Costa Rican Humblings – Part 1


My name is Nour Daoud, and I am a fourth semester Social Service Worker (SSW) student, at Centennial College. I am currently in Costa Rica, completing my final placement. Since I am very interested in a future career doing international work, I have opted to complete an international internship, as I thought it was suitable for me. I have been humbled and challenged more than I can describe to you in words. So I thought I’d spare you my boring personal reflection, and just show you why. Please bear with me as this is my first blogging experience ever, and I hope you enjoy it!

Never be afraid to take a risk, or be pushed out of your comfort zone. You never know what you’ll discover about yourself!

Till my next post….PURA VIDA (if you ever visit CR, you must learn this expression)!!!

Ciao mis amigos 🙂


Life Lessons Come From Dancing

By Marlene Tran, GCELE Jamaica 2016

While volunteering at the Camp Power to Be, I learned a life-changing lesson. With the help of the campers, I’ve learned to focus on doing what I enjoy and not fear much about how other’s will judge me.

As I watched and learned how to dance from the campers, I realized how powerful music and dance can be. They didn’t seem to care about what the audience will think of their dance, nor how others will think of them. They just danced to the music. I was surprised to see the campers dance so freely as it reminded me of how uniquely different we are – there was something I could learn from them.

Rehearsing before the talent show.

The talent show day finally came and my heart was pounding because we were in the spotlight and the audience was watching. My knees were tense, but jerked into action the moment I heard the music start. I looked around at the campers and thought “Wow, I did not know I had the courage to dance on stage, but I am doing it, and I don’t regret a single thing of it.” I no longer feared what the audience thought; I was having so much fun and thought about how regretful I would have been if I stood on the sideline watching the performance.

Volunteers, campers and I dancing on stage at the Talent Show.

As a nursing student, I stress and wonder a lot about my future self – will people see me as a good nurse? Does this profession match with who I am? I tend to overwork myself in order to fulfil society’s ‘ideal image of a nurse’, but I’ve learned from the campers that life can be less stressful if you focus on fulfilling your goals and not the goals of society. Just like dancing, I should not stress about how others will see me in the future, instead, I should focus on achieving my current learning goals – like enjoying my clinical placements, and mastering my skills as a student. Only then, will I feel less stress and cherish my time as a nursing student more.

After the trip to Jamaica, I have used this learning experience to remind myself:

Don’t worry about what others think because most of the time, the one who takes risks will learn more than the one who just watches on the sideline 🙂

Can’t stop dancing – even after the Talent Show has ended!


My Unknown Home Away From Home

By: Anidra Francis, GCELE Jamaica 2016

It all began with a resume, an interview, patience and an acceptance. The process to get on the GCELE Jamaica team was one of the most nerve racking parts of the GCELE itself. I was introduced to nine strangers, who like me were seeking a unique experience. All of us had come from all walks of life and we were all anxious to begin a life changing journey. I did not know these people and they did not know me but we all trusted each other to work as a team and live together as a family for 8 days.


From the very beginning of my experience I was exposed to the reality of being in a new world. Although I myself am from Jamaican descent, I never realized just how fortunate I am to live in a place like Canada. The first day at Camp Power to Be was so enlightening because of how welcome I felt amongst the volunteers and campers who had come out at 9am to learn about the importance of literacy, the power to be strong, united, a leader, trustworthy, kind and last but not least awesome!

The kids were so unique and each one had a different story to tell. Some acted out to seek attention and acceptance and others remained silent as to not make themselves known. They were all amazing to me because they always came back to the camp the next day with a positive attitude, smile and a “Goodmorning Miss!”

I tried every day to put myself in their shoes and see this experience from their point of view. I understood that being at camp was one of the most important experiences of the summer for the children. I caught myself several times thinking “Wow, it is too hot to be outside. I need some air conditioning and a cold bottle of water.” Only to realize that majority of the children did not even have air conditioning in their homes and some of them did not have access to cold bottles of water. All they had was a pipe to catch water from.

The moment that will change me forever was the last day after the talent show. When the excitement wore down I realized that my experience was over, that these kids were going to go home and forget my name and that I would be going home. I was so shocked that I grew so attached to these kids and how much they changed my view of what is important in the world. The youth everywhere are our future and some don’t have the guidance or the opportunity to thrive and grow to be their best selves. I believe that if people invested in children as much as they invested in clothes, shoes and electronics each generation would support each other’s potential and growth.

I went home feeling empowered and changed for the better. I felt that no matter what I do as long as I am setting an example for the youth, providing them with guidance and any resources I can give that I could make a difference. I came home with new friends that I know I will keep for a long time because we shared such an important experience together. The Camp Power to Be was aimed for the youth at the camp, but I believe they changed me as well. I feel like a new person and I feel now that everyone can make a change. Like a flower all that is needed is fresh soil (support), a seed (you) and a little water and sunshine (positive people and positive vibes) in which to bloom.

Camp Power to Be, Literacy Program

Daniel Mogbojuri, GCELE Jamaica 2016

Centennial College took me and other students to Negril, Jamaica for a life changing program organized by Power to Be International. The program was from July 16 to July 24. For some us, including me, this was a whole new feeling because I’ve never had the opportunity to participate in a program with so many kids.

DanielThe first day for me was tough but the next couple of days were a lot different. I had the chance to know and understand the kids and found out how cool and understanding they were. The kids are really smart and sure we had difficult moments! However, the kids know why they are there what they wanted.

At first I thought we were just there to teach and help the kids with literacy, but then I realized I was learning a lot from the kids too. They taught me about their culture, music, shared stories and language. A lot of people from around the world can really learn from this program.

I also got to know fantastic people I came with, who I am grateful to have come across in life. This GCELE was an eye opener for me and it allow me to appreciate things more. I am really grateful to Centennial College for selecting me for this program and also am happy to have met everyone at Camp Power to Be.


Beyond a Traveler’s Eye

By Chantal Hudon, GCELE Jamaica 2016

Upon an island far away from home, there is an existence of a cultural, agricultural and spiritual crowd who come together to celebrate life. We call it Jamaica. Many people have seen the world, but how many have truly seen beyond tourism?

SAM_2223If you have never been, keep reading….

The skies are clear, the water has a taint of aqua blue, the sun warms every citizen, every crop, every tree and every beam plummets into the Caribbean Sea. Oh what a feeling! Jamaica’s temperature is about 35 to 38 degrees Celsius on a regular day… Still you can witness their citizens with long sleeves or heavy jeans working hard day and night.

As you begin to understand the life in Jamaica, citizens have been engaging for many decades in agriculture, farming, construction and governmental effort in order to survive this life. Living in Jamaica has become more sustainable over the years and continues to bloom although there are still some corners of the island that needs care, attention and dedication. Negril is one of them.

The camp Power To Be International was created to address some of the equity and social justice issues that exists in Negril; education, lack of resources, and negligence of youth development just to name a few. What this camp provides is a safe place where they can live, laugh, learn but most of all, be themselves! The mission is simple, “Helping youth discover their Power to Be”.

ChantalCoverEveryday, there was a morning assembly in order to create excitement at the camp. The students would dance to their favourite theme song, learn what the “Power to Be” characteristic was for the day and how they were able to implement this in their behaviour. As you meet the students for the first time up to the last day, you instantly make connections and most importantly, long lasting friendships. These our students who will never forget our faces and what we have contributed for them in a week time!

Through all this experience, I have felt much of this culture shock transforming itself into really what I would call culture appreciation. I have learned the importance of engaging in global communities who are less fortunate than I. Together, we can make a change. It is not about how big this change 369f9a1is, it is about the effectiveness of each and every one of us contributing to it. As global citizens, we come together to create this positive global change to see its effectiveness, to inspire others to do the same and to be a part of something much bigger. If we have the power, the strength, the leadership skills, but most importantly the will and urge to make a global change,then I’d say it starts with YOU!!!




An Overview of My 3 Months in Costa Rica

Reflecting On My 3 Month Experience 

Looking back on my time here in Costa Rica and all the things I did and experienced, dealing with the barriers I faced, and the great people I  met and friendships I made.

I am feeling bittersweet of my soon departure from Costa Rica. I am happy to go home and see my family and friends, but sad to leave my friends here and this wonderfully beautiful country; with all the sun, nature/rain forest, animals, mountains and adventures. Goodness who would ever want to leave.

When I got here on the 8th of January I spend 24 in Orosi Valley it is a great little town. I went horseback riding, sightseeing, and my first time trying Costa Rica food (Gallo Pinto and Fresca). It was great!! It was sunny, hot, and beautiful. Speaking Spanish for me was a little hard because my pronunciation was really bad, but I got through it. And Costa Ricans (ticos) are great people with tourist, they will try to help you as much as they can.

Another thing I was shocked with is that the cars had the right of way, and that you had to wait for a clearing before crossing the street. As well as their sewer lines are open and run between the road and sidewalk, so you have to hop over them to cross the street. I also had the experience that sometimes the bus driver will not stop the bus to pick you up, they will see you and just drive passed you (haha that was fun).

I have been zip lining with Tranopy zip lining by Rain Forest Adventures, and Playa Jaco Beach. The zip lining was crazy we were 100,500 above sea level and had to do 10 zip lines back to back all the way down the rainforest mountain above the trees, it was amazing! And Jaco Beach was was wonderful. Although I did lose my eyeglasses in the ocean. When your friend tells you to jumps over the waves so she can get a picture of you, just remember to keep your glasses in your hand and not tucked in the front of your t-shirt… hahah!

These are some other things I did on my free time:                                                                    Nauyaca Waterfall and Playa Dominical Beach, Isle Tortuga and Playa Puntarenas Beach.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Meeting, bonding, and working with the Indigenous students for Tec. They are truly amazing people. I will always cherish them dearly. We did a lot of things together, but my favourite things we did was visiting some of their Indigenous communities/territories (We went to Quitirrisi to the Huetar Tribe, Talamanca to the BriBri Tribe, and also San Carlos to  the Maleku tribe, Rey Curre the Boruca Tribe, and Boca Cohen a Cabecar tribe Territory).  Some of the other things we did was having a culture night-food fair/ feria de comida, we did a photo project, Spanish/English classes twice a week, social meetings/get together with the students it was great!!! These individuals are the just wonderful people with a rich history and community.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our Supervisor Diana and her assistant Joana are great!! They are the epitome of what a social worker should be like. I hope I can be that amazing we I start to work as a social service worker.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We also volunteered once a week at Pueblito. This unique organization was established for at risk children. Pueblito Costa Rica offers children and adolescent survivors of situations of social risk, protective factors in the form of family, strengthening their rights and promoting their duties within a comprehensive approach. It was originally founded and started by Canadians. There are 15 homes with the “donas” (mothers/caretakers, multiple staff and volunteers, there is a daycare on the property that is for the surrounding community (own by a different organization). Founded in 1974 as a project of the Canadian International Development Agency. In 1975 town starts operation as welfare and Social Care Association. In 1984 signing of acknowledgment with PANI. It is a non-governmental organization.

pueblito pic

These are just some of the things I did here, but not everything. Yes, we did travel all over Costa Rica with Diana, Joana and the students, and thank you for the wonderful picnic at Jardin Botanico Lankester Gardens.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And now it is time to say goodbye and hopefully see you all soon. I will miss you all very much, thank goodness for social media! Pura Vida mi amigos y amigas!!! 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

By: Abir Hassanien                                                                                                                                    

Social Service Worker                                                                                                                              

 Centennial College (Ashtonbee)                                                                                                          

International student placement internship Costa Rica (Instituto Tecnologico de Costa)

Saying Goodbye to Paradise and Returning to Reality

So, as you can probably tell by the title, I am soon to be leaving this beautiful island nation of Costa Rica and returning to the bitter cold of reality (and Canada ). Being here, on the ground, out in the open and right in the middle of social work has taught me so much and I will be returning to the snow, a changed person. But before I get into that, lemme show you some highlights of my time working here in Costa Rica.

Pueblito :

Pueblito is a orphanage we got the privilege of volunteering at every Wednesday we were in Costa Rica. It is really an amazing place, and very unlike it’s Canadian counter-part. They follow a different model than the North American model and in my opinion the kids have a better experience growing up there than a orphanage in Toronto. Instead of putting all the kids to live in a foster house Pueblito is set up more like a community. The kids live in something of a “gated community”. There are 18 houses in this community each with about 5-8 kids in each with a surrogate mother who looks after them. Along with the houses, there is also a computer lab, outdoor gym, playgrounds, daycare (free for the surrounding community) and a nurses office, as well as onsite psychologist, social worker and tutors for homework. This kind of model allows the kids to grow up in more of a community environment. They even have a bus that they use to take the kids on field trips. This model and place is not without ts flaws, don’t get me wrong but it was interesting to see a different model in place and one that I would be glad to see implemented in Toronto. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the kids for obvious reasons but here are some murals that are on the property, one of which the kids helped make.


English Classes: We got the awesome opportunity to teach English. Not with like a full classroom or anything (I’m not trying to hype myself up lol) but with a group of indigenous students. It was a group of about 7-15 kids and since English is their THIRD language they were having some trouble with it so we offered to teach them. So every Monday from 1-3pm we would have English Classes. It was a lot of fun working with the students and fun teaching something that we sometimes take for granted.


Visiting Earth University and the TEC University fair :

Earth University, as many of you may not know, is one of the best universities in Costa Rica and after visiting it, I can see why WHOA IS IT IMPRESSIVE. The grounds of the school are so large that if you didn’t have a car or a bike with you, you would probably be walking for about 20 minutes before you saw any sign of human life, yeah it’s that big. But it’s not just it’s size that’s great. Everything from its curriculum, the way they teach the classes, the layout of the school, the mandatory activities and even the application and selection process set this school apart from the others in Costa Rica. I can’t go into depth on each of these points but i’ll say a little about each of them. They specialize in Agriculture, Business and Leadership programs. Every classroom is separate and has a retracting wall so they can bring in animals and plants to help the students learn and most of their classes have a hands-on approach. The layout of the offices of the teachers and services are extremely accessible to the students and you don’t need a appointment to see them you just pop in when you need to, Every Wednesday and Saturday from 6am to 11am the students are required to work on one of the on campus farms for them to really GET into their work and learn firsthand about agriculture and the process up close and personal. And the entire staff is involved with the application/selection process, they mostly bring students from around the world, and many from small villages as they recognize that sometimes you may not have access to the best education but you are still able to make a difference. They actually travel to the country to interview the student and they have to demonstrate how they have helped your community to get in. It is a very extensive but interesting approach. I could say more but I feel like i’m getting a bit too long on this post. if you wanna know more, google “Earth University”.

Food Fair : I know I know, your thinking omg theres more, this is the last one, il try to not make it as long as the last. We held a Pot Luck with the indigenous students and it was a great time. They were stoked for it and they each made a traditional dish from their communities so it was a great opportunity for us to try food from each of the different indigenous tribes. of course they wanted us to make some traditional Canadian food for them so we made some homemade mac n cheese and of course the EXTREMELY traditional and precious Canadian food that is Poutine ;)haha. Needless to say, it was a delicious night and we ended it off with some karaoke XD I may or may not have brought the house down 😉

There’s a week left til i’m headed back to the land of ice and snow and I will be very sad to be leaving this awesome place and the awesome people i’ve met here. Being here in Costa Rica has taught me  many things about its people and about myself but something really important it has taught me is something I might have been ignoring for sometime in the busy North American lifestyle, and that is, to slow down and smell the roses. In Toronto, everything is very task oriented, no one really leaves their house unless they have something to do or somewhere to go, no one really smells the roses we all just assume they will be there later for us to smell, but before you notice the moments past and you’ve missed it. Being here, its reminded to me to smell those roses and to live in the moment, and the importance of living in the moment, life’s too short to be living anywhere else.

Costa Rica has also taught me the true meaning of Pura Vida. Some of you may know what this means, some of you may not, it is basically the slogan for Costa Rican life and it mean “pure life”. Its all about living life to the fullest and making the most out of life. not just that, its also about finding happiness and being happy in life and recognizing that there are always people out there who have it worse than you, so you should never take what you have for granted. It encompasses all that is Costa Rican life and every Tico lives their live to Pura Vida. This is something I truly love and will be taking this home and everywhere else I travel to for the rest of my life (and yes there will be many more places 🙂 ).

Before I say goodbye for this post I would like to give a special shout out to Blair Fewster and Diana Segura Sojo, my supervisors in both Canada and here in Costa Rica. this awesome opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without you guys and you have both gone above and beyond to help us and make sure this opportunity was a great one. You are both fantastic and keep up everything you are doing. Never change. Also another shout out to the Global Experience Office at Centennial College for setting this up as well, thanks you guys. you have all given me a experience that has changed my life.

OK enough of the mushy stuff, that’s it for this episode guys. I hope you are all having a fantastic day and keep smiling. Pura Vida Mae.

By: Jason Bridgemohan

Finding A Voice and Becoming a Leader

It took me a while to find my voice in Nicaragua. In a group of 23 leaders, it was difficult to feel like I had a say or could sway an opinion. We had a few group members who were obviously born to be leaders; They had strong, confident and inclusive personalities that made everyone feel heard. I have always found that when no one is willing to step up and take a lead, I will happily take on the role. However, with so many people eager to fill that position, I was finding it hard to speak up. Throughout the week I began to remember that I was chosen to take part in this GCELE for a reason.  I grew more confident as the week went on, and began to feel more comfortable speaking up and working as a leader. I remembered that I am a good public speaker, and fortunately, I had plenty of opportunities to use that sIMG_5499kill on this trip. It was very rewarding to collaborate with all of the unique and inspiring personalities involved with this GCELE, and we all had a chance to merge as leaders throughout the week. Despite all of our different leadership styles, we worked together and taught our health initiatives successfully. Not only were we able to help a community, we were also able to grow as a group and as individuals.

  • Amy Mepham, Nicaragua 2015

I’m Afraid of Bugs, Dirt, and Germs (& I can’t swim). Was Caño Palma has Tough as I Thought it Would Be?

As part of our GCELE experience we have to blog about our experiences in Costa Rica. The posts have be short which makes sense, so I picked 3 very specific topics. If you have any questions about things I didn’t cover, feel free to reach out @AmeliaR_N. These blogs will also be reposted on my personal blog.

Before Cano Palma people who knew me would crinkle their faces and respond with “Why are you going?” or worse, they’d smirk and say “You’re going to die.” I’m not very big on the great outdoors.

When I got back most people would say “You survived!?! Was it as bad as you thought?”

Here’s the thing. It was amazing and I’m extremely proud of the work I did there. That being said it wasn’t like I showed up and was greeted by a 5 star or even 2 star resort. Conservation work is extremely hard and when you Google ‘how many Sea Turtles are left?” or some other question, the amount of work that went in to that answer you searched in 0.40 seconds is staggering.

fbpost^As soon as I got WiFi I wanted to tell the world what was happening.^

Here is a list of some of the tougher things we experienced on our trip ( a small look at all the work conservationist do):

  • Washroom Things
    There was no hot water –ever. To conserve water you flushed by pouring half a bottle of rain water into the toilet. The water on base tasted heavily like metal. I used very little water to shower or brush my teeth (which I did in the company of giant bugs).


  • Bedroom Things

It was always hot in the rainforest and never dry. We had a fan we could use if Necessary. Since people worked all hours of the day and night, the rooms were almost always dark (so people could sleep whenever) and very quiet. We slept in bunk-beds which we had to cover with Mosquito nets. Those nets made it extra hot but it was either that or get eaten alive –your call.


  • Workload Things

The shifts were varied and 24/7. Patrolling the beach to protect Sea Turtles, Hiking in the jungle to track animals and record data, working in the community, tagging trees, maintenance around the station. The chores were endless, usually very physical, and never ending. We were told that Centennial’s presence was a big help because it allowed overworked-scientists to catch up on rest and recover from illnesses.

workload^Wearing dark clothes with long sleeves for the hot Night patrol (can’t scare the turtles away!)^

  • The Nature Thing

It was always hot and always wet.  Clothes never dried. Shoes and feet were always damp. This meant you were always, damp, itchy and sore. Bugs might not be a problem for everyone but the bugs were huge. A bird flew in the room once which was cool until I realized it was actually just a big bug.walk^My regular walk from the dorms to the kitchen^

  • The Isolation Thing

WiFi was scarce and you were working nonstop but in the few off times you’d sometimes notice how out of touch you were with your ‘home-life’ and while it’s not always a bad thing, it can be^IT HELPED THAT THESE GREAT PEOPLE WERE HERE.^

Stay tuned to read about my favourite part of the trip!