A Student in Scotland

I think I can finally safely say I am over most of the Jet lag (Ha!). I woke up with a good nights rest and went to prepare some breakfast and green tea for myself and my roommate, Monica. We were out relatively early today, as Monica and I have a meeting at 9am with our program coordinator, to go over our finalized timetables. We were both excited and nervous on our walk to school this morning (Fun Fact: The sun really doesn’t come up here until around 9am). So, we have both learned to do most things in the dark lol! (Which also saves on electricity, thumbs up for sustainability).
As we walked to the university (about a ten-minute walk from our flat), we shared our excitement and nerves regarding our upcoming semester at the University of the West of Scotland. Upon arrival, we met with our coordinator who happens to be from Greece (so he has both a Greek and Scottish accent mushed into an entirely different fraken-accent). He’s great. He was able to work out and give us our identical timetables and… guess what! We only have three classes (due to credit sizing conversion between Canada and the UK). This meaning, we only have classes on Wednesday mornings and Thursday’s. Giving us five extra days for exploring, study and whatever else we can get ourselves into, Woohoo!
After discussing enrolment and some paperwork; Monica and I were free for the rest of the day. I ended up buying a University sweater to show some UWS pride (and it’s a plus because it’s very warm!). We got hungry around 1pm, so we decided to go to “Malatso” (a cafe located near campus,  as they carry a vegan menu and have student discounts!).
I had a delicious vegan mini “Scottish breakfast”, it was very tasty! Monica also enjoyed a baked potato, which is a staple food here in Scotland. After eating, we explored the town of Paisley together and finally bought pillows for our flat!! Yay! (no more sleeping on my airplane neck pillow…lol). For the remainder of the afternoon, we took some photos together and explored the old churches in the area. The main attraction here in Paisley (the town we are staying in, near Glasgow), is “The Paisley Abbey”, which is an old church that dates back to the 12th century! It is so beautiful and we are so lucky as it can be seen from our flat window.
After finishing our exploring for the day, we visited Morrison’s (a UK grocery store), to do some food shopping and use their wifi. We are loving all the new and exciting products that are offered here. What an adventure it has been. When we got home, I made us some long-grain rice and vegetables for supper (alongside some trustee convenience store bananas! Which are surprisingly very good).
I finished packing my school bag for tomorrow and prepared myself for bed. I went to bed around 9pm. I know that seems early, but since it gets dark so early, we feel tired much quicker. Also, we did a ton of walking today.
Tomorrow marks the first official day of classes!! We are both so excited!
Love and Greeting from Bonnie Scotland!
You can continue to follow Monica and I’s adventures by following us on our Instagrams;
Melanie: @melanie_mueller5
Monica: @milamoniquemara

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
School of Community and Health Studies

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.

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!!!




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 lonely.us^IT HELPED THAT THESE GREAT PEOPLE WERE HERE.^

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


Balie Tipico de Costa Rica by Llano Bonito Elementary School

First rehearsal of Costa Rican traditional dance, Balie Tipico, proudly presented by Grade 3 students from Llano Bonito Elementary School. Enjoy 🙂

Created July 2015
Beidi Zong

Music “This is my song” by Mindy Gledhill

19+30 for BETTER

“Into the unknown… embrace the fall… enjoy the ride…”

These are phrases I kept telling myself while I prepared for a trip described by many, as a trip of a lifetime. It wasn’t a trip, it was far from that, it was an experience of a lifetime, and I was not prepared for the impact it would have on me or everyone else, I don’t think anybody was. We were 19 students, strangers to each other, with different backgrounds, different believes and different career paths, put together for one single goal; be better and encourage others to be better. The fact that we all came from such different places became an asset; we saw things differently, we had numerous reactions to a single situation and we pushed each other forward, sometimes by agreeing with each other, others by disagreeing with each other. Each one of us played a key part in this experience, there was something unique of everyone that shone throughout the journey; like Althea’s everlasting smile and undying enthusiasm, Irfan’s playfulness and bad jokes, Nisha’s serene voice and attitude, Courtney’s empathy and charm with the kids, Crystal’s willingness to help, Rohini’s resolve, Mila’s funny craziness… too many to name them all. However, I’m grateful to have shared this journey with them.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Samuel Beckett

After our time in the mountains, we traveled back to Xichang to meet 30 Fu Hui Girls with whom we spent the next 5 days during the Empowerment Camp. During this time, we tried to give the girls all our collective knowledge and wisdom (as little as it might be since we are all still learning) through the workshops. In return, they gave us so much more, they showed unmeasurable gratitude, joy and love. They reminded me what it is like to see the world through innocent eyes, to be open to change without fear and to enjoy the little things. In our final day with the girls, we were surprised to that none of the girls in our Team Happy was outside to meet us upon arrival like the rest. As we walked inside, we found our girls in the classroom, practicing for our performance. To me, this gesture meant our goal was accomplished. By this little silly thing, a performance for the rest of the class. We saw them working on their own, setting the bar higher and trying to be better for themselves. Those were my last words to the girls before saying goodbye, be better everyday. Everyone has their own version, they pushed us for ours as much as we did so for theirs.

There were too many amazing, touching and memorable moments during this journey. One in particular comes to mind, on the first day with the girls, one came up to me, we chatted for 2 minutes, we got separated into other groups, then after an activity we were back to our places. When I saw this girl again, I greeted her by name, the look on the face was indescribable, she was so surprised, touched and excited that I remembered her name, we connected right there and from that point on whenever she saw me, it was the same joy, excitement and pure appreciation from that first day, right until the last day with her gripping my hand strongly as we were saying goodbye. Her name was Mabel, it will not be forgotten. During this journey, I was reminded to be grateful, to appreciate the little simple things, and to never underestimate the impact you can have on someone else’s life. We choose whether it is for the BETTER.


Centennial College Student Ambassadors
Centennial College and Fu Hui Education Foundation
Team Happy
Linda – Limay – Miranda – Yuonne – Monica – Max – Chelsa
With the girls
Enjoy the moment

The Changing Experience

Being chosen to go on a GCELE within Canada – PEI I did not really understand why in Canada as I did not see absolute poverty in Canada which was my idea of poverty. Although Canada has a lot of relative poverty such as living pay check to pay check. After meeting the family at the welcome dinner I started to understand why I was here. Erika (the mother) also wrote us the letter below which was so nice to read after meeting her.


I realized that this trip was not about me but to serve others. I still had not seen the awe factor of what my hard work was going to do for a family to its full extent until Day 4.

Journal entry Day 4,

Erika and Alyannah (the family we were building a house for) showed up this afternoon to see the progress on the house and they were so happy. When I asked Alyannah (the child) where her room was she would run to her window inside and say look this is my room banging on the window with such a big smile on her face. That was worth it all, to see her face was incredible. Aly asked me if we could go out back to see the work we had done on her house so I went with her. I brought her back inside and Erika came up to me and said thank you so much. She was like I am just going to give you a hug. That was absolutely amazing to be apart of.

This encounter/entry made me realize what we were doing was giving a family such joy, hope, safety and love. They were so thankful by the end of the week of what our team had accomplished. We built the entire foundation of her two bed room, one bathroom home. At the end of the week the family and Habitat for Humanity PEI thanked us with a thank you dinner. Erika and Alyannah were so thankful! Alyannah gave us each one of these unique frames below with a map of PEI on it. Alyannah had drew a heart on it where we built her house. It was absolutely precious to see her face and for such a shy little girl at the beginning of the week to come out of her shell and love us so much!


Myself and Erika top left, Myself and Alyannah top right, and the thank you gift from Alyannah on the bottom.

Rebecca Harber

Habitat for Humanity PEI


Early Childhood Education Program