Affordable Volunteer Programs in Jamaica

Video and Photos

Me with the boys football team from Shortwood School, when they went to a competition.

About

Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions offers a safe and meaningful volunteer travel experience that allows you to experience Jamaica not like a tourist but like a Jamaican. As a Jamaican owned and operated volunteer placement organization our programs are based in small Jamaican communities across the island which allows you the opportunity to immerse with local Jamaicans as you carry out your volunteer work rubbing shoulders with Jamaicans. Whether you’re an experienced traveler or it’s your first time travelling abroad one of our experienced Program Advisor will work closely with you to co-create a life changing and meaningful volunteer experience in Jamaica.

We offer a wide variety of service projects in rural areas, the city and the coast (Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios) of Jamaica. Our volunteers are placed either with a host family or at a volunteer house. Volunteers who stay with a host family really get a firsthand experience of Jamaica's cuisine and our dialect "Patios".

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Questions & Answers

Reviews

94%
based on 14 reviews
  • Impact 9.1
  • Support 9.4
  • Fun 9.4
  • Value 9
  • Safety 10
Showing 1 - 14 of 14
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Drew
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Don’t Overthink It and Just Do It!

After excitedly planning this trip for two years, as the day of departure grew nearer both myself and classmates began to get cold feet, overthinking it for one reason or another (notably the price). However, from the moment we landed I knew I made the right choice. The country (especially Manchester where we stayed) was hands down one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, from the breathtaking green landscapes, to the extremely hospitable Jamaican people, from whom I feel we all can learn a lot from in how to live a happy life. Omar and JVE have seemingly perfected how to enfuse cultural immersion, meaningful service, and fun into one trip. After a different traditional breakfast, we worked at the school for the day, dividing ourselves up between helping in the classroom or teaching the primary children baseball, with volunteers freely circulating as they wish to. After school we visited the nearby boys home, playing games (including football, basketball, and dominos) with the 50 some boys there. In my humble opinion this was by far the highlight of the trip, as many of the boys were too in highschool, and shared interests with all of us from back home in the states. At night we came home and had a large traditional Jamaican meal and by 830 we were given the rest of the night to enjoy the 30 acre property as we pleased.

During our engages with the Jamaican people, the phrase “one people, one family” truly set in, as the way people live and interact with another is almost as if it was the same as from the states, only in a different enviroment. It was through this experience that my aspirations of becoming an enviromental engineer were reaffirmed, and I hope to rectory soon. We may have made much progress during our weeklong stay, but there still remains much work to be done to help this amazing country continue to develop into what it can be.

Getting to experience “Jamaican time” and the thrill of driving around in the mountains itself was worth it. Throw in the lasting impact made upon both myself and those I helped, and it’s clear that every penny was well spent. I am embarrassed to have ever hesitated in the first place about going, so please don’t make the same mistake I did, and if you ever have an opportunity to travel with JVE, jump on it ASAP!!

What would you improve about this program?
While the last couple of nights are spent out and about in the city and jam packed, for the duration of the actual service most nights were spent back at the homestead eating dInner and interacting with each other. By spending another one or two nights out on the town further immersing into this vibrant culture, the overall experience would be that much more exciting, and culturally educational, seeing how the things we learned from the staff actually are applied in real Jamaican towns and squares.
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David
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

JVE: A great choice for a service trip in Jamaica

As part of my school’s mission trip abroad, I visited Jamaica in the Manchester Parish for a week during January 2019. Through JVE, I was able to wholly immerse myself in the Jamaican culture through both the food and people that I encountered during my stay. The house, Tan Y Bryn served as a great place to sleep and enjoy Jamaican cuisine provided by the staff working there. Continuing with the staff, all of the employees at Tan Y Bryn were very amicable towards my volunteer group and helped us with every small need from plumbing to toiletries. While the housing accommodations were great, JVE truly shines through the service opportunities they provided for myself and other volunteers. We spent most of the time working at the Mt. Olivet Primary School and the Mt. Olivet Boys Home located only a 8 minute car ride away from Tan Y Bryn. During my time at the school, I was able to connect with many students and had special moment with a few individuals. Overall, I can wholeheartedly say that JVE was an excellent organisation to work with and I would definitely work with them again in the future if I return on a service trip to Jamiaca.

What would you improve about this program?
The only part of the trip I would complain about is the lack of consistent planning between our leaders and JVE representatives, albeit a minor issue.
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Jordan
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

One of a kind experience

During my time here in Jamaica I learned many new things about the culture and how the people here live. I truly learned how lucky i am to have what I have and how I should be more thankful for all the little things I have. I also learned how you can be really happy with just having the basic things in life. You do not need to have all the best stuff and all of the new toys and gadgets to be happy. As long as you have your friends family and the basics you can really enjoy life. Also just experiencing everyday life really gave me an understanding how lucky I am. I had never had to worry about not having enough water to shower. I also really enjoyed different foods I got to try. Just experiencing all the different ways different foods are prepared and how much time actually goes into making them. I loved the program because of the different things it exposed me to and just being able to enjoy how beautiful this little island really is.

What would you improve about this program?
Some ways I think this program could improve is adding in the fees for lunch at the schools and for all the tips in the initial price to you don't have to worry about not having enough money.
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victor
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Thank you!

The experience was one of a kind... definitely recommend it! It started with us getting here and while we were eating at ultimate jerk, i found out what real Jamaican culture is like. After, when we worked with the boys, it was memorable because we made real connections with them that i didn't think were possible in such a short time. When we would play football with the guys from the home, they felt what connection with someone was... something that some hadn't felt before. when we did the cultural exchange, it was really meaningful because they showed us so much about their culture with just little bits of music and dancing. They taught me that happiness is more than just owning things. Happiness is about the times spent with people you love and the people you care about and i learned that while realizing the kids dindt have all the money in the world... even coming into school with ripped pants, but yet they all had a smile on their face at all times.

Default avatar
Alexander
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My expeirence

I have been to many places around the world for service and Jamaica was unique. With that being said, it was fun because it was a different. I had never stayed in a house like that for a service project, but I think that it enhanced the comradery and the expeirence. I liked the idea of having a lot of time to play with the kids. Also, being a part of the culture was nice. It was as if we were not only there for service but also for vacation.

What would you improve about this program?
The only way I would improve this program is the scheduling. There was too much down time, and I think we could jahve gotten a lot more done if we had a set schedule.
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Trish
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Girl Scouts had a great experience with Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions

Our girl scout troop had a fabulous service trip to an orphanage in Jamaica thanks to the help of Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions. The trip was life changing and the bonds we formed with the children we met will never be forgotten. Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions was key to the success of our trip -- they worked tirelessly with our leader to ensure everything was organized prior to our arrival. The staff of JVE ensured our trip was safe, informative and fun for adults and girls alike. No detail was left to chance and our trip was exactly what we hoped it would be and so much more. We are looking forward to a return journey next summer to visit all our new friends at the orphanage and we are excited to work with Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions again. JVE worked to ensure that the program fit perfectly with the goals of girl scouts in building girls of courage, confidence and character. Our trip was a huge success and although we know we can't solve all the world's problems -- it was wonderful to be able to make a difference for the amazing children we met in Jamaica.

What would you improve about this program?
To improve the program I would advise visiting groups to have double the activities planned that they think they will need. I would also ask JVE to provide more paintbrushes and garden tools (the needed tools for our project) so that more of us could work together to get the job done. More challenging projects would also be welcome -- volunteers are coming to work and more than anything else want to leave knowing they made a lasting change. It is great to be able to stretch beyond your limits (for kids and adults) to help someone in need.
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Christine
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great program & support from start to finish!

Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions was such a terrific company to work with for our Girl Scout trip abroad. From the very first day I contacted the company expressing interest in volunteering to help children in Jamaica they were extremely helpful in providing information and suggestions for my group which consisted of 8 Girl Scouts and 8 mother's. They worked with me throughout the whole planning process for months before our trip, and were on top of getting back to me with any questions I needed answered.
As for the volunteer program that they set up for our group it was a perfect match! I couldn't have planned anything better. Volunteering at an orphanage was so rewarding. All of us on the trip formed such a bond with the people of the orphanage; residents and administrative workers.
The whole staff of Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions was amazing to work with! They were with us from start to finish, offering support the whole time.
I was very impressed with Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions, and so was my whole group. It was such a heart filled experience and impacted us in ways that are hard to explain. We loved it so much we hope to return next year!
I definitely recommend Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions to help organize a program for anyone that is interested in volunteering abroad!

What would you improve about this program?
The program was perfect, if I had to say one thing it would be that more gloves and paint brushes/rollers were provided so more of us could work at one time & accomplish more.
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Sasha
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Working with children

I always knew that I wanted to volunteer, but nothing really captivated me until I found an opportunity to volunteer in Kingston. I wasn't sure what to expect so I was very nervous, especially as a young woman travelling alone. I worked with children ages 4-17 at an orphanage. The other volunteers and I created a summer program for the kids where we held computer, math, english, and art classes. We also played games and had loads of fun! In addition to volunteering, I experienced Jamaican cuisine, the beautiful sights and the night life. I have since been back 5 times to visit the kids, one of which times my mum and step dad came to meet the kids and see the orphanage!
I could ramble on, so if you have any questions or would like to know more about my experience, feel free to contact Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions and ask to speak with me :)
I highly recommend the program!
- Sasha

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Kathryn
4/10
No, I don't recommend this program

My Experience with JVE

It has taken me a while to come on here and write my review as I wanted to gain some perspective after the experience I had in Jamaica. I want my review to help other people, not to use this as a form of complaint as that is not my aim. The background to my trip, I am a qualified nurse in England who has wanted to volunteer from as long as I can remember. I started my search on where to go & I found Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions online. From the beginning was impressed with their website, fast responses, Skype call to introduce themselves so was very excited to embark on my trip. I decided to go for 5 weeks from 21st February - 28th March 2015. Unfortunately I did cut my trip short due to some of the problems I experienced whilst I was there. And ended up leaving on Weds 25th March.
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As I am a nurse I stuck with that field and volunteered in an elderly care home, I also volunteered in a children's orphanage on an afternoon. In the middle of my stay I was invited to join a school group to visit the Blue Mountains and helped planting a tree in the national park.
I honestly think if you are going into the experience with your eyes open & are made aware exactly what service this company and also his mothers company Jamaica Volunteer Programs provides then you won't have any problems, however I wasn't. This is a company... For profit... And the word "voluntourism" would be more appropriate. I was also told on a number of occasions this is a "lucrative business" and "we are running a business here".

Things you should be aware of:
- NONE of the money you pay the company goes towards helping the projects you are volunteering with which is the part I found most difficult & upsetting. The thing these places need more than anything is money.
- There is no structure or goal with regards to the volunteering... There was no plan, no aim, I was literally there as a spare pair of hands. Particularly the orphanage I felt as though the children actually experienced more emotional trauma from these people coming in & out of there lives just to come and visit them, play with them for a few days, then leave. They had become accustomed to this & were asking if we'd brought toys because it was now expected that that's what happens. These children have all experienced more in their lives than they should have had to have done from witnessing domestic abuse to actually experiencing abuse in all forms. And now lead a lifestyle where tourists pull up (albeit with the best intentions) on a bus to come and see them & how they live (I hate to use this phrase but it's the only way to describe it... Like animals in a zoo). And on reflection it was quite upsetting.
- The elderly care home was run by Catholics and its biggest problem was financial... I helped and advised as best I could with the experience & skills I have from home but there was a limit to how I could help. I left feeling disheartened that I couldn't do more. The lady who runs the place is a saint... She has worked there for 25 years, 7 days a week with no pay. And still doesn't receive any financial backing from the company that provides these "voluntourists".

Accommodation & Social Aspect
- I stayed at Smokey Manor which is owned and run by Jamaica
Volunteer Programs NOT Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions so experienced complications and conflicts with regards to my accommodation transport excursions etc. as they are very closely linked as they are all family but do run as separate businesses.
- If you do stay at Smokey Manor then you are located up in the hills, no public transport or access to taxis, therefore if on a weekend or evening you want to leave to explore you are charged USD$20 (per person so a car full would be $80!!), this I had not factored into my budgeting and bearing in mind it is a 5-10 min car journey to the bottom of the hill (if that!!). I was also constantly reminded of the high cost of living in Jamaica which they used to justify a lot of their costs.
- Basically you are confined to the guest house unless you are going to your projects or you pay to leave either by transport or on an excursion.
- Lunch is not included (or wasn't with my package) so I arrived on a Saturday and went from breakfast Sunday to evening without another meal, or I would have had to pay the transport fee ($20) just to go the supermarket to get some food.
- Whilst I was there they had overbooked the accommodation and therefore wanted me to move into a house further up the hill & over the road. The house was a building site in the process of being finished, although the inside was beautifully decorated the outside was unfinished, I would have been very isolated, with no access to the facilities I had paid for... E.g. Wifi & meals, I would have had to walk back to the main house for meals on an evening alone. I therefore chose to leave early as the time fell at the end of my stay.

Positives (Yes there were a few)
- Louise the housekeeper cannot be praised enough, she works extremely long hours & cooks the best food!! She was so warm & friendly and genuinely happy to see you!! She is a wonderful woman!!
- I met some of the most amazing people from around the world, mainly from the U.S. who I wouldn't have had the opportunity to meet had I not gone and still keep in regular contact with now and also from the projects.
- Jamaica is a beautiful country & has some beautiful places to visit.

If you are looking for a voluntourism kind of trip and are going into it with your eyes open with regards to what it entails, the financial costs, location etc. then these are good companies to go with. I felt 100% safe throughout my trip.
If you are looking for a true volunteering experience where the projects have a goal and an aim and are genuinely helping the community then I would not recommend this company. I would suggest looking at non-profit organisations who are genuinely there to help the local community and are not running as a business.

I have selected the option for potential volunteers to contact me about this project if they wish too.

Response from Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions

Hi Kathryn we do thank you for posting a review of our program and giving feedback. We will make adjustment to all the concerns. I will happy to respond accordingly. At Jamaica volunteer expedition we strive to give all volunteers our 100% but unfortunately at times we do have dissatisfied volunteers. This may be for several reasons such as not adequately reading the volunteer handbook and not following instructions from local partners.
Jamaica volunteer expeditions do support all the projects we run in several ways.
1. Financial contribution is given to the partner if this is what best. Meaning we monitor and determine if this does more damage than good.To determine this we monitor our projects through monthly reviews.
2. Most of the projects run by JVE are community driven
3. We facilitate donation and resources for all our partners
4. We are a for profit organization however we have a charity that fund projects across the island or we make donation to the NGO partners we work with.
There was also a concern about food not been given at our partner Jamaica Volunteer Programs? This statement given was not the truth. JVP provides 2 meals a day to all volunteer and arrangement is always made for lunch while on project.
I would like to add that JVP is one of our most popular programs and they continue to get 95% positive review as they are very experience and do their very best to support their volunteers.
The accommodation is located 10 Minutes outside Kingston as we clearly stated on website and all our marketing material. This is what makes the program very successful and unique. volunteer are located in on a hill overlooking the city with a panoramic view of the blue Mountains but is not located in Kingston .Volunteer on our Kingston program can relax and unwind after a hard day of volunteering in the city.
Because the accommodation is located where there is no public transportation JVP charges a project transfer cost to the projects. This cost is the same as what locals would pay. Normally most volunteers pay don't have a issue with this subsidized fee.
Kathryn also mentioned of spending a few days at another accommodation across the road. This arrangement was made by JVE because Kathryn was volunteering during our spring break season and all rooms at Smokey Manor was Booked out. We made alternate arrangements for her to have a home stay experience at the Rhoden family which is literally 20 seconds walk across the street from Smokey manor. The Rhoden family is very loving and give their very best to support all volunteers. This accommodation was newly built an Kathryn was the first volunteer to occupy the room. We are unsure why Kathryn was not satisfied with the arrangement as another volunteer Sherene Jermaine stayed at the accommodation during the same period and was 100% happy and found no problems. Sherene also made a review on Go overseas and volunteers can get feedback about her stay

The team would like to acknowledged the concerns Kathryn have about the program and we will review and make changes were seen fit. We also would to wish Kathryn the best in her nursing career and ventures. Have a god bless day

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lisa
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

One Day Family Volunteer Experience

Our family was vacationing in Negril and wanted to take some time away from relaxing and this was the perfect excursion. We went with our two children ( age 8 & 10) to a local school to help with their annual sports day. We were able to not only interact with the staff and students, but their families as well. We had a great time, lovely lunch and couldn't have been more pleased with the experience.

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Nicole
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Trip Could Not have been better.

It was an amazing trip, it was comforting while also helpful doing community work. We stayed at the Smokey Manor for half the trip and then we went to the Blue mountains. It could not have been any better. I am a vegatiarian and they where very flexable with that. The space was small, but in a good way. We all got really close together like family. We welcomed part of the staff to be part of our school family. Even some other people from a different group. Over all I could not have seen this to be any better. Very nice and I would recommand anyone to do this program because it worth every second, and penny.

What would you improve about this program?
Nothing, I would not change a thing. Food, shelter, and staff where overall amazing.
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Sherene
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Internship In Kingston

Deciding to complete an Internship in Jamaica was one of the best decisions I've ever made! Studying in the Travel and Tourism Industry, students were granted the opportunity to travel worldwide and since I am a person who loves traveling I instantly began to seek for an International opportunity. Now being that I have Jamaican background It motivated me find a company in Jamaica and Intern for them, thus how I found Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions. This experience helped me to enhance and practice customer service skills all over the world while also learning more about my cultural background. From the moment I arrived I felt welcomed as the company team members were present from airport pick to the final date of Internship. I was blown away with great field trips where we as a team and as an individual created inseparable memories, viewed many beautiful sceneries, had the chance to make new friends and be fulfilled with delicious local foods and pastries. This trip was a big step for me as it completely allowed me to step out my comfort zone but i'm so glad I pushed myself into this decision. I would definitely recommend this program to any persons who wish to volunteer and/or do an Internship with JVE. It was truly an eye opener experience and I hope that in the future I will return for a visit or participate in an alumni events.

What would you improve about this program?
I would change the accommodation portion of the program. Although all accommodations are all located in the same vicinity, I would ensure that all volunteers are equally split up around the different accommodations to ensure that no one is left feeling isolated and that they are always feeling comfortable and safe from the company around them.
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danielle
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I was "inspired by possibility, guided by purpose!"

I participated in the Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions program from March 13th-April 8th. I would recommend this program to anyone looking for a safe vacation, volunteer experience, or anyone wanting to learn about other cultures. The accommodations are beautiful, clean, and make you feel at home. The staff are very welcoming and provide excellent service, catering, and several opportunities for activities and tours. What I most enjoyed about the program was the opportunity to interact with the locals of Kingston. The cultural immersion was an unforgettable experience, and will be returning soon!!

What would you improve about this program?
No complaints
Default avatar
Barbara
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Orphanage and Sports coaching volunteering in Kingston, Jamaica.

Volunteering in Jamaica has been the most amazing experience and I will never forget it! The evening I arrived in Jamaica I was jet lagged and nervous, but after speaking to the other volunteers and Marlon, the son of the family who own the guest house, those nerves soon went.
The first week I was in Jamaica I was volunteering at an orphanage in Havendale. The girls were all lovely there, just craving attention. I read them stories, helped them with their homework, played games outside with them and one day we made birthday cards for the lady who ran the orphanage. There was also an 8month old baby boy, I loved teaching him how to walk, he was very sweet. By the time I was leaving he was trying to say my name, which was just brilliant. Also in the first week I went to Manning's Hill pre school twice, all the children there were lovely too, it was a great experience being able to help them with their words and letters. The aunties and the teachers at both the orphanage and the school were very helpful and grateful for me being there.
For the remaining 3 weeks I was at Shortwood Practicing school, this was for children aged 3-15. I was volunteering with the pe department by helping to teach the kids sports. On the first day I taught a class of 5year olds track and field sports. It was great and the kids were all really helpful and pleasant. On the second day it was parents day, so I was sitting next to one of the pe teachers as he did his one-to-one parent teacher consultations. This was a very eye opening experience and I learnt a lot about the background of some of the kids. During my time I was also asked by one of the senior management team to go up on stage during their devotion in the morning, and tell the children about me. I also donated some footballs and netballs to the pe department as they didn't have any! They were desperately needed for the kids to learn new skills for competitions. The pe teachers and the rest of the staff at the school were very kind and willing to help me with anything I needed. They also didn't push me into anything I didn't want to do, it was always what I felt comfortable with.
Staying in Smokey Manor Guest House was brilliant, the Evans family were great with everything, you knew they'd be there to help if you needed them, The housekeeper and cook Louise is a legend! Everyday cooking authentic Jamaican dishes which were so tasty! But always with a smile on her face.
The day trips I went on were also great, I learnt a lot about coffee in the Blue Mountains and relaxed at Hellshire Beach.
Overall this volunteer experience has been life changing, it couldn't have been any better. I learnt so much, I think I made a difference to the lives of some of the children, plus I has great fun, had loads of new experiences and made some friends for life. I will definitely be coming back to Jamaica soon, as I've fallen in love with the island, the culture, the music and how kind the people are. I don't think I've ever been as relaxed in my entire life, I'm even staying an extra week with someone I've met since being here.

What would you improve about this program?
The cost of some of the day trips could be a lot less.

About Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions

Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions offers a safe and meaningful volunteer travel experience that allows you to experience Jamaica from a different perspective of that of a travel magazine. As a Jamaican owned and operated volunteer placement organization...