WSU students pose together outside a school in Jamaica

This group of WSU students used their week off to help out at boys’ home and schools in Jamaica.

Many people travel to other–often warmer– countries to spend their Spring Break and while you certainly can learn about another culture from the beach, that’s not what I am talking about here.

For the past few years the Winona State Education Department has ventured to Jamaica to spend Spring Break at the Sunbeam Boys’ Home, a Christian missionary that provides housing and schooling to at-risk boys. This year was no different.

The WSU students stayed a week with the boys tutoring them, going to church with them, and just enjoying their company. In turn, the boys welcomed the WSU students into their home and taught the college students diversity and how to appreciate new lifestyles and differences.

I interviewed Cara Flom, one of the Education majors who went on the trip that she called “the time of her life.” She said that she couldn’t pick just one part of the trip that she enjoyed the most. She thought it was great to see the boys’ home and she enjoyed playing games—mostly soccer, or as they call it, futbol— and getting to know the kids.

The trip was a really eye-opening experience for Cara and the other students. Before this trip, the WSU students didn’t realize how much our society depends on materialistic items. People in Jamaica reuse and recycle as much as they can.  Cara also said, “The schools they visited are very different from our schools here. [Jamaican] schools are a lot smaller and have some outdated materials because they don’t have the money to spend on new stuff all the time.”

Before their trip, the WSU students held several fundraisers including a spaghetti dinner, a bake sale and a Culver’s fundraiser in addition to the goal to individually raise $200. All of this money went to the Sunbeam Boys’ Home and the area schools in Jamaica. Cara said that when they donated the money, the WSU students “thought they would use it for getting school supplies but some said they could use the money to be able to feed the children. This made her realize that “when going into a new culture you need to listen to what they need and not just assume.”

This is one of the most popular travel study trips through the WSU and all Education majors should definitely take advantage of this fantastic opportunity. It is an eye-opening experience, plus students receive three credits for the trip! It is a great way to gain teaching experience, learn about another culture and help others in need.  Plus, who wouldn’t want to spend a Spring Break in Jamaica?