In January, 2013, rather than rest on their post-semester laurels, a team of George Mason students spent part of their winter holiday getting active in a remote Jamaican community. Treasure Beach, located on the southwestern coast of the island, is isolated from the bustle and opportunities of the main tourist areas. The group spent their off-hours in a tropical, off-the-grid bamboo structure, using solar power for any needs—but the focus of the trip was not on smartphones or televisions. The purpose of the trip was to go into the local school to work with children of the St. Elizabeth community ages three to six years old.
Team members taught students everything from songs and stories to basic reading and math. When asked what was her biggest motivator for the trip, team member Maia Wise responded, “The children we worked with. They really pushed me to become something better not just for myself, but for them—because I was teaching them things that they would have for the rest of their lives.” The children welcomed the team with enthusiasm, and, speaking about one instance when the team taught students the song, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” Ms. Wise said, “After we taught them, they did not want to stop singing it and they wanted to learn more songs. Seeing the looks on their faces showed that they were so eager to learn new things. That was a priceless memory.”
Team members also found seeing and experiencing firsthand the frugal lifestyle of Treasure Beach locals was transformative. Living and working with no electricity or plumbing—but smiling all day—was revealing of how much we take for granted, and how little we need for happiness.
The program may not be for everyone, but when asked, Wise said, “I would recommend Alternative Break to anyone who wants to make a direct change in someone’s life, and is willing to immerse themselves into a different culture.”
February 12, 2013