By: Janiel Shamarah Bryan- Greenheart Work and Travel Ambassador Scholar

My name is Janiel and I am from Jamaica. I am a Greenheart Work and Travel participant, as well as a Greenheart Ambassador Scholar. Today, I will be sharing my awesome experiences here in Mackinaw City, Michigan. I have been here for three weeks now, and the experience has been extraordinary!

The first Sunday I came here, I decided to join a church. I spoke to my boss and she suggested Saint Anthony’s Catholic Church. I am not Catholic, but I have had Catholic experiences. I attended a Catholic high school for five years. The church here is very different from what I am used to in Jamaica. One difference is that the women here wear jeans and shorts to church. I have never seen that in Jamaica. All women and girls wear dresses or skirts in Jamaica. Also, in Jamaica, the minimum time that church lasts is approximately four hours, whilst here church lasts for a maximum of one hour.

The first Sunday I attended the church, I felt at home because everyone was so welcoming and nice to me. I met two ladies who practically adopted me. One of them currently picks me up every Sunday for church and the other lady got me many nice sweaters and jackets with the city name on it. I was so happy because sweaters here are expensive and I wanted a sweater with the city’s name on it!

I have learned that simply giving things and people a chance may work in your favor beyond your wildest dreams. When I first attended the church I was so scared that I would be ill-treated or experience some form of racism because there was not even one black church member there. I felt all alone, but everyone was so accepting of me and so nice, I totally lost the fear.

With the help of Sister Chris and my two church mommies, Belinda and Audry, I was given the opportunity to take on three volunteer projects. Starting next week, I will be volunteering at the Chamber of Commerce office in Mackinaw City, The Pinecrest Village Home for the Elderly and I will be teaching at the Vacation Bible School.

If you want to get involved in an American community just like Janiel, head over to Greenheart’s website and learn how!