Vanderbilt in Jamaica: Day 4

May 17, 2017

Vanderbilt student-athletes will blog all week long from their service trip to Jamaica in partnership with Soles4Souls. Follow @vucommodores on Twitter and check back on all week for updates.

The group visited the Granville Place of Safety For Girls on Tuesday – Granville, established in 1954, is a place of safety for young women between 8-18, who have been abused, abandoned, neglected or need care and protection. The facility houses between 80-90 girls who are taught subjects such as math, English and science and are counseled and exposed to family life and vocational training.

Paige Hamilton – Swimming
I’m not usually the kind of person who likes surprises; I’m a planner and I would be lying if I said that I do not function best while using a calendar. However, after two days of distribution here in Jamaica, I must say that coming to terms with unexpected adventures has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. Waking up to rain outside of my window began the day on Tuesday. My first thought was how muddy our distributions would be today. But as I sat and really looked at my surroundings, I began to realize how the same surroundings were completely peaceful over the ocean. I had no idea what this day was going to hold, but this unexpected peace that I found this morning played a larger role in my whole day than I could have imagined.

Unexpected rain led to an unexpected site change and, as a group, we found out that we would be distributing our shoes at the Granville safe haven for girls. After unloading our truck of shoes, we set up to size and fit the girls. By simply talking to these girls, I soon realized how real each of their situations is, and how grateful they are to be given shoes, to be given love. Sometimes finding the shoe with the perfect fit takes multiple trials, and the thought of having to turn someone away is both hard and discouraging to say the least. Finding the perfect shoe or even the perfect words to say, I have found, comes unexpectedly. For me, it has quickly become one of the most peaceful surprises to be able to put a smile on the faces of these kids. I cannot wait to see what the rest of this week will hold. Until then, I am trying to embrace the beauty in the unexpected.

Nemo Sanchez – Swimming
“Do you want to ask if we can go outside?”
“I don’t know whatever you want.”
“I don’t know Selah I’m kind of scared to go outside to be honest.”
“Yo, me too though.”

This is what was going through our minds before we stepped outside into the Granville girl’s patio and started playing with them. Before the distribution, we were told what to expect and I think what concerned me the most was not knowing how the girls were going to react to our presence. So yes, I was nervous to interact with the girls, but Selah and I decided to go for it. We stepped onto their patio and shortly after one of the girls, Giana, came to us. We played hopscotch, some hand clapping games, and talked about food (because who doesn’t love talking about food). After the other girls watched us talking and playing with Giana, they joined too and soon after some more people came outside to play and dance with them. It was a fun time and it just made me realize how fortunate we are in the US to have facilities and resources for any problem or situation we may be facing.

The market! What an experience. All I can say was that I was emotionally exhausted. We walked to Junior’s (our driver) mom’s shop first which was at the top of the hill. But before getting off the bus we were told not to go into shops we did not want to go into, not to give out our names and to remember that nothing in Jamaica is free. Well, I can tell you right now I did not follow those tips. Walking to Junior’s mom’s shop we passed a lot of other shops too and I promised them I would return because I felt bad. That was my first mistake. I ended up stepping into every single shop in that market, or at least that’s what it felt like. At first because I felt bad, but then because they told me that stepping inside brings good luck and of course I wanted to bring them luck so I did, along with Selah.

After purchasing from Junior’s mom’s shop, we went to another shop and the lady asked me what my name was. I looked down at my bracelet to see if I could come up with a name or completely avoid the question because they had told us not to make up a name or give them our name. So what was I supposed to do? Tell her I didn’t have a name? So I told her my name was Nemo, and she laughed and asked: “Like the fish?” I said yes and right after stepped into her shop and purchased something as well. Then, Selah and I went into a shop that the lady called herself Cheap Charlie! Well, she gave Selah a free necklace. I was concerned and was trying to tell Selah to take it off because, like we were told before, nothing in Jamaica is free. But she seemed like a genuine person so we left with a free necklace and it hasn’t caused us trouble since. After that, we walked to the shop across from her and the lady in there called herself Cheap Charlene! Finally, as we were heading out to the bus, we remembered we had promised a lady we were going to purchase anklets from her. So we went back and she was so thankful. She told us, “Thank you so much. You are the first people who kept a promise. God bless you.” The market was definitely a fun and exhausting experience. It was also nice to hear people telling us how grateful they were for the work we were doing for their country.

Bryanna Leyen – Bowling
To have the opportunity to go to Jamaica through Vanderbilt Athletics and Soles4Souls is something that comes around once in a lifetime. You think to yourself, there are beautiful beaches, amazing weather and you are doing service that could change so many people’s lives. What could possibly go wrong? Now imagine waking up so sick that you needed antibiotics in a foreign country and you do not know how to get help. Not what you were expecting, right? Yup, me neither.

This rainy morning, I woke up in pain and knew that something was not right. The only way I could get better was through prescription medicine. I decided to tell the leaders of the trip about my issue and they handled the situation phenomenally. What could have turned into a disaster ended up being quite the adventure. The group drove to Patrick’s house to pick up more shoes. Fortunately, his wife is a nurse, so we asked her if there was any way I could see a doctor today. The problem is that on rainy days some roads are unsafe to drive on because of the many hills. To our benefit, she knew of a doctor who was working. Alison, Megan, Junior and I took the van and headed straight to the doctor’s office. Who knew I would actually have to use the international insurance card that we were required to sign up for and print out? The doctor saw me immediately. The nurses were incredible as well. What was even better is that the pharmacy was the building below the clinic. Between the doctor’s visit and going to the pharmacy, the trip took about an hour. That is quicker than in the states! And as we walked outside, it was sunny out and there was still enough time to go to the distribution.

The four of us got to Granville just as the distribution started. The only thing I missed was orientation. I had no idea what to expect. I jumped right in and helped Jordan, my teammate, size feet. I saw a wide variety of young women. These women were victims of sexual abuse, sexual abusers, had been subject to domestic violence, etc. All of these girls in one facility really opened my eyes to how great of a childhood I had. After sizing feet, I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with this 15 year old girl, Kayla. She was incredibly sweet. It was so surprising that such a young girl who experienced so much could be so happy. She made an effort to try and get to know me and learn about the service work we were doing as a group. This distribution was completely different than yesterday. I am so thankful that we are being exposed to such a wide variety of students and people. Today was an experience bigger than us. We did so much more for the girls than words can describe. They also taught us so much about life. When I return home I am going to give my mom a big hug.