Alpha Chi Omega - Starting Conversations

The official blog of Alpha Chi Omega


EricaBy Erica Rovner
Theta, University of Michigan

Every night at reflection the sisters of Alpha Chi Omega go around the circle answering different questions. Some are funny, some are serious and some are just completely random. But tonight’s was one that made all of us think hard and reflect. After watching a documentary called Life in Debt, which was about why Jamaica’s in its current financial state, we were asked the question, “What’s one word you would use to describe your day?” After a few minutes of silence people started spewing their thoughts. Words such as “grateful, appreciative, humbled, thankful, determined and inspired” were used, but the first word I could think of was educated. For almost a week now, we have explored Jamaica and served wonderful communities, but have we really ever stopped and asked why we’re serving Jamaica? Why Alpha Chi Omega’s Global Service Initiative was stationed in Jamaica? This documentary showed us the why; it showed us the diminishing infrastructure of Jamaica since its independence from Britain many years ago. When driving through this beautiful island it is clear to see how their current financial state has affected many. At the same time, I never sat down and asked how such an incredible group of people got to this state. Although the video was at times hard to follow, I think it gave us a new perspective on why we’re really here and what we can take away from serving such a wonderful community.

Today was our first day working in Treasure Beach and we went to Pedro Plains Primary School. We were told we were going to paint a cement fence and I figured, eh, how long could that really take? We made a quick stop at the hardware store and pulled up to the school,  where you could see a very, very, very, very long unpainted cement fence. It was great to see all 18 of us get that fence painted – not to mention the awesome bonding time we had with our sisters – but had any of us really asked why we were painting the fence? Later that day Kaye (our trip consultant) mentioned to us that the primer we put over both sides of the fence, which was a total of 15 gallons, cost over $300 American dollars. That averages out to $20 per gallon. To most middle class families in America, they may feel that they can spend that type of money, but in Jamaica that $20 may seem unachievable for many. At the last work-site, three day laborers were working non-stop all day with us, and together they earned $100 for the day. That’s less than $5 an hour for each man working. Now when you think about the $20 jug of paint it seems completely out of reach.

After playing with the numbers for a while, it really hit me that the service work we were doing was something that would’ve never been done if groups like us didn’t come. Even though painting a fence may not seem like the biggest deal in the world, it may have seemed completely out of reach for a school like Pedro Plains Primary School. And I for one can say I’m extremely humbled and grateful that I was able to contribute to the painted fence.

After a hard day’s work in the beautiful Jamaican sun I like to think of my favorite quote, “you find yourself when you lose yourself in the service of others.” That quote couldn’t stand more true to this trip, especially when you have 17 amazing sisters, two incredible trip leaders and Kaye by your side helping you discover what serving really means. Today I am proud to say that I added a new quote to my thought process. Thanks to this video, every time I serve a community I will now think about the quote, “knowledge is power.” Without the knowledge of the people you’re serving, it’s hard to truly find yourself. I’ll always be grateful for learning that lesson, and I hope I’ll intertwine my two new favorite quotes and use them to reflect upon my actions in my future endeavors as a servant leader.

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