As I prepared to travel to Jamaica, I was aware of the poverty I would be facing, but I was not prepared for the distortion I would encounter. The fact that tourists can travel to a country, stay in a marvelous closed-in resort, then leave a week later with the impression that Jamaica is a land of beauty in every aspect is something I still struggle with. It angers me to know that outside the resort walls is a land full of families who struggle to keep food on the table, to provide adequate medical attention for their children and to find shelter in a decent home, as couples nearby indulge themselves in $2000-a-night resorts. Jamaica is truly a beautiful country from East to West, but the light should be shone upon the entire island.
Amongst the poverty, where I expected to find spirits as low as their meager incomes, I met some of the most good-hearted, genuine human beings. As children ran through streets where sewage trickled, I saw smiles bigger than any toy could produce on an American child’s face. The people of Steer Town were not concerned that they lived in houses made out of tin and scrap wood. As long as the sun was shining and laughter was heard, the Jamaican people did not have a trouble in the world. I admire them for that.
We were welcomed with open arms the second we walked off of the plane. I felt so proud to be representing my university in such a positive way, but by the end of the trip, I felt even prouder to know that now I was a true part of the Jamaican community. The values I have learned from the people will shape my future relationships, careers and even my life. The carefree lifestyle of the Jamaicans is truly an example of how life should be lived. The Jamaicans have an expression, “Irie,” which means, “Everything is alright.” Every time I heard “Irie” over the screams of hardship in Jamaica, I knew in my heart that I need to use my medical education to make the rest of the world feel “Irie.”