J.A.M.I.N. Program Expands to Rural Jamaica

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A guest blog by Ali Teesdale, a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Jamaica

“Miss, a wa mek im move so?” (Miss, why is it moving like this?) A high school student asks me, holding a sea cucumber while it slowly forms to her hand, squishing her own face in uncertainty. I show her the bottom of the animal where its tube feet retract, sensing a threat. I am thrilled to witness her wonder and disgust. 

Ali Teesdale teaching students at Port Antonio High School about sea cucumbers, an animal that lives in and around the mangroves.

I, Ali, am an Environment Sector Peace Corps Volunteer living nearby in rural Jamaica, and I’ve been assisting the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation (LOF) and Alligator Head Foundation (AHF) with the implementation of the Jamaican Awareness of Mangroves in Nature (J.A.M.I.N.) program. I’m excited to participate in this newly formed partnership that has allowed LOF to expand the J.A.M.I.N. program to the Portland area, a rural parish on the eastern side of Jamaica.

Titchfield High School (left) and Port Antonio High School (right) participated in the J.A.M.I.N. program in Port Antonio, Jamaica. 

I know firsthand how novel this experience is for a Jamaican schoolchild. Jamaicans that live in rural areas often have limited exposure to the rest of their island, and they face multiple barriers to interact with coastline ecosystems (taxi fare, fear of water or lack of water safety, proximity, private access beaches, etc.).

J.A.M.I.N. provides the opportunity for these rural youth to engage with Jamaica’s natural environs, and as a result, LOF and AHF have broken through these boundaries allowing students to experience their likkle but tallawah (little but strong) nation. I was pleasantly surprised when Jamaicans, who are typically very concerned about cleanliness, didn’t hesitate to follow “Miss Amy” Heemsoth, LOF’s Director of Education tramping through inches of mangrove mud. 

Students from Titchfield High School get muddy planting mangrove propagules that they have been cultivating for the past eight months. 

What do the students ask for after they’ve worked with AHF and LOF for a year? They want more. More time in their mangroves. More out-planting, more exposure for their fellow students and community members. They want more people to know about what they’ve learned, to help protect their island and secure its wellbeing for their children. The success of the partnership between LOF and AHF has flooded students with a steadfast desire to become knowledgeable stewards of Jamaica’s rich biological landscape. As Jamaicans say, One han wash di otha! (Teamwork makes the dream work!)

About Ali

Alexandra Teesdale is a marine botanist with an interest in science communications. She is currently serving Peace Corps Volunteer living in rural Jamaica. Primarily, she facilitates environmental education projects and climate smart adaptation strategies within her surrounding community. 

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