By: Sherry Clemens
Have you ever thought you could be a leader in effecting change in the lives of others who are marginalized by government policy in your home country or globally? I know that that’s the kind of leader I hope to become. In fact, I am passionate about being involved in Indigenous social justice/social change work in particular. And to launch this leadership aspiration, I applied for and went on a Centennial College – Global Citizen Education Learning Experience trip to Indigenous Costa Rica, to take my interest in effecting social change to another level. This voyage was the beginning of my participation on a global stage with fellow Indigenous people, to work together for social change.
Indigenous Costa Rica Students and Centennial College Students at TEC University
While there, my team of 8 students and 3 leaders, spent time at TEC University Costa Rica, where we learned about how this and two other universities had invited Indigenous students to come together and create an Indigenous movement/group within the university for educational and community support. I was thrilled to learn that in spite of government inactivity to assist Indigenous students, TEC University uses its own money to make scholarships available for Indigenous students, to avail them access to higher education. TEC University also taught us how they were not only teaching Indigenous students Biodiversity Education, such as creating sustainable food, and fuel sources from pineapple tops, but also teaching Indigenous engineering students how to build water filtering systems, and maintain them. Indigenous students at TEC University are also learning to develop entrepreneurial skills and bring their ideas to life, assisting with funding and plan development. Other Indigenous students were also given the opportunity to become certified ECO Tourism Guides, and open the possibility to be tour guides for tourist from Europe, U.S.A, and now Canada. All of these skills are then utilized by the students within their own Indigenous territories, in order to sustain their communities, and ensure longevity of their territories.
TEC University – Two of the many lectures my group attended
If I thought it was exciting to learn what I did in a couple of days at TEC University, I was ecstatic to see how this access to education was helping to create positive change in Indigenous territories in Costa Rica. It was one thing to learn about the water filtration systems the engineering students were learning, it was yet another to be in the Indigenous Talamanca Territories, and see the water filtration system first hand! Here again, TEC University funded the cost of the water filtration systems in Indigenous territories; as the government refused their support. TEC University also funded the building of stilted huts for tourist accommodation. The ECO Tourism Guides we had at the different Indigenous territories we visited were all native to the territories, thanks once again to help from the three main universities of Costa Rica.
Above Photos: Eco Tourism Lodging and Water Filtration System in Indigenous Talamanca Territories, Costa Rica
WOW I thought… We could be doing these things in Canada! What if we could get our colleges and universities on board to do what is being done in Costa Rica through universities such as TEC University?
In Canada, we have similar issues faced by our Indigenous peoples. We need to get our colleges and universities on the same page as TEC University. If the government is not doing what needs to be done, then, if we too could get our universities and colleges to do as TEC University is doing, we can help ensure economic sustainability and good health in our Indigenous communities at home here in Canada. Now that I have seen that it can be done, I plan to be a part of making this happen by persistently sharing what I learned in colleges and universities, regularly, and bringing allies on board along the way.