Fisher Team Makes a Difference at 2014 Jamaican Sports Camp for Disadvantaged Youth
Right after walking across the stage at Commencement this year, several new graduates joined current students, faculty, staff, and fellow alumni on a trip to Jamaica where they volunteered for 10 days at the Jamaica Advantage Thru Sports Youth (JASY) Day Camp. This is the third trip to the camp that Fisher has organized—a trip that many refer to as “life-changing.”
JASY is an annual camp that hosts kids between the ages of 8-16 for two week-long sessions that are focused on using sports training as a vehicle to improve self-esteem, physical well-being, teamwork, Christian values, and cross-cultural learning. The attendees are economically disadvantaged youth from Kingston, Jamaica, and the 2014 camp brought 146 campers together with the Fisher volunteers. JASY was formed in October 2006 as a charitable Mission Outreach and Youth Ministry program by the First Presbyterian Church in Pittsford and St. Patrick's Foundation in Kingston. Camp is hosted at the University of Technology, and campers are chosen based on their grades by their teachers. According to Sally Vaughan, Director of Community Service at Fisher, the students are from some of the poorest neighborhoods in Kingston.
While there, the Fisher team of 34 lived in a convent. They would start out early each morning, boarding the bus that transported them to the camp location where they would get right to work setting up and waiting for the campers to arrive. Once campers did arrive, they took swimming lessons, participated in a variety of soccer drills and scrimmages, and played Caribbean indoor games including kickball and relay races. There is no fee to the children who attend, and lunch is provided daily. Once the day was done, the Fisher team would have a team dinner and a reflection meeting on what took place that day.
Through fundraising events on campus, the Fisher team raised $24,000 to help cover the operating costs of the camp, which total $38,000. In addition, volunteers had to raise $1,200 to cover their travel expenses. Vaughan said they received additional support from the Student Government Association, Student Activities Board, Resident Student Association, Pharmacy Student Government Association, Lackmann Culinary Services, Campus Ministry and Community Service Offices, various clubs, and the Paul M. Wamp Community Service Travel Fund.
"During each trip, the teammates amaze me with their compassion, patience, teamwork, and outward giving for others. They truly care about making a difference in the campers' lives yet they equally believe the camp and campers has made a difference in their lives," said Vaughan.
Brendan Hughes, who will enter his senior year this fall, is very involved on campus when it comes to service projects and fundraisers, but this was his first service trip. As a member of the College’s men’s soccer team, he said that the combination of using sports to help build confidence and teach teamwork skills is what attracted him to participate.
And while he tried to prepare for the worst when thinking about what type of unlivable conditions he would be seeing, the reality was worse than what he pictured. When walking through Riverton, one of the neighborhoods where the children lived, Hughes said he was stunned at what he saw. But what he did find was a pleasant and “incredibly respectful” group of children who were willing to learn.
He also didn’t expect the camaraderie he and the Fisher team built while in Jamaica.
“I think I was unprepared for the fact that our team of Fisher students, alumni, and staff would become so close through the trip. I could not have asked for a better group to share this experience with and I established close friendships with people I otherwise may not have ever even met,” said Hughes.
This was the first service trip and first trip out of the country for Karlee Platts, a 2014 graduate who will return to Fisher this fall as a graduate student in the Wegmans School of Pharmacy. She said she has had her “eye on this service mission trip” since she was a freshman. She, too, spent the better part of her undergraduate career at Fisher participating in service projects locally, and as a member of the service team that traveled to Harlan, Kentucky in 2011 to the Appalachian Mountain region.
She recalled one specific morning at camp when she greeted the children off of the bus and asked them if they got a good night’s rest. Two of the girls surprised her with their answer.
“They told me they weren’t able to sleep because they hadn’t eaten dinner the night before and were too hungry to sleep. Those are words you never want or expect to hear from a 10-year-old, it broke my heart,” she said.
Danielle Rawleigh, who will be entering her senior year, credits those whom she met with “forever changing” her life.
“I learned from the people of Jamaica that there is always something to be happy about; whether that means jumping into a pool, eating chicken and rice every day, or something as simple as having water to drink, something we take for granted in America,” she said. “The children we worked with were so appreciative and all they wanted was our love and attention. They don’t have a lot but they never complained or looked for something more than they were given.”
Rawleigh was also impacted by what she saw in Riverton. She said the homes were made out of scrap metal that was pounded out to put up as walls, and there were goats, pigs, cows, and dogs covering the streets. In addition, garbage covered almost the whole surface of the ground.
“I couldn’t believe that people could actually live like that. As we walked around the area, I realized that the people who live in Riverton were happy that it was their home. They didn’t know anything different and they were proud to call this place their home,” she said.
All three said they would recommend this trip to other students, and plan to become advocates of the program, staying involved as much as they can.
“Our team was able to travel to a location far from home to positively impact children who face unimaginable situations every day by providing them with a week of happiness and hope that they might be able to make the most of their life. And the campers also provided us with a newfound appreciation for all that we have and an understanding of the importance to make the most of any situation,” said Hughes.