Jamaica is a land of waterfalls, rainforests, white sand beaches, spectacular mountains, rolling hills, and the rhythm of reggae music. Christopher Columbus was overwhelmed by Jamaica’s beauty as he told Queen Isabella of Spain, “It is the most beautiful isle that eyes have ever seen.” Over 500 years later, not much has changed in terms of its splendor, but in the midst of this seeming tranquility, there are many challenges. Unemployment is high in Jamaica, even among the well-educated, making it even more difficult for those without education to find work. Making matters worse, the healthcare system is overcrowded, leaving the underprivileged with no access to proper care. In these places, ISL participates in volunteer work led by our Jamaican staff, bringing much needed support to the healthcare system of Jamaica so that those who have the most need won’t be turned away.
Where We Serve in Jamaica
ISL Jamaica serves as many marginalized communities as possible with the resources on-hand and expects to expand its outreach in the near future. Here is a current list of the communities that ISL Jamaica serves.
Canaan Heights in Clarendon
Coffee Grove in Manchester
Clifton in St. Catherine
Penwood in western St. Andrew
The Need in Jamaica
There is unemployment even among the well-educated and professionals, but it is especially high among the undereducated. Healthcare for the underprivileged is inadequate, so the interventions done by ISL are particularly needed and appreciated by the communities we serve.
As with any great work, it takes great relationships to get the job done. That’s why ISL Jamaica has partnered with the following groups, institutions, and businesses to better serve the underprivileged of Jamaica.
ADRA Jamaica, an NGO affiliate of the Adventist Church.
What to Expect as a Volunteer
You will arrive in Kingston at the Norman Manley International Airport (KIN), located about 12 kilometers east of downtown Kingston. After clearing Immigration and Customs, you’ll be met outside by the friendly ISL Country Coordinator holding a sign with the ISL logo. Depending on the size of your group, you’ll be transported by car or by chartered bus to your lodging site. This will either be a hotel or a private home 40 minutes to an hour-and-a-half away from Kingston.
With ISL Jamaica, you’ll get to experience the culture of those you serve. Here are some of the many possibilities:
Return home knowing how to cook your favorite Jamaican dishes such as ackee and saltfish, rice and peas, jerk chicken, or curry goat. Even learn how to brew ginger ‘beer’. And if you are around at Christmas time, learn to make Christmas cake and sorrel.
Visit the cities of Kingston and Spanish town for authentic Jamaican experiences. If you’re on a budget, there are always free things to do – like looking at Kingston from the hills of St. Andrew. It’s a view you don’t want to miss.
Plant Life Exploration and Botanical Remedies
Jamaica boasts a variety of wild plant life which have become very popular all over the world in recent years for their medicinal value. Learn about Noni, Moringa, Guinea Hen Weed, Dandelion, Neem, Aloe Vera, and a host of others.
Dance and Play!
The youngsters in any community you visit will be all too happy to show you how to do reggae moves or how to play cricket or football.
Bobsledding Down Mystic Mountain
Rated as one of the top attractions in Jamaica, an exhilarating bobsled ride down the famed Mystic Mountain! This is one of the most famous Jamaica tourist destinations (near the Dunn’s River Falls) in one of the coolest destinations in the Caribbean. For more information, visit Rainforest Adventures which also has a host of other adrenaline-filled activities. $69
World famous Dunn’s River Falls
Ocho Rios is known for its beautiful tropical foliage, shopping, dining, beaches, and an array of activities, but the best known and most popular tourist attraction in Ocho Rios and all of Jamaica is the amazing Dunn’s River Falls. Visitors can make the 600-foot climb from the base of the falls, hand-in-hand like a human daisy chain, guided by competent staff. The not-so-daring can walk alongside and observe the falls and climbers from many entry points. For those sun lovers, there is a beach located at the base of Dunn’s River Falls where the river meets the ocean. At the top of Dunn’s River, you can expect to find souvenirs and crafts, shoe rentals, changing facilities, and lockers. Dunn’s River Falls is a “must-do” activity when visiting Jamaica! Tip: When visiting Dunn’s River Falls, wear swimwear, water shoes, or an old pair of sneakers that you don’t mind getting wet to protect your feet when climbing the falls.
Park Fees Apply, visit Rainforest Adventures for complete details.
Apple Valley Park
A rustic park that offers the best of rural Jamaica, Apple Valley Park has fishing ponds, paddle boats, kayaks and plenty of trails for hiking. When you’re finished exploring, you can cool down in one of the park’s refreshing waterfalls and maybe enjoy a concert by a local musician on the park’s outdoor stage. $5, prices may vary but are affordable.
Chukka Jamaica Montego Bay
Fly through the rainforest hundreds of feet in the air, swim on horseback, explore the countryside on an ATV, or take a relaxing float down a river. Chukka is an adventure company that offers a full range of tours for families, couples, and friends. Prices vary depending on your chosen activity. For more information, visit Chukka.com
Milk River Bath
The mineral waters of the Milk River Bath and Spa are some of the most remarkable in the world and possess an international reputation for its therapeutic value. It has 6 public baths and a small, 20-room hotel.
Prices vary but are generally affordable.
Bob Marley Museum
If you’re a fan of reggae music or someone who loves history, then you’ll want to visit the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston. This tour gives you a chance to take an up-close and personal look at this iconic songwriter’s life right where it began. Prices vary, for complete details visit bobmarleymuseum.com
Green Grotto Caves
The Green Grotto Caves are one of the most prominent attractions on the north coast of Jamaica. Named for the green algae that cover its walls, the structure of the cave is strikingly different from inland-cave systems. Two well-defined levels, each developing from different geological events, make these caves a must-see for those interested in exploring new places. $20
Fern Gully is a winding scenic stretch of road which starts in Ocho Rios and runs for three miles, ending in the community of Colgate. The area gets its name from the wide variety of ferns which grow in the area, towering high above the road forming a shady tunnel of lush greenery. The varieties of plant life may be lost on many visitors but keen botanists will enjoy seeing approximately 300 varieties of fern in addition to other species such as blue mahoe and banana trees. The roadway through Fern Gully was established in 1907 when an earthquake destroyed one of the eight rivers in the Ocho Rios area. The river bed was subsequently paved and the roadway was established. Free.
Swim with the dolphins and stingrays at this award winning adventure destination. You can even paddle a glass-bottom kayak over the clear Caribbean waters, seeing all of the marine life underneath. This is a great place to experience Jamaican wildlife without being too wild. Prices vary by activity. For more information visit the Dolphin Cove website.
Whether a hacienda on the beach of the Sea of Cortez in Puerto Penasco, Mexico, a walled convent in the heart of Alajuela, Costa Rica, or an apartment situated above the bustling metropolis of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, ISL’s volunteer lodgings are unique and carefully chosen based on very important criteria. Accommodations are safe, clean, and within a reasonable driving distance to service sites and recreation opportunities. Volunteers are provided their own bed, easy access to restrooms and showers as well as meeting spaces for team training and fellowship. Many ISL accommodations are unique and may include retreat houses, guest houses or home stays, all of which provide a distinctive cultural experience. ISL country coordinators will provide a description of your team’s lodging in every Welcome Letter that goes out prior to your departure.
We love our staff and we are positive that you will too! Each staff member is professional, courteous, and has the same passion as you do: to serve others.