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Jamaica Gap Year

Community, environment and adventure

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Jamaica Travel and Contribution

Community, Culture and Environment

Spend your gap year in Jamaica - on a perfectly formed Caribbean Island, in the West Indies – home to the famous Blue Mountains, rolling plantations of bananas and coffee, glorious beaches, waterfalls, coral reefs, the blue lagoon, creole food and of course reggae music – the heartbeat of the people. The capital Kingston has a lively night life with bars, clubs, and restaurants, and has been declared a "Creative City of Music" by UNESCO.

This 4-week gap year program in Jamaica aims for you to explore the contrasting elements of the island, deep dive into their fascinating history, and embrace Jamaican life whilst contributing to community and environment.

Welcome to Jamaica, this is what we have in store for you ....


This 4-week gap year program in Jamaica explores the contrasting elements of the island, deep dives into their fascinating history, and embraces Jamaican life whilst contributing to community and environment.

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Jamaica's Program Itinerary

You will all be picked up from Kingston airport and taken to ‘Smokey Manor’ - your home from home for the next 4 weeks.

Smokey Manor is an old colonial house nestled on top of the picturesque hill of Smokey Vale, in the district of St. Andrew. Prepare yourself for breath taking views of the Blue Mountains to the East and Kingston to the South. You will love it here – green, lush with ferns, towering fruit trees, a cool breeze, and panoramic mountains. Heaven.

Your 4 week itinerary will include the following elements all interwoven together to create a fascinating and diverse mix of activities.

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Community Development Renovation

Jamaica has become synonymous with crystal clear waters and stunning beaches. However, there is so much more to it than that and like all shiny things there is always another side, and we want to show you just that.

Inland especially you will find lots of off-grid communities who struggle with daily practicalities, and this is where we want you to focus your attention.

The plan here is for you to contribute to a local community centre and give it a full make over – typical jobs: painting, cleaning, and tidying. Gestures like this have a profound effect on community life as they feel your energy and respect to them – instilling pride back into their community. While you will be doing this you will meet lots of incredible characters of all ages and clearly be working to the backdrop of Bob Marley.

You will also help with the weekly local soup kitchen.

Accommodation

Smokey Manor,dorm style accommodation.

Food

2 meals a day provided.
Packed lunches can be made on site or a snack bought when out and about.

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Environment and Conservation Reforestation and Plastic Pollution

Here you will focus on reforestation projects managed by the National Zoo, getting involved with replanting and caring for their nurseries. Plus beach clean ups with the local kids, teaching them the importance of recycling especially when it comes to plastic.

Accommodation

Smokey Manor, dorm style accommodation.

Food

2 meals a day provided.
Packed lunches can be made on site or a snack bought when out and about.

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Cultural Immersion Cooking and Culture

Interwoven into your itinerary you will have the chance to experience:

Jamaican Cooking Class
Join a Jamaican chef prepare some mouth-watering dishes - uncover local cooking secrets and learn the secret spices used by their ancestors.

Jamaican Dance Class
Ok, everyone must join in to learn the local moves, like "Lebih Lebih", "Genna Bounce", "Lowi mi nuh" and "Good things Dem".

Sundays: Church Service Tour
Must be experienced as the Jamaicans know how to sing and worship with a vibrancy that is hard to find anywhere else in the world. Their church services are alive with music and dancing. Utter joy.

Accommodation

Smokey Manor, dorm style accommodation.

Food

2 meals a day provided.
Packed lunches can be made on site or a snack bought when out and about.

Options and costs

Things are open in Jamaica and we are running our first program in March.

Please note:
Max team size of 12 per departure.

Whats included?

Aventure

From hiking Dunn's River Falls to swimming in the crystal clear waters of Clarence Beach there is so much to do

Culture

From learning the local dance moves to cooking like a Jamaican pro, to meeting the locals this is real cultural immersion

Beach Life

Enjoy the tropical beaches for some down time

Social Life

The program can accommodate up to 12 volunteers, who come from all over the world, so it's busy and fun.

Monday to Friday

This is a whirl wind tour where you are going to be busy everyday but we promise you some down time to experience some backpacker favourites, such as:

Clarence Beach Tour

Dunn's River Falls Tour

Portland Highlights Tour

It's time to reveal Jamaica's hidden gems

Jamaica is open and ready for you. Enjoy our 4 week program to get you seeing the highlights of Jamaica and volunteering to make a real difference.

Each day the itinerary will be different but expect to carry out projects 5 days per week.

Project hours: 8-12am and 2-5pm, but this may vary from time to time depending on the activity.

Weekends are free to explore and make the most of Jamaica's highlights which your host Maureen will help arrange for you.

There is so much to see and do… hurry-on-over.

Leaper's Highlights

As this is a new program for 2022 we don't have any diaries just yet BUT have a read of these from Costa Rica to get a feeling of Leap team life.

Painting signs, recycling and turtles Lucy Dickens

So the first week of our stay in Costa Rica at Jakera is done. In my opinion I feel it has gone slowly but for others it’s gone quite fast. Our first day was just travelling from the airport to Jakera. It was a LONG journey, mini bus then a ferry and then a mini bus again. But the next day was great it was a free day but most of us all went out to watch the sunset and for dinner. The sunset here is so beautiful!

A lot of us have tried various restaurants and some have been amazing and some not so much. But while we’re here why not try something new and not order a burger?

Spanish lessons. I’ve started to really enjoy our Spanish it’s so nice to be able learn the language whilst we are here. We have different groups based on your level of understanding but we all have them in the morning.

One of the projects we have been doing is creating signs for the beach on littering, recycling, no vehicles on the beach and rocky areas. To finish them it took us maybe 3 days as we had to let the paint dry so we could go over to outline it.

Our turtle watches. I’m afraid to say we have not seen any baby turtles yet as they haven’t hatched. We hope they will in the next day or two. We all take 3 hour shifts everyday from 6am till 12pm. The shifts were uneventful and slightly painful sitting for 3 hours with no turtles. But hey they will come some day!

We also have had a trip to another beach to teach some kids how to surf. When I say the word teach I use it loosely, we took them out spun them around and then pushed them when a wave came. It was a lot of fun being able to help them out and play with them though.

Hopefully we will see turtles next at Montezuma. Until then it was lovely chatting with you!

Turtle hatcheries, surfing, yoga and more Emily Dinovo

We began building our own turtle hatchery at Banana Beach in Santa Teresa on Monday. Jakera decided they would like to take on the mission of helping out the turtles themselves. With our shovels and rakes we cleared out an area and began digging as well as made signs for the new hatchery. We spent a couple of our mornings this week surfing. With the help of Chris, we rented a couple of surf boards, got up early in the morning and headed down to the beach. Since Henry surfs almost daily back home in California, he acted as our surf instructor and helped us attempt to catch a couple of waves. Also, this week Kat and I attended another yoga class. This one was also at sunset. The yoga classes always make us feel very relaxed and, while some of the stretches may be strange or difficult, it’s very enjoyable.

On Friday, as a group, we decided to take a short weekend trip to a town called Tamarindo. I was impressed to see paved roads and sidewalks. The first day we arrived, we didn’t waste any time finding a place to eat lunch. As we explored the new town and the new night life, we started the night off with a toast to our friends that couldn’t be there with us and to the ones that have already made their way back home. Saturday was spent relaxing at the beach and visiting the shops in town.

Sunday, we booked a boat tour on the river. Tamarindo is known for its crocodiles and we saw a few, we also were able to see monkeys, different types of birds and iguanas. To see the monkeys our guide had us get off the boat and walk through the jungle. We also discovered a new kind of insect this weekend. Our time in Tamarindo was a great way to spend the weekend and I felt that we were able to bond in a different kind of way than before. The next day would be spent going back to Santa Teresa for a final week before we all head our separate ways back home.

Tyre garden, hot springs and reforestation Maya Sanden

Monteverde has been a very different experience, since we got to work in a variety of places!

For the first week, we helped out at a local school with their gardening project. There were multiple different beds that needed work, as well as a cute car tyre garden that we created! The best part of that week was working together. The tyre garden came together from nothing with everyone helping in different ways. It was nice to have a project to work on from start to finish, and at the end, we left our mark, with everyone painting their hands and leaving handprints! We had lots of fun and did lots of work! The kids at this school were just as welcoming as the last school, and we played games with them during free time. The kids were always willing to help, and insisted on grabbing our shovels and paint brushes and being a part of the team!

In our free time, we got to explore the Monteverde Reserve, discovering beautiful overlooks and an amazing suspension bridge! It was wonderful to be able to actually get to know the trails that we worked on, and we loved the forests so much we went back for more, doing hikes over and over again and making sure everyone in the group got to see it.

Last weekend, we found out about some natural hot springs nearby and a group of us braved the long, slippery walk down to relax in them! It was definitely worth the hike- the view of the hills was incredible, and the hot springs were two levels high and right next to a beautiful waterfall. We spent the entire afternoon there, leaving right as it started to rain.

We’re very excited for our reforestation work next week, look out for more info and pics on it soon!
When we aren’t working, we’ve been exploring Santa Elena, finding great restaurants and ice cream shops! The area is beautiful, but walking the hills every day wears us out, so we’ve had early bedtimes here. The host families we’re staying with have been incredibly welcoming and accommodating, and we’re trying to practice our Spanish more with them!

"Very reassuring"

Hi Milly,

I just picked up your message about the negative antigen test and wanted to say thank you for calling. Very reassuring!

I’ve been so impressed with the support and guidance you’ve given us and Nancy, and with your accessibility throughout. I’m recommending you to lots of friends with children on gap years next year, so double thank you!

Have a lovely weekend

- Jo Cammell

"One of my favorite memories from my trip to Costa Rica was the first time I released a baby turtle into the ocean"

I was immediately lucky because most baby turtles crawl out of their nests in the dead of night, so you don't get to enjoy the sight of seeing them walk to the water when it's so dark out.

When I saw my first baby turtle it was just before the sun went down, so it was still incredibly bright out! Watching all the babies push their little flippers against the sand as they fight to get to the water is something else. They are so excited to be alive! It's something so wonderfully inspiring that I will always remember.

- Madison

"THANK YOU"

My Leaper is just having the BEST BEST BEST time. She was so anxious about going as it is the first time she has been abroad on her own. The lovely friends she has made and the fantastic team leaders that are there, combined with the incredible experiences that you are giving the team meant that worry very soon dissipated.

Everything sounds perfect, from the location of their "houses", the delicious food, the stimulating and varied activities, the fun evenings, in fact from dawn to dusk (and well beyond) is just so brilliant.

Thank you.

- Sara

"Change the course of their lives"

I am filled with admiration at all the trouble you have taken over every detail, so much appreciated when filling in all those damn forms! And it was brilliant that you kept us all (in our case 3 generations!) involved and informed about the changing situation every day. It has been so difficult for this group of 18 year olds unable to do their A levels properly and with all the attendant problems of the pandemic. I think the programmes you are offering may well change the course of their lives not only for the future of the planet but also by giving them opportunities to work hard together at the same time as having fun. Huge thanks and congratulations, I’m telling everyone how fantastic you are!

- Caromy (Grandmother)

"Very professional service"

I am super impressed that The Leap have been in contact at the beginning of my daughters’ trip to tell me she had arrived arrived safely. Very professional service - thanks very much!

- Abi Crampton

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