London; the city were over 300 different languages are spoken daily. It is believed, in London, you can find one person from each country in the world; this statement becomes easier to believe with the city’s population being over 8 million people. London is the epitome of diversity and you’re always a few seconds away from meeting someone new from a different culture.
Law of attraction brought me into the path of a person who symbolises the multicultural essence of London. A friendly introduction turned into a boundless conversation, as we sat and conversed over tea in the British Library. I listened to her melodic (Jamaican infused with Spanish) voice tell stories of her life and travels, which made me appreciate London even more! Name another city where I can meet someone who once called home a remote indigenous village in South America?
Meet Jade Whyne, she was born in Birmingham, UK and has lived in London for the past 4 years. “I love London because it is multicultural, and you can find everyone from anywhere here. On my way to meet you, I randomly had a conversation in Spanish with an Ecuadorian lady.”
With that being said, Jade’s has had a nomadic childhood, “I moved to Bolivia, then to Jamaica and then to Ecuador.” Jade spent her youth living outside of the UK and moved with her mother to Jamaica when she was four. She then spent her secondary school years in a remote indigenous village, Otavalo in Ecuador. “As a child, I didn’t feel the significance of all these experiences because travelling was my norm. However, now I can say, I’ve been privileged and those experiences have helped to make the choices I’ve made today.”
Travelling opens the mind to new pastures and being exposed to diverse cultures and unfamiliar practices can alter one’s view of the world. “I lived in a remote indigenous community, so it was a lot different from city life in a Latin America. I made good friends but I wasn’t really accepted outside my circle because of my mixed heritage, blackness and physical difference.”
Living in an isolated community, Jade learned to manoeuvre in an environment where her physical appearances made it clear that she was not from there; she was “different” to everybody else. “I made some good friends but it was difficult to build relationships with people. At that time the majority of the people had misconceptions of black women, and I was the only black woman that they have ever come into contact with.” Jade recounts that her experience in Ecuador was difficult and all she wanted was to be accepted. It took her a long time to grow to love herself and she is now at a place where she is confident and comfortable in her skin.
Migrating to different countries had its pros and cons. Jade’s development in school was heavily affected. The contrasting changes of her environments meant that she struggled to write in English or Spanish at an age her peers could. “When I was 21, I learned how to do division and found out I was dyslexic.” This didn’t stop her from achieving her goals, you wouldn’t have known the difficulties she has faced by looking at her achievements to date, “I have a degree in International Development and masters in ‘Caribbean and Latin American Studies’ from UCL – a top 10 ranked university in the world.” Jade has taken her education and life experiences and made it into a business. 5 years ago, she founded V2 – Volunteer and Vacation, which specialises in fun and community focused holiday experiences to the Caribbean and Latin America. Travellers connect and explore local heritage and cultures, through volunteer work that financially supports local communities.
“One of the requirements for my degree in International Development was to volunteer abroad. There wasn’t an option to volunteer in the Caribbean. I felt strongly about the issues that needed to be addressed in the Caribbean.” Jade felt tired of how tourism in Jamaica did not significantly benefit the groups that needed the financial resources the most. During her time in Jamaica, Jade worked on an unsuccessful youth violence prevention programme, however, the insight she gained led her to formulate her travel business.
The Caribbean economy relies heavily on tourism. In 2013, tourism brought in over £39 billion to the Caribbean, this represented almost a quarter of the islands’ gross domestic product.
“Tourism in the Caribbean can be one dimensional, people would usually book a holiday package and stay at a resort the whole time. Travelling that way, you miss out on the culture; having real conversations with local people and eating authentic local food. How else would you gain an understanding of day to day life?”
V2 volunteers place travellers for 7 – 14 days in safe environments in the Caribbean, where they can get a true taste of life as a local. Travellers work on community projects such as Animal Care and Marine Conservation. They learn to cook and enjoy local foods; take part in indigenous traditions, as well as touring the towns and taking part in fun holiday activities. Jade’s goal is to enrich people’s travelling experience while strengthening the local economy and keeping the environment safe.
As well as the volunteer and vacation travel experiences, Jade has also launched ‘Divas in Paradise’. This is a unique holiday experience for women of colour who want a comfortable space to soak up the sun, explore the Caribbean paradise and discuss and further understand issues that affect women.
“Having mixed heritage and travelling has shaped my perspective to people and the world. Even though travelling is a beautiful thing, it is not always positive. You have to be street smart and it is important to understand what you represent and the stereotypes that are attached to people (women) that look like you.”
Jade travels frequently alone and has been exposed to the good and bad that comes with this. “I’ve spoken to women from different races and cultures and they all have said they thoroughly enjoy travelling. However, when I’ve asked them a difficult question such as ‘How do you deal with sexual harassment?’ That’s when I was told stories of near rape incidents, racial and physical abuse.”
A quick search on google resulted in 3.7 million pages to articles, forums, blogs, legal support and news, detailing information on sexual harassment while travelling. I had to pause for a moment to comprehend the magnitude of this issue. “Yes, these are some of the things women may have to think about and this is why I created a safe space for lone or group travellers who would love to relax, have fun and engaging experiences abroad.”
Travelling makes positive difference
“I think a lot of global issues and ignorant views could change if people travelled more. If you went to Syria and saw what’s happening there, don’t you think your perspective will change?” A lot of issues occur because of the disconnect between people and different nations. As soon as we make a human connection with other people, we realise people are all the same, we just express ourselves and look different.”
This year’s Divas in Paradise experience is to Trinidad and Tobago from the 6th-12th of June 2017; The founders of CURLture UK will be leading interactive workshops on subjects such as black hair and beauty, plus there will be various other workshops by Diva led brands and business sharing and exploring sisterhood.
To find out more about V2 and Divas in Paradise visit here – www.divasinparadise.com and you can follow them on Instagram – www.instagram.com/divasinparadise
Subject – Jade Whyne, founder of V2 Volunteer & Vacation