As part of our holiday to Beaches Negril in Jamaica, we were presented with an incredible opportunity – to take part in the Sandals Foundation’s annual holiday toy drive! Our destination was the Mount Airy School in Clarendon Parish, a school that was unbelievably different to mine back at home…
For the “Share The Luck” toy drive, the Sandals Foundation joins up with Hasbro the toy maker, which donates up to 8000 toys and games each year. As well as this, the Foundation matches every donation, and this means there are masses of wonderful presents to give out. Not wanting to be left out, we also brought some of our own from London.
The day started with a short, 20 minute drive to Mount Airy School, which was, quite literally, on top of a mountain! The views were beautiful, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off them as we slipped out of the air-conditioned van and into the blisteringly-hot Jamaican heat. The mountain was thick with dust and covered with bugs, but I could only think about what a brilliant experience it was, and how I couldn’t wait to get started.
The celebration began with loads of dancing and drum playing by the children, and I was astounded by how good they were! To stand up and dance for fun is one thing, but a choreographed routine consisting of only three people is definitely something else. The children were so enthusiastic – I think if it was at my school, we would have been more self-conscious.
|One of the brilliant dancers, with the drummers in the background|
Amidst all the noise, mum and I volunteered to cut the cake, not realising that it had to serve FIVE HUNDRED PEOPLE! This took forever, but it was great fun to dash back and forth, trying to pick up napkins in our frosting-covered hands. It seems kind of crazy when I think about it, that one of my greatest achievements is cutting a cake…
|Mum just after we’d finished cutting the cake|
Next it was time for Santa and the Sesame Street characters to appear. Every time a new person came out, they were greeted with cheers. Santa handed out presents class by class and these were fantastic, ranging from board games such as Guess Who? to brilliant Nerf Guns, FurReal Friends to Cluedo. Something that particularly caught my eye was a girl looking about my age, holding a 300 piece jigsaw puzzle. I promptly walked up to her and we started talking about school, friends and weather. So far I had only seen differences, but I was amazed to find out how much I had in common with a 12 year old girl, thousands of miles away.
|The kids and Elmo|
While everyone else lined up for ice-cream, mum and I took the time to explore the school. It was small, and consisted of a ring of classrooms around a patch of wildlife and plants. There was a mural on the front, and everything seemed to be reddish-brown, from the bricks to the individual desks, the walls to the ceilings.
The classrooms were dark, relying only on natural light coming in through the top of the building. The walls were wooden and covered with posters, and there was a blackboard right at the front of every classroom. They didn’t seem to have the same kinds of resources we have at home (I didn’t see any of the electronic equipment we use to learn) and the desks were individual, whereas ours are in tables, and there was a sheet marked “Top Achievers” that showed who was doing best in every subject. That would never happen at home!
Although there weren’t the facilities that our school has, the topics seemed to be almost exactly the same. While walking around, I recognised subjects that I had previously covered in school. This was unbelievably cool. To think that people so far away from me were learning exactly what I had, was a pretty big thought, and one that I had never considered before.
However, there was no more time for revelations. Too soon we had to leave, and return to our resort. Of course it was wonderful to enjoy all that luxury again, but I knew I wouldn’t forget the day which took me into a completely different world.
Guests staying at the resort can take part in delivering the gifts at the toy drive like we did, but have to book in advance through the PR department as it isn’t a scheduled trip.
You can find out more about Beaches via their website as well as the Sandals Foundation site. It is the philanthropic arm of the Sandals Resorts and invests money in the Jamaican community, and in particular education and the environment.
Disclosure note: this post was brought to you with assistance from Beaches, who offered us the holiday to Jamaica as part of a bloggers’ trip. The opinions, photos, videos and everything else are all ours!