So, today’s focus has mainly been about problem-solving. If you have been following my blog thus far – firstly, thank you! Thank you for continuing to read my blog posts and supporting me as I make my way through this adventurous journey that has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride of emotions, excitement, and ecstasy!
As the title of this post suggests, I’m here to give all volunteers – past, present, and future – a heads up on how to deal with some situations when things don’t seem to be working out during your volunteering career – be it with Projects Abroad or another organization.
OK so here’s the deal – I have had to deal with a lot of bullsh*t in the past week.
ISSUE #1: Changing host families
So, in Jamaica, it is a common act of discipline to smack the child when they are not behaving or not obeying their parents. A pretty primitive form, but it’s part of the tradition. And when you’re living in another country or even just visiting another country, you normally respect the tradition and beliefs, even if you don’t necessarily agree with it.
However, the family I was living with – they were nice, don’t get me wrong. They fed me well, they were very welcoming, they were a big family of about 10 – 6 kids + 4 adults, and they made sure I was comfortable in their home. But, they were very strict disciplinarians. Like, REALLY STRICT.
We were told on our first day of induction that this is not a sign of abuse when you see a parent smacking their child. But what I heard and witnessed from my room made me question that statement.
When you come home after a long day of working / volunteering with 40 screaming kids at school, you expect a sense of peace, calm, and relaxation at your home. But, on the rare occasion that I was home after work (and not hanging out with the volunteers bc we were all so #dead from our epic outing at YS falls the other day), I was treated to 45 minutes of non-stop smacking from the parents and non-stop crying from the kids. I’m sorry, Jamaica and Jamaicans, but that to me is abuse. It is not a nice feeling to hear 3-4 kids constantly being hit “as an act of discipline” and them constantly bawling their eyes out. Sorry, I am all for respecting cultures and traditions, but there’s a line. And that line was crossed.
SO WHAT NEXT?
Well, I contacted my placement advisor and mentioned how this situation was unnerving, uncomfortable and emotionally taxing to the point where I couldn’t see myself living in this household for too long without standing up for the kids. So, after a bit of back and forth text messages on Whatsapp, I was advised that it would be best to be moved to a new host family where no kids were around.
Obviously, the host family was informed of this situation, to which they did not respond very well. After agreeing to be moved to a new host family within 2 days, I returned home to pack up my stuff and was “welcomed” with a very cold and rude mom and grand mom. By that stage, however, I didn’t care. I have principles and so do you, host mom and grand mom. Unfortunately, we’re not on the same page, so it’s the best possible solution in this very awkward situation.
I have a new host family – the dad and mum are down-to-earth, simply gorgeous people who are retired and live in a mansion-style home. They have 2 dogs (WIN!), 1 cat (who has taken to like me YAY), some goats, chickens, PUPPERS SOMEWHERE ON THEIR MASSIVE LAND (WIN WIN WIN), and house me in a room with a double bed (praise be!), another room where I can store some of my stuff and charge up all the techno bits, and generally provide me with a much better living experience for the remainder of my time here in Jamaica (which isn’t very long now)! And my host mum is such a darling – I have been cooking us both brekkie, which she seems to love (yay), and the dad is so friendly and always there to make sure I’m comfortable in their home (bless)! All in all, a great switch from what I was living in prior.
ISSUE #2: DEALING WITH THE WORST CAB DRIVER EVER (SO FAR)
So, PA is responsible for paying for the transport between placement and home. I am still learning how this system works because it’s a bit different here in Jamaica, compared to Morocco, where trips to and from the PA office were also covered. Anyway, in the 3 weeks that I’ve been here, I have never had an issue with getting cabs to take me where I need to go. You pay a flat rate of $150 from your home to the Mandeville town centre and it’s a route-based system where, if you want someone to get you from yours, you walk to the main street and hail a cab, from where you’re practically stuck in a cab that should ideally hold 4 people but instead holds anywhere between 6 – 13 (YES, 13) people!
ANYWHO, today was my first
bad HORRIFIC experience of being in a cab on the way to my new host family from the PA office. For the past couple of days, I’ve always been dropped off by our trusted tour guide and chartered taxi driver (and care bear) Kemmar, so I haven’t had to worry about getting home safe…till today. I asked PA to get me a cab from the office so that I could go with someone trustworthy HAF*KINGHA back home. I was told I’d be charged $200 instead of $150 – fair enough. Whatever, as long as I can get home safe.
So, I got into the cab and confirmed the rate of $200 with the driver, who showed up in an empty cab (not that I had asked for an empty cab but whatever).
Except, not whatever. He started to give me the excuse of turning up with a car especially for me and charging me $400. Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat shit. So, I said that I wouldn’t pay that amount as I was told it would only be $200. I asked him to stop unless he was willing to take $200, to which his response was – of course – NO. I asked him to stop his cab so that I could find another way to get home. BUT HE DIDN’T. Dat shi’ ain’t on, brah! I was terrified for my life. This guy was seemingly taking me home but wouldn’t stop when I asked him to. I broke down and demanded to be let out, to which he didn’t seem to care. I told him to stop repeatedly, till we got to my street. He finally stopped, called me names for accusing him to rip me off (which HI, you were trying to do, C!) and then told me to keep my monies (which BTW, thanks! I did)!
I contacted PA, thoroughly upset, and they have assured me that they will deal with it and call the driver and find out what the heck went down there. I have also asked to be escorted to school tomorrow from my home so that I can be assured a safer way to get to places. I will also be asking for them to give me a RELIABLE and DECENT cab driver’s number. SO yeah, that happened.
So, what I’m hoping to say through this blog post is that don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. If something’s not going right, mention it in great detail during your weekly feedback sessions. Otherwise, PA staff won’t be able to help you out because they’re not aware of the predicament you may be facing. Where possible, they will help out. It may take a while to get them to do so, but they WILL do it – so to all present and future volunteers, PLEASE ASK FOR HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT.
And if you’re really curious on how to deal with matters related to your time of volunteering with PA or any other organization, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line!