By Antonette Dennis
“Let us sacrifice our today so that our children can have a better tomorrow.” -A.P.J Abdul Kalam
It is upon this premise that I made the journey from Port Antonio to Kingston in an effort to volunteer at the Olga Mendez Basic School treat. When I left home, I was excited, but somewhat nervous for two main reasons: first, I was going to be around a number of children and second, it was my very first activity as a volunteer of Shashamane Sunrise.
The bus ride to Kingston took approximately two hours and 30 minutes. I then proceeded to take another bus to Winward Road. When the bus pulled into the stop, another young adult got off. After walking in the same direction for a few minutes, we finally exchanged words, and I discovered he was also one of the volunteers for the day. The school was difficult to locate, even after following the instructions that were provided to us, but with the help of some business owners in the vicinity, we were able to arrive at our destination.
The children were energetic and eager to learn new things. Some even showed interest in the profiles of the volunteers that they interacted with. I was fascinated by one particular little boy, Nathan. He was ill, but he still insisted on participating in all the activities. We engaged in ring games, read a number of books, and also sang and danced.
The volunteers distributed refreshments and at the end of the day, as we watched each child showcase their and receive tokens as a reward. Seeing the smiles on their faces warmed my heart. I was especially pleased with the interest that parents showed in their children. One mother thanked us for taking the time to give back to the school and, by extension, the community. What I found even more astounding was the emotional and gracious thanks that the school principal delivered.
At about two o’clock, we began to say our goodbyes Shash style, which meant taking a lot of photos (especially selfies) and videos and giving a word of prayer. My heart was filled with joy and compassion when we left. It was truly a day well spent, and I got to experience the true meaning of the Shashamanee hashtag #volunteeringisfun while having a positive impact on the lives of the future leaders of Jamaica.
Antonette is President-elect of National Secondary Students Council and Shash Youth Ambassador.