Cornell students strive to make a difference in the lives of school children in Jamaica

Jamaica Difference is a student-run organization dedicated to service learning
Cornell Students strive to make a difference in the lives of school children in Jamaica
Thursday, April 8, 2010

Jamaica Difference is a student-run organization dedicated to service learning. The organization was established in the summer of 2008 when two ILR students, Alex "Lex" D. Muir and Ebony Ray, co-founded an initiative to launch projects that would assist community development organizations in Jamaica. According to Lex and Ebony, Jamaica is their ancestral home and they wanted to make a difference by contributing towards its development. "Jamaica is a special place- a small place, with a large impact on global culture" said Ebony. The current E-Board comprises of 8 students from various schools across Cornell University, mainly ILR.

According to Jamaica Difference, community development is very important for Jamaica, as there is a stark disparity between rural and urban living conditions. As a result, the team set out by conducting detailed research and an "on-the-ground analysis" to understand characteristics of the communities and the organizations that are aiding in development. As a part of the field research, JD partnered with academics at the University of West Indies and visited the Ministry of Education to formulate its area of focus and involvement.

Duhaney Park Primary School

Jamaica Difference's efforts have centered on education. They have adopted Duhaney Park Primary School in Kingston, Jamaica. The school serves over 2,200 children in grades 1-6 and operates on a two shift basis in order to accommodate the large number of students. The staff consists of over 80 teachers. The school itself serves most of the western part of Kingston, which houses over 20 communities.

In August 2009, Jamaica Difference helped to develop and refurbish the school's computer lab, by donating 15 computers. In addition, 5 computers were donated to a rural school for delinquent boys. According to Lex, technology is an enabler of the learning process and connects students to abundant resources via the World Wide Web. The donation was made possible through fundraisers and the support of the Cornell Computer Reuse Association.

JD is committed to making a tangible impact on the students of Duhaney Park Primary School. As a follow-up to the computer donation, the team visited Kingston in winter 2009-2010 to conduct motivational workshops for the students in grade 4-6. The workshops addressed the following topics:

  • How to be a better student
  • Preparing for high school
  • How to be a good leader
  • Using the internet as a resource

According to Lex, the workshops were well-received by the students. Teachers and administrators of the school felt the impact was greater because the message came from American students, studying at Cornell and achieving success.

JD hopes to build long-term sustainable projects that benefit both the islanders and participating students. During the winter trip, JD made contact with Cornell alum, Ronnie Thwaites and also engaged with the University of West Indies Director Of Student Services and the Student Guild, who had performed similar service work in the past.

Jamaica difference looks forward to your support and involvement in the upcoming summer trip. For more information, please check the website: Contact information: