Thursday, February 27, 2014

Our Jamaican Experience

Now that we all returned to the freezing cold of Canada, I would like to personally thank all of the faculty and students who took part in this extraordinary trip! I am honoured to have had the chance to work with all of you. We made a great team and accomplished so much together. I look forward to seeing our final report come together. It is never easy to adapt to a new country, let alone work there. I am grateful for the chance to work with all of the iLEAD Jamaica Expedition 2014 members! Our interdisciplinary group was able to work together and accomplish so much in a short period of time. We not only learned about our topics but also learned how to adapt and thrive in a foreign culture.

Calm plane ride back to Canada
On behalf of the group I would like to take this opportunity to thank our sponsors Nipissing University School of Business, NUSU, North Bay Toyota, Raven & Republic, Mindemoya Guardian Pharmacy and all of the students, faculty, and North Bay citizens who helped support us at our fundraising events! Without all of you this trip would not have been possible.

Our gratitude also goes out to all of our local partners in Jamaica! The staff at Great Huts and the Portland Rehabilitation Management created a wonder learning environment for all of the students. A special thanks goes out to the management staff, who were so generous with their time and helped make a second home for us.


We would also like to thank our supervising faculty members Linda Piper, Natalya Brown, Manuel Litalien and our student co-coordinator John Jackson. Without your guidance and support we would not have been able to have accomplished as much as we did.

Professor Linda Piper said that "the students who worked with me on staffing issues and occupancy challenges for Great Huts eco-resort were professional and diligent in their dealings with me and with the staff and managers.  My group of nine worked in small teams on a variety of issues including recruitment and selection, performance appraisal, training and development, pricing, occupancy rates, budgeting and marketing and promotion.  They interviewed staff and managers, observed, and did background research while exploring theoretical knowledge and contrasting it with experiential learning.  Acting as consultants is very hard work - the rules constantly change and flexibility, diplomacy, and thinking fast are basic requirements.  The students and, of course, my colleagues Natalya Brown and Manuel Litalien  who worked on a separate project did a great job and made me very proud of our Nipissing iLEAD Jamaica 2014 team. "

Dr. Natalya Brown, who supervised the Portland Rehabilitation Management group, had this to say: “the students identified, reviewed and applied theories and models relating to not-for-profit governance, transparency and trust, and the use of the Internet and social media for promoting and generating donations [for PRM]. The students compared the best practices for Canadian not-for-profits and homeless shelters to the observed practices at PRM, keeping in mind that the organization is operating in a developing country. The students conducted interviews of the staff and board members of the shelter, reviewed the current fundraising efforts, website and social media offerings, conducted a risk assessment of the shelter, identified partnership, sponsorship and other fundraising opportunities, and made recommendations in all of these areas.”

While abroad, the professors were also busy conducting research for their Eco-Tourism study. The faculty members conducted several interviews during the trip at a variety of Eco-tourist attractions in Jamaica. Some of the students on this expedition were fortunate enough to be able to dip their hands into academic research by helping the faculty members with data collection.

On this trip the students and faculty members were able to accomplish a lot, but the work isn't finished yet! Over the next couple of months, all of the students will write reflective papers to outline their experiences. Everyone will also apply the finishing touches to their final reports and pass all of their suggestions on to Great Huts and Portland Rehabilitation Management. These reports will contain all of the strategic recommendations proposed by the groups while in Jamaica.  Some students have also signed up for Nipissing’s Undergraduate Research Conference as an added project. I hope to see everyone there!


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Our last Full Day in Jamaica

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

On February 23rd, it was a great day to be a Canadian! Team Canada won Gold in the Mens Olympic hockey game against Sweden. Despite the fact that the game started at 7:00am, the lobby was packed with Hockey fans to watch the final game. I have never seen my roommate Matt Lewis get out of bed so fast in my life, especially at 6:30am. Every time the Canadian team scored the entire place would erupt and could be heard from all across the resort. If you weren't Canadian you probably didn't get much sleep at the resort because the Canadian team scored 3 goals to defeat the Swedish team to take home the gold medal.

Hundreds of Canadian fans watching the Gold medal game

After the game, most of us were busy working on our final reports to hand in to our faculty advisers, Natalya Brown, Linda Piper, and Manuel Litalien. Getting work done was a fairly difficult task because we literally had paradise at our doorsteps. Everyone was also exhausted from getting up so early to watch the hockey game. Once everyone had finished, we headed back out to the beach to soak up as much sun as possible before we were scheduled to head back to Canada and the freezing cold weather the next morning. 

Sunset Grand Hotel, Ocho Rios Jamaica

Sunset Grand Hotel beach front, Ocho Rios Jamaica

At the end of the night, the entire team met for a delicious Chinese dinner to celebrate the amazing trip we have had. Many of us were burnt to a crisp but satisfied with how everything went. We had many laughs as a group and had a great time enjoying each other's company at dinner. There was no better way to end such an amazing experience! 

From left to right: Matt, Zach, Alex, Caitlyn, James, Natalya, Manuel, Kerry Lynn

From left to right: Lisa, John, Brittany, Tyler, Corey, Dana, Tanika, Shelby, Astoria

Overall, the iLEAD trip was an absolute success and will definitely be a major highlight of our university careers. The practical business skills we gained and the enriching experiences we shared while in Jamaica will undoubtedly always be remembered!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Exploring Jamaica

While we were hard at work for the majority of our trip, few could resist exploring Jamaica on our free time. With so much to do and so many beautiful sights to see, we spent our free time enjoying the Jamaican culture, or doing activities such as sightseeing, surfing, and scuba diving.

Scuba diving was our first excursion, and it was amazing! We first received training in the pool at the resort to familiarize ourselves with the equipment and underwater signals, as well as key skills such as sharing air and proper breathing techniques. After training was complete, our dive instructor Frute, took us to Heaven's Reef. When we arrived at the site, the water was so crystal clear it looked as if the water was only five feet deep. However, once we entered the water and began to descend down the anchor line, we realized that the clarity was misleading. It was a slow descent to the ocean floor which was roughly 30 feet below the surface, but once we reached the bottom it was like we were in a whole other world. We were surrounded by all types of fish, and the coral reef was absolutely stunning. We all wanted to stay down in the reef all day and keep exploring but unfortunately our air tanks ran low in the blink of an eye.

Spending time with the man who saved my camera from being stolen while we were out surfing!

Many of us also attempted surfing while we were in Port Antonio. Though few succeeded, we all had a great time. Prior to hitting the waves, we had put all of our belongings on the shore. A local man said he would look after our things for us while we were out in the water. But John stayed back on the beach to make sure things were okay. At one point, there was actually a tourist who ventured over to where our things were and had picked up my camera! As soon as he was spotted, John heard the local man assertively tell the tourist: "Put the camera down! That belongs to my friend."
Another one of the beautiful sights in Jamaica is the Blue Hole: a series of springs connected by waterfalls and streams, with each spring being roughly 19 ft deep. It was perfect for swimming and cliff jumping!
From left to right: Zach, Matt, James, Shelby, and Astoria
When we heard that Jamaica was one of only four destinations in the world to possess a rare phenomenon known as a luminous lagoon, we had to go. A luminous lagoon is formed when salt water and fresh water meet, creating an ideal temperature for the micro-organism known as Dino-flagellates. At night, when disturbed, these micro-organisms glow. The effect causes a bright glow effect that outlines fish or any person who swims in the water. We were amazed at how bright the water became when we all swam in it. If the lagoon itself wasn't beautiful enough, since there is less light pollution in the middle of the bay, the stars filled the sky, causing us to be amazed whether we looked up or down!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Goodbye Great Huts!

This morning was our last morning at the beautiful resort Great Huts. It was sad to leave this place but living and working there was an amazing experience! We had the chance to meet and interview some members of the hotel staff and some of the managers which not only provided us with a lot of useful information but also interesting facts about the Jamaican way of life as well. I’ve actually never visited a country as beautiful as this one - beautiful in a way that the landscapes are incredible and that the Jamaicans we met were all welcoming and harboured such amazing spirits. I would highly recommend my friends and family to go explore this country and to stop by the Great Huts!

Some Picture of the Great Huts Resort:

We left this morning at 9:30am after a delicious breakfast and we came back to the first hotel we were in Jamaica: Sunset Jamaica Grande in Ochos Rios!
We arrived there at about 12:15pm, giving us the time to enjoy the beach while our rooms were getting ready! Then, we started again working on our project and gathering our information with a peaceful reggae music background we could hear from the city. 

Some pictures of the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort and the city of Ocho Rios:

I am extremely grateful for this experience. I would have never imagined experiencing as many great adventures and gaining so many amazing memories as I have during this trip. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Remembering Ocho Rios

Today while the others went on an excursion to Blue Hole, Kerry Lynn and I decided to take in the Jamaican culture one last time in Ocho Rios. Outside of our resort, you can go left or right and have two very different experiences. On our last stay we had chosen to explore to the left where there are a lot of locals doing there day-to-day things. The atmosphere felt very chaotic and busy but it was interesting being able to see the way Jamaicans live in Ocho Rios away from the more touristy areas. There was music pumping and people running and asking you to buy their things right off the side of the street. We had entered a marketplace where the locals go to buy many different kinds of items such as shoes, dresses, spices and fruit - to name a few. Although there were many goods available, the place was filled with poverty and the people were very desperate for your business. It was a very uncomfortable place to be especially when the people would try to get your attention by yelling things such as: 'hey, white girl', which would make you feel the need to respond. It is very difficult to state that you don't want to buy their goods, especially when you know they are in such dire circumstances.

Afterwards, Kerry Lynn and I decided to explore the right side of Ocho Rios where tourism is more prominent. On our travels, Kerry and I browsed several shops that sold small hand made nic-nacs but also saw companies that reminded us of Canada, such as the presence of KFCs and Scotiabanks. We eventually arrived at what appeared to be a small market where a gentleman inticed us to take a look at some dresses. Little did we know that there were 50 little booths hidden within the walls that took us nearly two hours to through. This place had a much different vibe than our previous market experience. It was fairly low key and there were mostly elderly women trying to sell tourist items like jewellery, bags and souvineers. Women and some men sat outside their booths waiting for you to arrive. They know you are coming and they are all fighting for your business. It was interesting going from booth to booth because all the women would say the same things likes  'its free to browse' or 'pretty lady, come right in'. They try and sell you all the cheap things and its unfortunate because its more than likely a customer would have already purchased a similar item at a previous booth. As we went along, the vendors would say things like: 'i've been patiently waiting on you, so you must come check out my booth'. The shopkeepers also tried to barter with us to make it more intriguing for us to buy things. It was like nothing I have ever experienced.

It would appear that competition would be difficult becuase most booths sell the exact same items. Once you get through the first few booths you have almost seen everything you will find. It is difficult becuase it feels as though you are being traped by all there people who want you to buy. Although alot of the stuff is the same, there were a few booths of artists and wood crafters. We were able to see two men doing their work carving wooden animal sculptures and it was quite amazing being able to see their talents and the stuff they can do with their hands. Kerry Lynn and I enjoyed our day at the market and having the opportunity to meet so many people, and we would not have changed it for anything.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Professors' Blog

Nipissing University's Jamaica Campus??? Mike, Harley, Rick, what do you think?

Trident Castle, Port Antonio

As much as we like our offices in North Bay, we must admit that we like the ones here much better. 

It has been an honour and a privilege to introduce business and social welfare students to Jamaica, and watch them make the connections between what they have heard in the classroom and what they see before them. Before leaving for Jamaica, we asked our students to prepare by conducting background research on tourism, Jamaican culture, and social services. Workplace culture, organizational structure, and attitudes towards homelessness and mental illness are huge factors in our projects with the Great Huts resort and Portland Rehabilitation Management. After spending four days observing and collecting information, while keeping the theories and concepts from the classroom in mind, the students have now begun the task of writing up their reports which will be presented to our host organizations. Throughout, we have asked the students to reflect on the difference between theoretical and applied knowledge. The students are keen and excited. 

As a key learning objective, we want our students to make a tangible contribution to the host organizations and we have great confidence in our students' abilities to do so. We believe that they will leave Jamaica with a great sense of pride and accomplishment. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. 

Back to the office. 

- Linda, Manuel and Natalya

Our Last day at Great Huts

Traveling around Jamaica has been an eye opening experience. We have travelled all the way from Montego Bay on the East coast all the way to Ochos Rios and finally ending up in Portland on the West coast. The difference between the eco-resort, Great Huts in Portland, and the all-inclusive resort Sunset Jamaica Grande, in Ochos Rios, has been very noticeable.

When you venture off of the Ochos Rios resort into the city, you feel almost attacked by all of the merchants, taxi drivers and bystanders all asking for tourists to give them money so that they can make a living. You can tell that the Sunset Grande resort is located in a much busier, more tourist-based area with many more businesses and hotels in the area. Port Antonio, on the other hand, is completely different! The area is much more slow paced with a lot more residential housing, small guest houses and schools.When we arrived at Great Huts a member of management told us that if we wanted to venture into the city it was very safe for us. In fact we could be assured of our safety because, according to the Great Huts manager, "The neighbourhood doesn't play like that." There would be no peddling or begging. We have left that in the big city. There was no such promise in Ochos Rios when we left the resort property. In fact they tell you if you leave the resort to be careful of the peddlers just beyond their security-watched gates.

A Regular Day in a Bigger City
Every morning, there is a group of us who go for a morning run just outside of Great Huts. You can really see the difference in atmosphere between the two regions. The people greet you and even on occasion cheer you on as you run past them in Portland. They don't pester you to buy anything. In fact they are more likely to ask you if you are ok. One morning a local police car slowed down next to us while we walked and asked us if we needed help. This hospitality was a far cry from the treatment we go outside the all inclusive resort. It seemed that they valued our presences but also our safety because they know that the industry here is not as big and therefore more delicate. Any theft or guest complaints could send the tourist to another location without much thought. This community valued our space, our money and our personal satisfaction.
A Regular Day on Fairy Hill

This kindness of the town carried over to the local shelter, run by the same owner as Great Huts. Portland Rehab Management is about 20 minutes , by cab ride, from the hotel itself. The Centre has 15 men's quarters and 10 women's quarters to be used for people in the community who are homeless, sick, and/or elderly. The whole establishment rings positivity. From the paintings and signs adorning the building to the supervisors within it, it is clear that the community is what comes first. 
The Mission Statement of the Portland Rehab Management
The Entrance of the Portland Rehab Management
In this small town, somewhere between Port Antonio and Boston Bay, tourists come and go but the community stays and they make sure to take care of each other and that is something I will take with me when this trip is over.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Trip to Remember

February 19th, 2014

This trip has definitely been an eye-opening and enriching adventure so far. My roles as the iLEAD Liaison and as a research assistant for an Eco-tourism study have proven to be invaluable experiences thus far. The faculty advisers Dr. Natalya Brown, Dr. Linda Piper, and Dr. Manuel Litalien have all been really supportive and have been excellent supervisors to their respective groups, by overseeing a solid balance of both work and play for the students. 

PRM group meeting at Great Huts
Everyone has clearly established objectives in place and are expected to spend a significant portion of their days doing work but there is also time available for students to plan excursions of their own, spend time at the beach, or to go explore the local city markets in the off-time.
PRM group interviewing Mr. Florea
Group photo at the PRM Centre
Bright and early this morning, I hopped in a cab and joined the Portland Rehabilitation Management group. Along the way, we stopped in at a local supermarket to buy some goods and care items from our pool of money to donate to the shelter. We ended up buying roughly $2,200 JAM ($22 USD) worth of stuff and gave the remainder of approximately $1,000 JAM ($10 USD) as a cash donation to the center. It was truly amazing to see how much buying power we have and the amount of stuff we were able to buy. After delivering the package, we went to work by conducting research and running an interview of Mr. Florea, a board member of the center, to investigate critical issues such as the board structure, administrative procedures/policies, and overall business operations of the center.

Jamaican man in the market
Before going on this trip, I didn't know really what to expect of Jamaica. All I knew was that I was traveling away from the cold and going to a place where Bob Marley was king and the weather was nice. One of my goals going into the trip was to try and immerse myself in the culture and to speak with locals to get a better understanding of what the real Jamaica is all about - away from the shield of an all-inclusive resort. After several interactions with the locals, I have found it to be incredibly refreshing how friendly, compassionate, and expressive the Jamaican people are. You can be walking down the street or even just traveling through a city street by car and you'll often be greeted by a friendly smile and a kind expression from a person welcoming you to Jamaica. There really is a strong feeling that Jamaicans treat tourists like family here, and I think it is largely due to how dependent the country is on the tourism industry and the fact that there are very strong Christian roots here. One of the other big surprises for me is how Westernized Jamaica is. A significant portion of the population wears North American-styled clothing, much of the music played are songs that are quite popular back home and everyone seems to be very fluent in the English language.
Jamaican security guard hard at work
Sharing stories

At the Great Huts resort, Alex and I had the pleasure of exchanging stories with a security guard while he was enjoying the view of the sea from the comfort of a hammock. I guess everyone likes to relax once in a while, right? It turns out that he had quite a lot of the same interests as me and taught me a lot about the fishing and hunting traditions of Jamaica as well as several other fascinating topics on the Jamaican way of life. One of the interesting things he told me was that the strong wild deer population on the East coast of the country was all started with the introduction of just three deer to the island several decades back. I was able to share with him stories of my camping and fishing experiences as well. It was hilarious seeing his amazement and mind being blown when Alex and I told him of the size that moose can get to and how our weather is so cold that we can go ice fishing on our frozen lakes. I definitely look forward to talking to some more Jamaicans and learning more about their unique backgrounds.

Overall, this trip has been a blast so far and there will surely be more adventures ahead! Be sure to continue to follow this blog to keep updated on everything that we're up to!

Great Huts: Day 3

February 19, 2014

Today was a very successful day and we were all lucky to be able to fit both work and beautiful weather in. It was definitely the nicest day since we’ve been here with lots of sun and 31 degree weather. 

Not wanting to waste any of this beautiful day, everyone got up bright and early and we got started with our meeting right after breakfast. I met with the Great Huts group and Professor Linda Piper and had what I would say was a very productive meeting. We started by compiling everyone’s individual notes, information and observations together to see where we stood for research and what other information we still had to obtain. We fortunately realized we had found out a lot of valuable information and were then able to figure out what our next steps are going to be. Furthermore, during our discussion we started brainstorming ideas for what our final deliverable will include in it, which also looks like it will be very promising.

            After the meeting we went our separate ways and throughout the day every student was able to focus on their individual areas of expertise while doing their best to fill in missing information gaps. Of course we all still managed to fit in some fun at the pool and Boston Bay beach!

After a hard day of work and play we will all have a good sleep and be up bright and early once again tomorrow to get back to it and keep you all back home posted with more information on our project!