GoAbroad Interview

Nicole Mehegan - Program Administrator

Nicole Mehegan - Program Administrator

Although Nicole is a new Program Administrator and Coordinator for Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions, she is seasoned in the world of social services and philanthropic work. In fact, she is a seasoned volunteer and has participated in Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions multiple times. Nicole recently joined the team full time and is proud to be living her dream.

How did you originally get connected to Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions?

I became connected with Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions because I was once a participant on a volunteer trip myself. I eventually discovered it to be my passion, and that is what propelled me to shift into the role full time.

Describe a typical day of work for you.

What I love about my job is that everyday is something new. In other words, no day is exactly the same. Most days involve lots of correspondence with program partners, schools, and essentially liaising as coordinator. Additionally, my day involves research into the volunteer market, social media marketing, and campaign and content design. When groups are on the island, the days are packed with things to do, everything from adventure and culture tours to the volunteer project to learning how to Jerk Jamaican chicken; and that's just skimming the surface!

Nicole, Program Coordinator for Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions, orienting volunteers

What professional or personal experiences have prepared you for your current role?

My professional experience as a social worker has most definitely prepared me for this role. It has given me the lens to see the world from a different view. I have learned in being on the social work path that there is a difference between charity and social justice. That is, charity is giving of time or materials to the needy, yet social justice is taking the steps necessary to tackle the root of the systemic problem and make action steps to make a difference through them. 

Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions staff during Catholic Service Week
Nicole during a recent trip to the States to meet up with a Catholic School network during Catholic Service Week.

No matter what project or location they choose, what type of support do volunteers receive upon arrival?

Volunteers often need support in understanding or processing cultural variations or experiences. That is why pre-departure support is necessary for participants beforehand. They are guided through the itinerary and given context about the community and the various areas of need. Support is also available by way of reflection, should the group deem this appropriate and express this is something they are hoping to get from the program experience.

How do you ensure volunteers immerse in the local culture throughout their stay?

The home base model is a great way to weave in local culture. Additionally, the project sites and cultural tours allow the volunteers to get a multifaceted cultural experience. Cultural immersion is a key theme of our programs. 

What does a typical day of volunteering look like in Jamaica?

BUSY! Please don’t get confused, it’s definitely not a vacation. Although, there is lots of time for fun, tasks and goals for the service projects are plentiful and take up most of the itinerary.

Volunteer with teen in Jamaica
Before this picture was taken, the boy in the picture revealed that I was his mentor. That’s mostly why I am smiling such a big smile.

If you could choose one project or placement to volunteer on yourself, which one would you choose? Why?

I would have to say the teaching assistance program because that is where my heart lies. Working in schools and assisting in classrooms is something I have always been drawn too. I can even remember playing school every night with my grandfather and creating fake tests.

It amazes me to see with all the barriers that are unfortunately part of the education system here in Jamaica and there are many students still striving and seeking to learn. This should be commended and we should continue to develop programs and initiatives to mitigate these problems.

What makes volunteering with Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions’ an extraordinary experience?

The experience is so extraordinary because it is so well rounded, and there are so many opportunities to become immersed in the Jamaican culture. The home base accommodation provides a perfect backdrop, and having community members surrounding the volunteers touches on the essence of community based tourism.

No matter what your expectation before you embark on your trip, there will be moments you couldn’t even imagine. That’s what makes Jamaican Volunteer Expeditions stand out at as a trusted and truly special volunteer venture.

What is the most rewarding part about working for Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions?

I get to be doing something better than I could have ever dreamed. I get to help bring volunteers to do service and promote something I strongly believe in; this is enriching and I feel I am right where I belong. In advocating and also liaising in the project, I am able to meet amazing people. I am blessed that I can cross paths with them and learn so many valuable skills and lessons along the way.