About Me

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Kingston, Jamaica
You can email me at crrorke@yahoo.ca or find me on Skype at coreena.rorke

Friday, February 11, 2011

Impossible is Nothing...

A little something I organized in my spare time...
The article below was published in the local newspaper.

Youth Opportunities Unlimited proves that “Impossible is Nothing!”

While watching a surf competition at the beach one afternoon, Coreena Rorke, a Canadian volunteer with Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU), and her friend Steph Lindgard, a Canadian volunteer at the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI) wondered what else was going on down the beach from the competition. It appeared to be a beach clean-up…and in fact it was! As part of the surf competition, the Jamaican Surf Association encourages the participants to help clean the beach of garbage while they were waiting their turn in the water. Coreena and Steph didn’t hesitate to help out, and wondered why they didn’t do a similar event with their respective organizations? With that simple question, plans for a joint project began to take shape.

The girls then took the appropriate steps to ensure that the directors of their organizations gave their endorsement, and began the hunt for sponsors. Mrs. Georgia W. Lewis-Scott, Executive Director of ‘YOU’ was ecstatic about the idea and offered her full support! Soon after, Lasco Foods was on board, and the timing perfectly coincided with their Annual LASCO/JCF Police Officer of the Year Competition, as the officers would be spending a week in Kingston to get involved in social project within the communities.

On the morning of Monday, February 7th 2011, close to 20 youth from the Mountain View community, who are taking part in the YOU/CSJP (Citizens Security and Justice Program) gathered at the office of ‘YOU’. Roselyn Stewart of St. John’s Ambulance volunteered her time to ensure everyone’s safety, and Mr. Makfarley from C.M.I. volunteered his services to transport the group to Lighthouse Beach on the Palisadoes. Upon arrival, a youth proclaimed, “Wow, it looks like all of the garbage of Kingston was dumped on this beach in anticipation of our event today, this is going to be impossible!” Steph from C.M.I. explained that this wasn’t far from the truth and that in actual fact, if we all made an effort to properly dispose of our garbage, it would not end up on our streets; wash into our gullies, and then down to the ocean before washing back up on our beaches and damaging our fragile eco-system.

It was amazing to see the amount of garbage that was collected over the next couple hours. Numerous bags of plastic drinking bottles were gathered to be returned to CMI as part of their newly launched recycling program and countless bags of waste was placed into a dumpster to be taken away.

The Youth of Mountain View were energetic and took a sense of pride in their work as they quickly saw the transformation on the beach. The police interacted smoothly with the youth, and smiles were endless!

After a delicious lunch provided by Lasco, the Officer of the Year nominees each gave a motivational talk to the youth. The message was clear that with hard work, integrity and dedication ‘anything is possible!’ With the work completed, a beach football match broke out between the youth and police officers – the score remains unknown, but after what they accomplished together, and the level of joy in the atmosphere, they were all winners!

At the end of the day a strong bond had been forged between the youth and the police officers and as the buses pulled away not only was there a clean beach left behind but another reason to be proud Jamaicans and to have pride in Jamaica!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I had a fabulous holiday season. I spent Christmas in Honduras visiting my friend Ben from Australia (he is teaching scuba diving in Roatan). Then the 2 of us went to Costa Rica for New Years to spend time with our friends from Vancouver who just moved down there. It was a much needed vacation.

Since my return to Kingston I have barely seen the light of day...

I facilitated a Strategic Planning Workshop last week with the Board of Directors, so ALL of my energy and sanity for the month of January went into preparing for that. It was a total success!!!! That was the biggest hurdle of my project here, now I have a few more wrap-up sessions planned with the Board and Staff, and then my focus will be on ensuring the Strategic Planning process and implementation continues after my departure (sustainability). This is the most gratifying work I have done in a very long time, I just wish I could be here to see where all this hard work is going to take the organization in the next year! I guess I will have to come back and visit, oh darn!

As for the rest of my adventures down here...

I still try to escape the chaos of Kingston when I can. A friend of mine from Canada arrived last week. I met him in Montego Bay, we then traveled down to Negril, and took the coastal route back to Kingston. I have officially traveled the entire circumference of this island, and seen more of Jamaica then most of the Jamaicans...at least that is what they all tell me. I have been blessed with the friendship of many local that are more then excited to show me the intimate little secrets of their island, that most tourist would never experience. I traveled into "The Hills" to visit where my neighbor grew up. Most homes are occupied by 5 generations of family, many have never left; great-grand-parents, grand-parents, parents, kids (my generation), and grand-kids...keep in mind many start families very young here (one of my colleagues is a grandmother at 36 years old)! Running water is more common now, as is electricity, everyone knows your business before you know it yourself, and the sense of community and trust is really heartwarming.

My friends arrival has been such a wonderful gift! Not only is it nice to have a taste of home, but through him, I get to witness all of the same emotions [in him] that I experienced when I first arrived. I now realize how much I have learned and grown since my arrival...amazing!

Last Friday, the Executive Director (and great friend) of Y.O.U. took me on a "Field Trip" to the Blue Mountains (Holywell National Park). When I previously imagined Jamaica, mountains were the furthest thing on my mind, however, I am officially more impressed with this aspect of Jamaica then I am with the beaches...well...almost! HAHA! The mountains are breath taking. There are so many rivers and waterfalls and a few guest houses perched on cliff sides, definitely off the beaten track! I plan to make a trip up to the peak, back-packing of course, before my departure. Oh, and the coffee from the Blue Mountain region is like nothing I have ever tasted...Starbucks eat your heart hear out!

I have now passed the halfway point of my adventure down here...the remaining few months are going to be very busy and are going to pass by far TOO QUICKLY!!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

A day in the life.

Kingston continues to amaze me! This is the best thing I have ever done!

I work at an incredible organization. It's an Innercity Youth organization that focuses on mentoring and developing employability skills. My days are spent mostly with the Board of Directors, working on Strategic Development, but I take every possible opportunity to spend time with the kids in our Youth Centre. I have hosted a few workshops already on business skills, resumes writing, interviewing, etc. The kids are all so keen and I often join them for a game of football (soccer) in the afternoons! These kids are truly amazing, they have everything stacked against them and little opportunity, most can't even afford bus fare to get here, let alone breakfast or lunch, but they continue to show up EVERY DAY and they wear their best business attire and always come upstairs to show me and to wish me a "good morning" ...part of the business etiquette I have taught them! They are so driven...I am learning a lot from them.

The city itself leaves a lot to be desired. I have never experienced such a contrast between the "haves" and the "have nots." The number of people living in poverty in Kingston is not nearly as shocking as the vast disparities in living condition.
It is chaos for the most part. Traffic rules are merely recommendations, as are most rules. The pollution is mind boggling, both the garbage and the noise. Many of my neighbours don't have electricity, therefore no fridge, stove, etc. I am living a VERY modest life out here, but still feel so much more fortunate then most. It is really amazing how quickly you get conditioned to something though. I feel totally at home. The locals are starting to call me "brownin" instead of "whitie" haha! I have the transportation system mastered...basically take a deep breath, close your eyes and hang on for dear life! Haha! I sometimes get to work in 20 minutes, sometimes in 2 hours...hence "Jamaican time."

I am training in Capoeira (Brazilian martial art) and taking Zumba (latin dance) classes, as well as informal Spanish with a colleague of mine whenever I can. There are a few great places to run and a fairly decent gym that I have a membership at. No golf as yet, not really in the budget anyway. I am having a blast learning about the cuisine, and of course taking every recipe and "cleaning" it up. My entire office is getting on board with "healthy eating" which is definitely not a part of the culture here...it's really cool! My Excutive Director told me today that she has noticed a change in the atmosphere since I arrived, she says there is an amazing new level of energy in the office! A few of the girls now join me for runs after work, and they are always excited to show me what they brought for lunch! haha! It's so crazy and flattering!!

On the weekends I try to get out of the city...it's all you can do to remain sane in this chaos! There are a number of beaches within an hour, totally empty!! I have been blessed to have found an amazing network of friends here, I meet someone new just about every day...guess it helps that I talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime! haha! This weekend I discovered a surf camp just east of town. A bunch of Rasta's that live on the beach, surf every day, play music every night! I am joining them for a surf/live music weekend in two weeks, sleeping in a hammock on the beach, bon-fire...so excited! This weekend I am taking a few extra days off and going to an area called Port Antonio, just the girls...sooooo needed. On Wednesday my friends have arranged a birthday celebration for me!!! They have reserved an entire restaurant and are doing everything they can to keep me from feeling homesick! I am really blessed!

Life is so much more of a struggle down here, but for different reasons and yet everything just seems so much simpler!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tropical Storm Warning!

Hi Guys!

As you have probably heard on the news, we are anticipating a major tropical storm down here.

Not to worry, there are a lot of people looking out for me here. I am as prepared as I can be (water, food, laterns, windows taped, etc). If sh#t were to hit the fan, I will be quite comfortable in my apartment for a couple of weeks...my shakes will keep me going! It is a solid and secure building. This is not anticipated to be a disaster in Jamaica, but we will get A LOT of heavy rain, roads and bridges are likely to be damaged, loss of power and water is normal. When Nicole hit 5 weeks ago, it was the same drill, the city was pretty much shut down for a week or so, and cleanup with be on going, but it will be back to business as usual in no time.
If you don't hear from me for a few days, relax and remember how capable and resourceful I am! And know that there are a lot of people looking for the niave little white girl in Jamaica! haha!

We are closing the office today at Noon, everyone is heading for cover, and not likely reporting to work on Friday.

Again, these are all just precautions, the storm will likely just pass us by with little effect, but better safe then sorry.

One love!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Just a quick note...

Quick because the internet is sketchy at best, but everything is going well so far...

Jamaica is incredible, amazing, confusing, beautiful, dirty...everything I expected and yet not at all!

Kingston is the furthest thing from paradise, but I LOVE IT NONETHELESS!!!

It has been a whirlwind 2 weeks, as you can well imagine. I spent my first week getting oriented with the city and settled into my new apartment and making it feel like home. I have no hot water, and oven doesn't work, but I have a lovely view of the mountains and the sun rises on my face every morning!

Learning the transportation un-system (system would imply a sense of order) has been the biggest challenge, especially because I must plan my days events around getting home before dark. It is not a safe city to be roaming around at night alone. I am getting the hang of it though, and now understand the importance of "Jamaican Time," as it can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours to commute depending on the traffic and weather. This is just accepted. It is rainy season now, so commuting is dramatically effected; roads have potholes that could swallow a small bus, bridges are washed out, streets are flooded, the list goes on.

I started work last week and I am very impressed with the organization I am working with; they are doing a really great thing for the inner city youth of Kingston. My colleagues are all very warm and welcoming, and many have taken me on tours of the city. I will be working closely with the Director and the Board. My primary objectives are Strategic Planning and Partnership Development, complete with an overall organizational assessment. It is going to be a very challenging and rewarding 6 months!!

I was quick to appreciate the previous annoyances (Air-care) and luxuries (hot showers) of Vancouver, but also quick to forget the overwhelming level of "living large" that just isn't a priority in this culture. Strolling down the streets of Yaletown with a latte, enjoying a nice glass of wine at a coal harbour bistro, pedicures, golf, gym...definitely things of the past (for now...haha)! Getting home without getting killed in traffic, or breaking my ankle on the quasi-sidewalks, hoping my Coaster driver isn't too drunk, finding a shop that sells lettuce, getting to the laundromat before it closes (and hoping they have water), trying to understand patois (the local lingo), and being grateful that I have mended almost all of the holes in my mosquito net...these are the things I look forward to in my day.

So much still to learn, and enjoying every step of the process!