The program is based in three different rural communities in Jamaica: Yallahs, in the Parish of St. Thomas, Petersfield or Galloway (two neighboring small towns in Westmoreland Parish) and Accompong, a historical Maroon village located in the hills of St. Elizabeth Parish. Students will also spend time in Kingston during co-curricular and extra curricular activites planned for the group.
Yallahs, St. Thomas Parish
One of 13 administrative divisions in Jamaica, St. Thomas is located at the southeastern tip of Jamaica, about 20 miles east of Kingston, the Jamaican capital. Although this Parish has its share of natural beauty, it is not a Jamaican tourist destination; it thus offers the opportunity to experience Jamaica as a country and not only as a beach resort. The Parish has many natural resources: the high mountains from which Blue Mountain coffee originates; rivers, fertile plains and hillsides that are still cultivated in bananas, sugar and ginger; and many beaches. It is also rich in local history and culture. Two of the national heroes of Jamaica, Paul Bogle and George William Gordon, are from St. Thomas. Both were leaders in the Morant Bay rebellion of 1865, which led to the beginning of constitutional government in Jamaica. St. Thomas Parish has kept close to its indigenous roots, which include local cultural celebrations such as kumina (African drumming and dancing) and crop-over festivals.
Yallahs is a small town of 12,000 people that is best known for the jerk food (a local specialty) vendors in the main square and the “Salt Ponds,” large bodies of very salty water between the sea and main land, that are a site for bird migration and change color at different times of the year.
In Yallahs, in the Parish of St. Thomas, students are may be placed at service learning sites in Morant Bay, the Parish capital, and other nearby locations. Some of the community-based research sites are in Kingston. Students also spend some days on site at the University of the West Indies in Kingston/Mona.
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Petersfield and Galloway, Westmoreland Parish
Westmoreland is the westernmost parish in Jamaica, located on the south side of the island. It is situated south of Hanover, southwest of Saint James, and northwest of Saint Elizabeth, in the county of Cornwall. The chief town and capital is Savanna-la-Mar. Negril, a famous tourist destination, is also situated in the parish.
In the heart of the sugar-producing regions of central Westmoreland is the community of Petersfield, a no-frills, one-street rural town that is home to many of the workers of the Frome Sugar Estate. Petersfield is one of the older townships on the island; in fact, it was incorporated as early as the late 17th century as a dormitory community for estate workers on the nearby Roaring River Estate. One Peter Beckford, for whom the town is named, owned the Roaring River Estate at the time. The Beckford family arrived in Jamaica shortly after the restoration of King Charles ll in England, and over time, they built one of the largest fortunes in the West Indies. Some will argue that not much has changed in Petersfield since the 17th century, probably because the pace of life here is much slower than most places in Jamaica.
The Roaring River is a marvelous wonder hidden deep in the Westmoreland cane country. The river is a subterranean channel that runs for miles underground before appearing, almost miraculously, at a spot near Petersfield. Lush green vegetation abounds, and water lilies glide gently along the water's surface, destined for nowhere in particular. Just beyond the emergence point of the river, almost carved into the cliff, is the mouth of the Roaring River Cave, a series of subterranean limestone caverns with a small mineral spring inside. Visitors cannot enter the caves without the guidance of a member of the Roaring River Citizens Association, a local community group that maintains the attraction through the contributions for organized tours.
In Petersfield or Galloway, neighboring communities in the Parish of Westmoreland, the program partners with Amizade for a Fair Trade Learning Program in Jamaica. Amizade has been designing fair-trade learning programs in 16 communities for 25 years. Each year they collaborate with around 90 universities, high schools, and community groups all over the world to create life-changing service and learning experiences. In in the sugar producing area of Petersfield, Amizade collaborates with a local partner, the Petersfield Galloway Benevolent Society (PGBS). Through this long-standing partnership, programs focus on cultural immersion, social action, and community-based learning. Amizade participants are uniquely embedded into Jamaican culture through homestays and a wide variety of community engagement activities in Petersfield or Galloway. Students will meet with local community and professional leaders; serve on projects developed by and implemented with PGBS members; and explore the country and culture through field trips, local presenters and community events.
Accompong, St. Elizabeth Parish
Accompong is a historical Maroon village located in the hills of St. Elizabeth Parish on the island of Jamaica. It is located in Cockpit Country, where Jamaican Maroons and indigenous Taíno established a fortified stronghold in the hilly terrain in the 17th century. They defended it and maintained independence from the Spanish and then later against British forces, after the colony changed hands. The people named their community Accompong after an early African Maroon leader. After years of raiding and warfare, they established their autonomy with certain rights for limited self-government by a peace treaty with the British in 1739. Since independence in 1962, the government of Jamaica has continued to recognize the indigenous rights of the Jamaican Maroons in this area. Accompong is a very small community of just a few hundred people, and is considerably more rural than Petersfield and Galloway, which are small towns.
Housing and meals
In Yallahs, participants are lodged in two connected facilities, a beachfront villa and a smaller guest house. All rooms have private bathrooms and accommodate 2 to 5 students each. The villa also serves as general gathering site and site for classroom activities. Breakfast and dinner are served at the villa on days when students are in residence. Students are responsible for their own lunch and snacks, as well as all meals on “away” trips.
In Petersfield/Galloway, participants will live in homestays, usually in groups of two per home. Students will have breakfast and dinner with their host families and bagged lunches will be provided.
In Accompong, students will live in shared apartments and two house mothers from the Benevolent Society will spend the week in Accompong with the group and will help with food preparation and program coordination.