Cecilia De Santis - 2014 Program Participant

Sunset on Oracabessa Beach in Jamaica

Walking on Oracabessa Beach enjoying the sunset

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

I applied for an international program because I wanted to put into practice the knowledge I gained throughout my academic path and, having studied anthropology of development, I wanted to experience the development work in the field and try to "do development" through an anthropological approach. 

Furthermore, I have always been in love with Jamaica, but i didn't want to visit it as a tourist, so I decided to volunteer for a local organization.

Why did you choose V2? 

I considered V2 to be a great organization that allowed you to live in the real Jamaica and contribute to the improvement of local people's lives. For this reason, I chose V2.

You are originally from Italy and have spent a number of years living in London. What was your favorite part about Jamaica? 

My favorite part about the location has been the nature, the local culture, and the music.

What made your volunteer experience in Jamaica unique? 

The unique side of the program has been the fact that I had the possibility to experience the real Jamaica and Jamaicans. My internship at the Social Development Commission, that I did in collaboration with V2, has been the best way to connect to people, by collaborating in their community projects and experiencing the local lifestyle and traditions.

How supportive were the local staff throughout your program? 

The local people have always been friendly and willing to guide me in the understanding of the local culture. I have never felt alone or uncomfortable, since local people made me always feel "at home". I have been supported by the professional local staff in my work throughout the whole experience.

Volunteers by a local store in Jamaica

Learning about Roots Healing while walking in the Community with Mr Graham (Head of the Social Development Commission)

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently? 

The only thing I wish I would have done differently is living in a house closer to the main road and public transportation.

Describe a typical day in your life in Jamaica. 

In an ordinary day in Jamaica I wake up around 7:30 a.m., have a healthy breakfast, and walk down the hill to get the first bus towards the office. With the first bus or taxi I stop in Port Maria, the Parish's capital, where I wait for the second bus to Highgate, a lovely place in the middle of the hills. Then I take the last car to the office, which is an amazing building set in nature.

Milton, the driver of the society is waiting for us to go "on the road", meaning going to one of the communities of St. Mary to work on community projects (community mapping, organization of meetings and social fairs, etc).

After having spent an amazing day with local people, children, eating local food, and enjoying rivers and tropical hills I go home and get ready for some proper Jamaican music.

What did you enjoy doing on your free time? 

I loved going to a little bar by the sea, to watch the landscape while drinking a delicious Jamaican soup and listening to some reggae.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it? 

I used to live in a beautiful house on a hill with an American/Jamaican family. I loved living with many people, some of which were happy to take us around and show us natural attractions and a nice place to relax after work.

How has your volunteer program impacted your life? 

My program abroad impacted my life to the extent that I want to go back to Jamaica as soon as I can. Participating in a program abroad teaches you to understand how people belonging to a different culture work and live.