enjoy every moment they have and they are so happy and grateful that we came and spent our time with them.”
Those sentiments were echoes by Derrell Nelson.
“In the future, I will use what I have learned to always stay positive,” even if things are not going perfectly for me.”