Jamaica is a beautiful island nation located in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba and west of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Nowhere else in the Caribbean islands are African people, history, and culture so prevalent as Jamaica. Volunteers will have lots of exploring to do since Jamaica is also full of attractions to fulfill any Caribbean vacation fantasies.
Education: Teaching is a popular way to volunteer abroad in Jamaica. From tutoring in after school to coaching to teaching adults, there are many ways to work in the education field. Many poorer and rural communities lack the money and resources to give children the education they deserve.
Agriculture, Construction, and many Outdoor Jobs: This forested nation receives a large amount of rainfall and boasts a large variety of plants and animals. According to the World Bank, more than 40% of Jamaica’s land is used for agricultural purposes. There are many possible outdoor volunteer activities that will give you a chance to see the country, get your hands dirty, and help the local community. From conservation to construction, find the program that allows you to be immersed in the natural wonders of Jamaica.
Community Development: Although Jamaica is most well-known for tourist hot spots like resorts and beaches, there is a whole other side to Jamaican culture. The national government has worked on several initiatives to support the poor population. Community development projects may include providing employment/business assistance, providing basic services like health care, supporting community-based infrastructures, minority empowerment, and more.
Planning Your Trip
- Things to Do: Although you will see many people living in poverty, there are lots of places in Jamaica that have found wealth from tourism. It’s best to try to experience a mix of these two very different Jamaican lifestyles. Take a break from volunteering to swim with dolphins, explore a local market, relax on the beaches, try street food, deep sea fishing, and more!
- Volunteer/NGO Culture and History in Jamaica: Volunteering directly with NGOs is a great way for more independent travelers to save some money and work with locals. According to WANGO, 22 NGOs are currently working to assist Jamaican people in need.
Health and Safety of Volunteers in Jamaica:
Generally, only the Hepatitis A immunization is required but check with your doctor before traveling or visit MD Travel Health for more information. Travelers’ diarrhea is common but if you bring antibiotics and avoid drinking tap water, you should be fine. Unfortunately, Jamaica has been known for many years for its high crime and murder rates. This doesn’t mean that travelers should avoid it or that they would be in particular danger. Jamaica is also known for being homophobic.
Contributed by Katie Boyer
Volunteer Programs in Jamaica
InterExchange Foundation Christianson Fellowship
The InterExchange Foundation Christianson Fellowship awards up to $10,000 to young Americans who are passionate about helping communities abroad thrive and are eager to learn about the local culture. Fellows identify a project or an organization working on an issue they care about, and with the support of the Christianson Fellowship, contribute their skills and passion to that endeavor for at least six months on-location abroad. This intercultural experience is a meaningful way to help others, improve skills, and gain insight about another culture.
Operation Groundswell Financial Needs Grant
For those interested in an Operation Groundswell program, consider applying for financial assistance through the Operation Groundswell Financial Needs Grant. You'll submit information about yourself, the program you want to go on, and why you need financial assistance, and the OG team will review your information to determine what financial assistance they can provide. Applications are accepted throughout the year, so be sure to apply as soon as you apply for the Operation Groundswell program you choose.
Rustic Pathways Scholarships
Every year, travel company Rustic Pathways give away $250,000 to students from across the world. Scholarships are varied and it's worth checking back in after they've been awarded as late-season scholarship redistribution -- where uncollected grants are reallocated to new applicants -- takes place a few months later. Among their scholarships, the most relevant to prospective volunteers are the following: