Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011 - A New Year and a friendly welcome home

2010 proved to be a year full of surprises and changes and a year spent in a remarkable place getting to know remarkable people. At the beginning of the year, having settled into my year of volunteering, I had anticipated nine months of continued work with the youth progamme at DRF and my return to Kinark to rejoin the Clinical Transformation process. However the beginning of 2011 sees me in Jamaica working not only with the youth programme but more extensively with DRF; as well with a group of people highly committed to stopping the violence and establishing peace in Jamaica through the Violence Prevention Alliance; and making linkages with those working to establish Parent Places, resource centres that will increase support and access to parent education throughout Jamaica. This is a truly gratifying, challenging and engaging combination of activities.

The last week of 2010 was spent in Barbados enjoying a wonderful time with family. The differences I noted between the two islands raised a little anxiety in me about my return to Jamaica. The peace and reserve of Barbados was a pleasant respite from extrovert and chaotic Kingston. But arriving back felt like getting home! The immigration lines were long and there was much tutting and teeth kissing as people waited but despite this the Immigration Officer greeted me warmly and politely and told me that I could go through the "Jamaican and Caricom" line next time as I am an established resident of Jamaica. As she stamped my passport I heard a voice wishing me Happy New Year, a colleague and Board member of DRF who works at the Immigration Department was walking through the hall and we exchanged greetings and chatted about the holidays. The taxi driver who typically provides me with a drive when I am going somewhere impractical to walk to, didn't answer his phone when I tried to call him but immediately called me back when he saw my number as a missed call and was at the airport within 15 minutes to pick me up. Some Jamaicans home "from foreign" to visit family over the holidays at Mountainview could not find a taxi so we offered them a ride. Mountainview is a community of which I am quite familiar as it is the home of the Youth Peace Facilitators and a community in which we have a Peace Centre. All of these served to remind me quickly of the positive aspect of extrovert Kingston. People always watch out for others, a courteous greeting is always exchanged in passing and one is always acknowledged and assistance offered unconditionally.
Jamaica is adept at making welcome those that come to contribute to this country, and although, regardless of how long I am here I would remain a foreigner, there is a warmth and appreciation in the welcome that is truly humbling.
New Year's Eve celebrations could be heard and seen across the city on Friday night. As dusk fell the firecrackers started, and how nice it was to know the cracks and flashes were celebratory and harmless instead of the not unusual gunshot that would more typically be the reason for cracks and flashes. The view from my balcony at midnight offered myriad firework displays from the magnificence of the formal display at the waterfront that could be seen in the far distance, to the displays in parks and gardens throughout the city. Up into the hills and across the plain fireworks could be seen for half an hour into the New Year and the "night noise" that is usually somewhat irritating was joyful and full of hope and optimism.

Without the security and predicatablility of returning to Kinark I have also been provided with the opportunity to explore what paths I might like to forge for the next phase of my professional life and the combination I have discovered here is very appealing. Some work directly with people in communities, some development and implementation work at the system and community level, some design and innovation work that bring me into spheres of dedicated, intelligent and creative people. I think the only piece I would like to augment it with is the opportunity to do some teaching or academic work, perhaps that too will present itself! As the new year begins and the end of my commitment in Jamaica starts to loom, my energies will be devoted to effectively concluding my work here, establishing what my continuing relationship will be to Jamaica as I cannot imgagine it will disappear from my palette of activities, and establishing what I will be doing for the forseeable future. I look forward to exploring new horizons and learning from those I meet along the way.
Very Best Wishes for 2011, may it bring you joy and fulfillment!

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