Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Departing Jamaica and Arriving in Canada

     Monday the 23rd was the day our team set out on the long road home. Everyone was in dull spirits as our experience in Jamaica drew to a close. Our check out time was at 11 a.m. and the shuttle to the airport was set to arrive at 11:40 a.m. Around the breakfast table everyone discussed how they wanted to spend the last few hours of their time in Jamaica. Some of us enjoyed a game of pool, while others sat in the sun soaking up a last few rays, and a few of us decided to feed the fish. At the resort there is a boardwalk leading to a shady spot which is perfect for feeding and viewing the tropical fish, who like to also hang out in the shade under the walkway.
Gazebo where students would feed fish off of.
     We departed the hotel on time, on route to the airport in Montego Bay. At the airport we made it through security in great time. This left us time to grab a bite to eat as well as grab those last souvenirs we had yet to buy. Our plane departed the airport in time and flew smoothly back to the Toronto Pearson Airport. However, when leaving the airport we had to wait as our baggage was frozen inside the plane. As we waited for airport staff to unthaw the doors to the cargo bay some of us decided to get comfy and play cards to pass the time.
Playing cards at Toronto Pearson Airport waiting for our luggage
     The last leg of our journey home was spent in our vehicles driving from Toronto back to North Bay. We were thankful that our vehicles all started without any problems despite them having sat in extremely cold temperatures while we were away. Our drive home was spent reminiscing about the greatest parts of our time in Jamaica; Great Huts, Portland Rehab Management, Luminous Lagoon, and many other adventures. All though, we were sad that our great experience in Jamaica was over, we were happy at having the chance to partake in this adventure, and everyone was excited to arrive home and crawl into their own beds for a night of sleep and dreams of their time in Jamaica.

Brea-Anna Jacksic 

Last full day in Jamaica

     Sunday was our last full day at the Holiday inn Sunspree. The morning was spent relaxing and sleeping after a busy Saturday night in downtown Montego Bay. While there we got to experience Jamaican culture with the mix of many tourists. The morning weather was very rainy and cloudy, so a bunch of students caught the hourly shuttle to shop at Rose Hall. There was a variety of little tourist shops to purchase souvenirs, but my personal favourite shop was the coffee and spice shop. There was a huge selection of Jamaican spices and coffee that could be purchased to bring the taste of Jamaica home. Lunch was enjoyed at the the Jerk Hut where they served delicious authentic Jamaican jerk chicken with spicy scotch bonnet hot sauce. 

     On Sunday afternoon, many of the students spent the day catching the last rays of sunshine before we had to head back to the cold northern weather. Another group played basketball or tennis with some of the Holiday Inn staff members.


      For our final dinner, we enjoyed the buffet after the amazing staff members put a large table together for our group of fourteen. After dinner, many of the students spent the evening in the lobby meeting many of the new faces that had arrived at the Holiday Inn that day. The group then moved outside and enjoyed the beautiful stars, while playing another round of basketball. The night finished off with the students talking about the experiences we have had on this trip, and what we are going to do without being surrounded with each other once we get back to North Bay. None of the students were very close when this trip began, but as we spent more time together, we all became so close. Speaking for myself, I can say that this was one of the most rewarding trips I've ever experienced. I have learned so much, and am inspired to return back in the future to volunteer at the Portland Rehabilitation Shelter, and spend time with the amazing people of Jamaica.

The iLEAD Teams' final night in Jamaica
Lauren Westervelt

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Happy Birthday Breanna!

    Today marks one of our last days in Jamaica. We all slowly crawled out of our beds today after being exhausted from a long but beautiful drive back to Montego Bay yesterday. We envisioned that we would have great weather on our remaining days; however, today was quite windy and overcast. This didn't stop us from having a great time; when the sun did manage to peek out during some parts of the day, both Cole and Matt took advantage of these opportunities, which actually lead them to placing their chairs in the ocean to find that hot sun!

Cole and Matt making the best of a mainly cloudy day.
     Since working on our tans was out of the question, a few of us turned to playing a few games of basketball, tennis, and mini-putt.  A couple of the students even got a lesson from the on-sight tennis-pro.  These activities were great because we were able to get some physical exercise after spending the previous day sitting in a bus for a good portion of the day.   

Playing some tennis on one of the last days in Jamaica.
From left to right: Gina, Haley, Cole, and Matt 
     After a fun day the iLEAD Team went to a Japanese dinner at the resort.  This meal was nothing short of amazing. The food and service was phenomenal, and they even went out of there way to wish Breanna a happy   21st birthday.  The 2015 iLEAD Expedition has been an amazing experience, but sadly everything must come to an end.  Sunday will be our last full day in Jamaica, and hopefully we will have good weather before returning to a very cold Canada!  
The iLEAD Team enjoying some amazing Japanese cuisine.
Haleigh Ferguson 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Travelling back to Montego Bay

     After a lot of hard work at Great Huts, a day of relaxation was well-deserved.  We left Great Huts at 9:30 a.m to travel back to Montego Bay.  Most of us were so exhausted from all of the work we did that we slept the entire bus ride. For the few of us that did stay awake, they were treated to great views of the ocean, and other beautiful landscapes that Jamaica offers. 
A well-deserved team-nap after a lot of hard work at Great Huts
     I will never get used to the animals that are always walking next to the road such as: goats, chickens, and wild dogs.  It was interesting to see the type of houses they live in, and the land they have. The houses are made out of brick, and most are built on hills or rocky land. When we got back to the resort the weather was not the greatest, so we decided to have dinner all together. After that we took it easy and played cards for most of the night. The last four days at Great Huts were an amazing experience. The food was always good and the staff were always a pleasure to talk to.  I will never forget the memories that I made at Great Huts, and I am looking forward to the adventures to come at our last few days here in Jamaica. I just hope the weather is nice for the rest of our stay! 

Haley Lidster

Friday, February 20, 2015

Great Huts Presentation

            The day as every other spent at Great Huts commenced with a delightful breakfast with fresh orange juice, and coffee. After breakfast and a quick team discussion, the groups split up. One to enjoy their well deserved day of adventure in the sun, and the other began perfecting the presentation that was an hour away.

The Great Huts team meeting before their presentation.

            Around 11 a.m,. the management team and owner of Great Huts Dr. Rhodes assembled in the main dining area for the presentation. The Presentation went off without a hitch; the message was very well received from the Great Huts team. The goal of the presentation was to give Great Huts the tools needed to start a proper performance appraisal system.  We covered; the what, why and how of each tool. The presentation became something more of a collaborative team meeting, with our ideas turning into group discussions that I believe both sides took a lot from. It was great to see how appreciative the Great Huts team was.  They loved our tools, and couldn't wait to implement them. After each tool was brought forth, the first question was always “when can I start using this? I can use this right now.”  The feeling of knowing how much we had helped Great Huts and how happy they were with our tools was indescribable, the months of work had all been worth it. All of the work Leslie made us do in advance was tiring.  At times it was exhausting, but the feeling of being well prepared during the presentation was well worth it, and we couldn't have done it without her leadership. What was originally planned to be an hour-long presentation, quickly turned into two hours. This was due to so much feedback, questions, and other engagement. This is just a sign of both their gratitude and a testament to all our hard work.  Alas it was all over; it was time for some fun.
Cole Lehman and Brea-Anna Jacksic discussing their performance appraisal system with managers and owner Dr. Rhodes

Group photo of Great Huts Team and Professor Leslie Wardley, Owner Dr. Rhodes, and Great Huts Managers after the presentation.
     After a quick lunch, the Great Huts team were off with Natalya and Leslie to the famous Blue Lagoon. The sight of the lagoon had us all in awe, the blue colour was a pure bright blue that could not be captured by a camera. A very friendly tour guide drove us around the lagoon, and down the beach explaining the lagoon's history. The guide explained that the many villas lining the coast were rental units owned by a wealthy Jamaican people.  He then listed some of the many celebrities that have visited the spot over the years including: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, 50 Cent,  and Mariah Carey. The guide then dropped us off at a private island for a chance to swim in what he called “the oceans swimming pool." From there we were driven back to the guide's shop to check out some of his authentic Jamaican souvenirs. 

From left to right: Cole Lehman, Kimberly Knobl, Leslie Wardley, Natalya Brown, Brea-Anna Jacksic, Gina D'Antonio, and Matt Lewis
 The day ended with the two groups being reunited at Great Huts for a night of good food, great company, and some fun card games.  Our adventures at Great Huts may be ending but we look forward to travelling back to the Holiday Inn Sunspree tomorrow.

Cole Lehman 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Portland Rehabilitative Management Shelter Presentation

     Today we reaped the rewards of all the hard work we have done over the past two months. We woke up and had a great breakfast before heading to Portland Rehabilitative Management shelter to make our presentation. The taxi ride was as crazy as ever, but we arrived at the shelter safe and sound. When we arrived, shelter founder and board member, Dr. Paul Rhodes, was in a meeting with the shelter director, Andrea Parsons, so some of us socialized with the shelter residents. We had a great time playing dominoes with them. Some of the residents shared stories about their families and their reasons for needing the support of the shelter. Their stories of overcoming obstacles were very inspirational to hear.
Portland Rehabilitation Shelter Students enjoying playing dominoes with two of the residents.
      Once Dr. Rhodes and Ms. Parsons were finished with their meeting, Dr. Rhodes sat down with us and talked to us about the inception of Great Huts and the Portland Rehabilitative Management shelter. He told us why he decided to start the shelter and what inspired him to help others. We had a great conversation with him, and it really gave us an idea of how much the shelter has evolved and improved. Then it was time for us to present everything we had worked on for the past few weeks. We sat down with Ms. Parsons and showed her what we had been working on, and how we think the training program we developed will benefit her and the shelter. We were able to answer any questions and overcome any doubts. In the end we were able to satisfy her needs, which felt amazing. Ms. Parsons took the time to tell us how much she appreciated all the work we had done and that our work would not only affect the lives of those coming to the shelter, but that she would be sharing the tools we developed with the wider community.

Top: Haley Lidster, Haleigh Ferguson, Owner Dr. Rhodes, Manager Andrea, Kerri Sawyer, Jenny Bateman
Bottom: Rebecca Paul, Leslie Wardley, and Lauren Westervelt 
      To show her appreciation, Ms. Parsons offered to take us around Port Antonio tomorrow to show us the real Jamaican culture and community.  We were already extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with Ms. Parsons, Dr. Rhodes and the shelter. This upcoming experience will be the icing on the cake. Once we got back to Great Huts, it was still a beautiful and sunny day, so some of us went cliff jumping and swimming in the pool. After dinner some of the staff at Great Huts taught us how to dance to some popular reggae music. It was a busy day, but I had experiences I will never forget. Ultimately, I think that everyone in our group has learned a lot.  We can't wait to find out what the rest of this already amazing expedition has to offer.
Group meeting with the Manager Andrea

Rebecca Paul

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

First Visit to the Portland Rehabilitative Management Shelter

     We just woke up from our first night at Great Huts to the sound of birds chirping. Our first night was quite the experience, there was a rain storm during the night that was loud enough to wake some of us up. This was the first time that I had to sleep under a bug net and it was pretty exciting. I also had my first outdoor shower which was amazing but a little bit strange. Our breakfast was eggs made the way we wanted, some of the best coffee and orange juice that I have ever had, and fresh fruit.

The Portland Rehabilitative Management Shelter team working on their training program. 
     After breakfast we discussed what we were going to do at the Portland Rehabilitative Management Shelter. The plan was to take a short taxi ride to the shelter, experience the sensitivity training that the manager, Andrea Parsons, is currently using, and then receive feedback on the training program that we have created.

     The taxi ride was absolutely terrifying. The driving in Jamaica is much different than what we are used to in Canada, and the roads are much more narrow. Our driver would pass on a bend or when there was a car coming straight for us. It also felt that we were going to side swipe the cars coming from the other direction.

     After arriving at the shelter we were given a tour of the gardens; this is where they grow vegetables, and where the chickens roam. we were then shown the female living quarters, and the dining/lounge area. The shelter surpassed my expectations in terms of cleanliness and space.

     We were then greeted by Andrea and she began her training that she would normally give to volunteers. This way we could see what type of discussion and activities would work and what would not. We also learned a lot about Jamaican perceptions about mental illness, homelessness, and gender gaps. It was a very eye opening experience. After we experienced the training, we made some changes to our training program to match the goals that Andrea had expressed to us.

     We finished our day at the shelter and were waiting outside for the cabs when one of the residents approached us. She saw that we had taken a picture and wanted to be in a picture with her. She was very sweet. When the cabs arrived we got a different driver who was listening to Whitney Houston and began serenading us. We started to sing along with him: "AND I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU". It was really fun.

Members of the iLEAD Team taking a photo with one of the Portland Rehabilitative Management Shelter's Residents 

     Once our cab driver dropped us off at Great Huts we took some time to relax and we sat by the ocean before dinner. We ate dinner, which was amazing.  I was able to enjoy a local delicacy; garlic shrimp. Now we are working on our presentation for tomorrow where we will be taking Andrea through the training program that we have created. So far this whole experience has been incredible and humbling. I cannot explain how excited I am that I am here and get to hopefully make a difference at the shelter.

Breanna Lemieux

Travelling to Great Huts

     Today we departed from our accommodations at the Holiday Inn Sunspree in Montego Bay at 9 am to travel approximately 200 km to Great Huts Resort in Port Antonio. 

      During our travels around 11 am, we entered Stewart Town and we came up to a road block. We were told that it is common for the locals to block the road by placing trees across the road way. This time the locals were blocking the road with their bodies to protest the fact that their roads need maintenance. They had been promised that road work would be started by February of 2014, and it still hasn't been started.  This caused them to interfere with the flow of traffic of another road way. They were demanding to see Member of Parliament to discuss their road conditions. They also allowed women and children to participate in the road block.

Protest on the Jamaican streets blocking the road

     Our driver strategically told the protesters we were on our way to the airport. Since we are tourists and they do not want to hurt the perception of Jamaican they were peaceful and let us through, after an hour of waiting in the traffic. This may be because their economy cannot take the risk of losing tourism or having a negative perception. This was a peaceful protest and we were in no danger while it was taking place.  After we were passed through the protest, we made our way to our Eco-tourism location where some of the team would be doing their consulting work. 

Lauren Westervelt and Team arriving at Great Huts
      After we arrived to Great Huts Resort in Port Antonio we settled into our rooms which are huts with sand floors and bamboo walls. We then sat down and ordered our lunch, we tried things from Jerk Chicken, chicken wraps and a stuffed chicken.  Before dinner we were able to enjoy a swim in Great Hut's cliff-side pool.
Great Hut's amazing cliff-side pool

We finished off our night with a nice dinner and a team meeting in preparation for our work at Great Huts Resort and Portland Rehabilitation Management center. 

Members of the Portland Rehabilitation Center team working with Professor Leslie Wardley.
From left to right: Jenny Bateman, Haleigh Ferguson, Lauren Westervelt, Leslie Wardley, and Brea-Anna Jacksic

     Our first day at Great Huts was an experience we won't forget, and we look forward to what our first full day here tomorrow will bring!

Kimberly Knobel 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Day three in Jamaica: Activities and Excursions

        Day three in Jamaica allowed us to experience a lot of the activities the Holiday Inn Sunspree had to offer    
       At 10 am most of the girls participated in a water aerobics class. It was a very fun and nice workout to start the day. After this we headed off to the beach to go kayaking and paddle boating.

       Later in the afternoon we all met up with our iLEAD faculty members Leslie and Natalya for group photos. After group photos were taken we all went and played some volleyball and tennis.  This was a great opportunity to display our Nipissing shirts for the resort to see while getting some exercise.

                     The 2015 iLEAD Jamaican team 

Pictures of the iLEAD team playing volleyball in their Nipissing shirts


        The best part of the day was going to Luminous Lagoon. Eight of us went and swam in the lagoon. Anytime the water is agitated in the lagoon the water would light up due to a very unique mix of both fresh and salt water with a high level of phosphorus.  This is one of only four places in the world that has this majestic attraction. When we came back from the Luminous Lagoon we enjoyed some cultural dancing, that were accompanied by hand drums. they were very intense performers that looked like they were enjoying themselves.  The third day of Jamaica was one we won't forget, and we are looking forward to the upcoming days.

Jenny Bateman

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Day two in Jamaica: Valentines Day

Day 2 – Saturday February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine’s Day!

     This morning everyone woke up early to get a good start on our first full day in Jamaica. I even woke up without my alarm. The sunshine and warm weather made it pretty easy though, it’s much better than waking up to -30˚ weather.

     At this morning’s orientation our facilitator asked us how we were doing, naturally we all replied “I’m good” or “I’m great” but for every answer he shook his head, “No, no, in Canada you say I’m good, I’m great, I’m fantastic but when someone asks you how you’re doing in Jamaica you say I’m irie.” Meaning, I’m doing alright, I’m on top of everything, I’m fantastic. I thought that was kind of neat. They have they’re own Jamaican way of saying ‘life is good’.

     I think we’re all finally starting to embrace the Jamaican culture. Jamaicans are so easy going and carefree, it’s really quite a change from Canadian culture. In Canada, we’re so consumed with our busy lives that we stress about the littlest things, but being in Jamaica I can see that the lifestyle is extremely stress-free. I’m quite a worrisome person by nature but being here has really opened my eyes that life doesn't need to be stressful and we all shouldn't let the little things bother us so much. Talk about culture shock!

     Tonight we all went for dinner at the Jamaican a la carte restaurant on our resort. The food was pretty good, but definitely different from what Canadians are used to. One thing’s for sure about authentic Jamaica food is that it is SPICY! At least for my taste buds anyway! I had the jerk chicken, which is pretty famous around here. It was very flavourful but again, so spicy! It was really nice to have everyone together for dinner, we joked that we all had 13 dates for Valentine’s Day!

The iLEAD group enjoying tradition Jamaican cuisine.

Tomorrow seems like another exciting day, stay posted!

Gina D'Antonio 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

First day in Jamaica

Day one:
After an eventful trip to the airport, all twelve students and two professors left Toronto around 7:00am for Jamaica.

 Pearson International Airport, 4:00am        


    Upon arrival in Jamaica, we navigated through immigration. Jamaica is one of the only countries to require visitors to go through immigration on their way in and out of the country.  This complicated our process as we had to retain some forms for our trip home. Finally we got on a bus to take us to our resort.


Bus ride from the Montego Bay Airport to the resort, 12:15pm

            On the twenty minute bus ride, we all experienced a bit of culture shock. We had been prepared for the fact that the life in Jamaica is very different from Canada, but to see it in person was a new experience. The houses range from huts by the road to million dollar mansions up on the hills. We were all surprised to see vehicles that we also see in North America (Toyota, Honda, etc,) and a motorcyclist with his helmet hanging off his handlebars instead of on his head.  Driving on the left side of the road was something very strange for us.

       Once we got to the resort we dropped off our luggage and set off to explore the resort. We spent the afternoon chatting with the resort staff and napping since many of us had not slept the previous day. We are all beyond excited to start our first full day in Jamaica so stay tuned for day two! 

                      Exploring the resort, 1:30 pm. 

-Kerri Sawyer

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Pre-Departure Post

The 2015 iLEAD Jamaica Expedition Details:

Great Huts:

  What: Eco-resort
  Where: Boston Bay, Portland, Jamaica
  Project: Job descriptions, working to establish a performance appraisal system.  
  Website: http://www.greathuts.com/

Portland Rehabilitation Management:

  What: Homeless Shelter and Mental Health Rehabilitation Centre
  Where: Port Antonio, Portland, Jamaica
  Project: Creation of training framework
  Website: http://www.prmhomeless.org/

The bags are packed, the students have done their research and implementation report to be presented to the Great Huts managers, and we will soon be off to Jamaica!  Follow us on this blog for daily posts about our experiences.  

Follow us on Twitter: @iLEADJamaica
For more information on iLEAD: http://ilead.nipissingu.ca

Matthew Lewis
iLEAD and Jamaica Expedition Liaison