United With the Great Leaders of Today

By Sharrmini C., GCELE Jamaica 2016

Volunteering at the Power to Be International in Negril, Jamaica was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had, especially because it was my first experience interacting with kids in a camp environment. I was so excited to teach, motivate and empower the kids, the minute I landed in Jamaica.

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But there was one particular valuable experience I have had with two campers in my class. After lunch time, I was supervising the girls’ dance group when one of the campers confronted another and said that she couldn’t accept her in the dance group. There was a rush of thoughts going through my head – How do I solve this conflict? Should I comfort the camper, whose feelings just got hurt, first? I decided to comfort the camper and then give a talk about inclusion to the girl, who confronted the camper. As I was teaching a lesson to the girl, I asked “How would you feel if she didn’t want you to be part of the dance group?” The girl responded “I don’t care if [she] didn’t want me to be in her group”. I was expecting her to say something completely opposite of her response. I figured the inclusion talk didn’t work so, I decided to ask for help from a staff member about the situation. When the staff member and I went back to the girls’ group, we saw all the girls smiling, laughing and practicing the dance and they were acting as if a conflict had never even happened. The camper who confronted another came to tell me she apologized to the girl for not including her in the dance group.

I was there to teach and motivate the kids, but I was also there to learn and grow with them. Despite the conflict, I’ve learned that unity is one of the most important concepts of being a great leader. Unity helps one another grow as individuals and learn from each other. A leader who unites people to accomplish a goal and to resolve an issue is a great leader. A great leader who unites people together brings success to the team. When the kids got together to finish their dance routine after the conflict, they taught me about unity and how to be a great leader. This particular experience has showed me that we must not resent each other after a conflict has occurred but to unite and to become a better leader every day.

 

 

My GCELE Learning Experience

It’s been a month since I came back from my GCELE. Words cannot describe the impact this trip has made on my life. This trip impacted my life as an individual, but also as a Child and Youth Worker.

Juliana1.pngAs a young adult, I am still learning a lot about myself and the world around me. Being a part of this GCELE trip has helped me understand a part of who I am and what I believe. Being in Negril was so different than Toronto. Being in such a quiet peaceful country really allowed me to think about who I am and where I come from. Alongside with the youth of Negril and my Centennial College peers, I really learned a lot about myself. Some things I knew about myself, some things were brought out during this trip. All these positive things I took back with me to Canada and implemented into my day to day life.

Juliana2.pngNow as a CYW I was truly blessed to be given this learning experience. This trip really taught me how to work with youth while maintaining an anti-oppression perspective but also being culturally aware of the youth I work with. This has been a long term goal I set when I started my CYC program last fall. As I worked placements in Canada, this was really the icing on the cake for completing this goal. I feel I really grew as a future CYW and cannot wait to bring my experience with me to my future placements. Working with Camp Power to Be was really eye opening and I am beyond thankful for this experience.

GCELE Jamaica 2016, Juliana Cristofoli

Be Who You Want To Be

At their Jr. High School in the mountains Butuo County, we asked a class of Grade 8 girls the same question we were asked at their age: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Most girls answered that they wanted to be a doctor, teacher, or famous singer. I found it curious that the girls wanted to enter into the same professions, despite each of their unique qualities and talents.

When we returned to Xichang, a larger city outside of Butuo, we ran a similar Career Workshop with a different class of girls and asked them the same question. We were pleasantly surprised by a host of varied and enthusiastic answers: lawyer, chef, fashion designer and shop owner, music teacher, engineer! These students were older and had received more education than the younger students in Butuo.

We worked with the students to create their own “Dream Boards” to show their hopes and dreams and who they aspired to become in the future. One of the students had the most thoughtful Dream Board. It showed that she wanted to travel the world, become a lawyer, or an accountant, or a ballet dancer, get married and become a good mother.

When she presented her Dream Board to our group, she said, “I used to only have one dream. But the future is uncertain, so we must have many dreams. You must be who you want to be!”

Our group on our last day together. Our t-shirts say,
Our group on our last day together. Our t-shirts say, “Make the most of it”.

The students in Xichang grew up in Butuo County and have had to overcome many obstacles to get where they are today. In spite of their difficult journeys, the girls in Xichang dared to dream to enter such creative and personalized professions because their education has allowed and inspired them to.

On this GCELE, my ideas on the value of education were reinforced. Education has the power to reach into a seemingly hopeless situation, widen horizons, open doors to opportunities for growth and excellence, and maximize potential.

Education truly makes a profound difference. It is a priceless gift. You and I have the power to give it!

– Althea Gorospe

Educate A Girl, Educate A Village

I met Emma at her Jr. High School in the mountains of Butuo County. At almost nineteen years old, Emma is the eldest of her class. I remember that she is shy, but has the kindest smile and the strongest singing voice. She impressed me by saying that she wanted to be a photographer or journalist. To me, these seemed to be out-of-the-box professions, as her classmates wanted to be doctors, teachers, or famous singers. As I helped her fill out the Goal Worksheet we distributed to her class, she told me that she loved watching the news reporters on television. She wanted to see the world and take photographs of her travels.

Photo taken by Emma.
Photo taken by Emma.

Emma had lived a difficult life and still dared to dream. Her hopeful and resilient spirit humbled and inspired me. We spent the rest of the day by each other’s side. She held my hand as we said goodbye; I didn’t want to let go. I reminded her to never give up on her dreams and to always keep smiling. She asked me to never forget her, and I certainly never will.

Later, I learned that Emma’s mother had pulled her out of school three years earlier. Her mother had arranged a marriage for her, and she was engaged to a man from her village. Emma’s family had already paid a dowry to the man’s family. Her mother insisted that she give up her education so that she could return home and get married.

Fu Hui Education Foundation negotiated with Emma’s family in order for her to return to school. They made a contract that would allow for Emma to attend school for another three years, until she finished Jr. High School.

Outside of Emma's school in Butuo County, Sichuan Province, China.
Outside of Emma’s school in Butuo County, Sichuan Province, China.

Unknowingly, I met Emma while she was in the last days of her formal education. Summer was fast approaching, and Emma was due to return home and get married. She would never be able to attend high school, graduate from university as a journalist, or travel the world.

I can’t describe the feeling I felt when I learned the truth; perhaps I could say disappointment, or sorrow; burdened, or heartbroken. Perhaps a mix of all of those. One of the kind Fu Hui volunteers comforted me with this: that although Emma would not be able to continue her education, she would return to her village as an educated woman. Emma has received endless benefits from her education, and she would share these with her family, her future children, and others in her village. She will be a beacon of light, a carrier of knowledge that can lead to hope for a better life.

“If you educate a boy, you educate an individual. If you educate a girl, you educate a village.” – African Proverb

Emma and I.
Emma and I.

– Althea Gorospe

Journey to Butuo – The Fu Hui Foundation and the lives that it’s changed

CHINA GCELE 2015

To say that this trip to China has been the greatest most impactful experience of my life would be an understatement. How do you begin to tell the story of a journey that has changed so many lives? Not just of the college students and teachers who participated in this experience, but of the children who we worked with and who have had a chance at a better life through the Fu Hui Educational foundation.

The Whole Group
The Whole Group

Into the Mountains…

The car ride into the mountains from Xichang to Butuo was rocky, to say the least. The rugged roads were extremely bumpy and winding through the most gorgeous landscapes. We passed villages filled with houses mostly of the same build, marked with the Yi emblem. Female villagers (and even some children) walked by with big woven baskets from working in the fields. Livestock seemed to roam freely and children (from infancy up) in groups or alone were also on the sides of the road, seeming to be taking care of each other, an image most of us can’t comprehend. Men were seen sitting in groups on the sides of the streets in conversation while women were weaving intricate coats that we’d see other villagers sporting. I asked one of the Volunteers Sylvia why it was almost all women I saw working and she advised me that men were more privileged in the Yi society, and therefore didn’t need to work, a fact that not only baffled me by it’s inequality but also by the economic stress it must cause.

Hardworking women and children of Butuo
Hardworking women and children of Butuo

Home Visits…

On our first day in the mountains we went on home visits to some of the Fu hui students homes, which would result in being one of our most emotional days of the trip. Seeing the living conditions of their homes was eye opening, there was no plumbing, no electricity, a bed shared by 3 was a luxury, a roof made of straw that leaked when it rained, all things we take for granted back home. The home I visited was of a girl named Sai Zi (pronounced Sigh-Zuh) who’s Grandmother was raising her and her older brother, after her father died and her mother was remarried and moved away. The Grandmother was moved to tears and brought many of us to tears in return, we told her what a great job she had been doing raising her grandchildren. When she was given some eggs (a valuble commodity to the Yi people) she offered one to Sai Zi and one to her neighbour, a gesture so generous of someone with so little. 

Inside Sai Zi's home with her Grandmother and Brother
Inside Sai Zi’s home with her Grandmother and Brother

Walking back to the school holding Sai Zi’s hand, I didn’t want to let go, I wanted to bring her home with me to have a better life, but I knew it wasn’t my place, that through Fu Hui she was getting an education and a chance for a better life. A chance I pray her brother gets as well, as he’s unsponsored and less likely to escape the hardships that his elders had.

Not wanting to let go
Not wanting to let go
With Sai Zi and her brother
With Sai Zi and her brother

That same day, gathered in a circle we learned and danced with the Fu hui students their traditional Yi dance. It felt amazing and welcoming to be able to share that with the children. All of these activities helped prepare us for what was to come, our whole purpose of this journey to China: to run the empowerment camps. And now that we were aquainted with the children and understood their backrounds, another part of our journey was about to begin.

Dancing the Yi traditional dance
Dancing the Yi traditional dance

Stay tuned for Part 2…

By Julia Frankling

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.

Jules

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