Article by Denise Cagley-Jefferson
Photos by Lee Abel Photography
It’s almost nine o’clock in the morning. The air is hot and humid, yet a cool summer breeze flows through the mountains. Full of anticipation, the children peek around the corner to get a glimpse of what might be in store for the week. In just minutes, the Blue Mountain Project (BMP) will kick-off its annual Fun Camp, a free summer program for the children of Hagley Gap, Jamaica. Each year the curriculum is designed around a new theme. This year, the Discovery STEM-Camp curriculum will be introduced, allowing the children the opportunity to explore the properties of water through a variety of learning activities.
It’s time – the Fun Camp counselors hop on a concrete block stage in front on the community center. Most of them are from Wisconsin and have never been outside the United States. With a little excitement and a dash of apprehension, they introduce themselves and lead the children in a few opening songs and games. The Director then divides the children into three age groups and off they go.
After the morning lessons and activities, all of the children meet on the football field for a water balloon toss. It’s nearly impossible to pair the children up through the squeal of excitement. Each pair is given one water balloon to toss with their partner, taking one step back every time they successfully catch it. In just a few minutes the children are wet and the water balloons are gone. With about 30 minutes left until lunch, the children head to the river for a swim break.
In the kitchen, two local women are busy preparing lunch – stewed chicken and rice. Two large pots sit on top of tire rims, fueled by coal. Nearly to perfection, lunch is ready at noon, the children return from the river and line up to receive their lunch. A temporary calm blankets the community center as lunch is consumed. Thanks to several donors, lunch is provided at no cost.
After lunch the children return to their respective age groups to complete the daily curriculum. The groups rotate through four stations:
- Community Center – a large cement block building with a zinc roof
- Computer Lab – a spacious room with 8 computers, books and games
- Clinic Waiting Room – a smaller room with tables and chairs
- Football Field – a large open space for physical activity
At two o’clock, the children gather in the community center for the closing circle. The Director asks the children about what they learned and makes a few final announcements before dismissal. The camp counselors meet in the computer lab for a cold drink and daily debrief. They discuss their highs/lows and prepare the stations for the next day before heading to the river for a refreshing adult swim.
Fun Camp is just one example of the programs that the BMP offers. Founded in 2004, BMP began by building a clinic in Hagley Gap, staffed by a local Nurse and supported by visiting medical volunteers. It grew to include a second clinic in a neighboring community, health fairs and a team of local health ambassadors.
As a non-profit organization, BMP relies on the support of its volunteers and donors. Its Service Learning Program provides short-term volunteer opportunities for international volunteers who have education or health backgrounds. The volunteers live with host families, eat authentic meals, participate in intercultural activities and even have the option to hike to the Blue Mountain Peak. A limited number of long-term and virtual volunteer opportunities are available too. To volunteer, donate or learn more about the Blue Mountain Project, visit www.bluemountainproject.org.
You can support BMP by purchasing this Beautiful 2018 Calendar! Click HERE
Enjoy the Photos!