FLIP ; Dominica Republic Experience 2018 (Part 1)

Hola/ Hi everyone, come with me on this reflective journey as I share my first-day experience in the Dominica Republic FLIP 2018. We arrived at the Eco-lodge in the hills of Tubagua, it was the most natural place I have ever been in my whole life with a beautiful breath-taking view.

The day begins with breakfast: fresh fruits, homemade granola, yogurt, eggs, sausage, and toast. Next is our coastal drive in the town of Puerto Plata where Alexis, our amazing tour guide, shared short enlightening anecdotes of the country’s history with us along the way. First stop was the cable car ride in Puerto Plata, this service fully funded by the government 60% of this profit given back to the community and 40% use to pay staff and maintenance. The day was full of awe-inspiring moments, but one of the most highlighting moments for me was the cable car ride up to the mountain of Isabella de la Torres. Why? This mountain is about 2,225 ft high, yes!!!!!! It’s that high. In my opinion, it was a frightening and exciting moment all at once for most of us including myself. However, once we arrived at the top of the mountain all that changed as we disembarked from the car and started taking pictures of the beauty in sight. The atmosphere was welcoming both by local vendors and local peoples. The use of local goods and services was fully evident they use the local resources to create some form of short/ long term employment by building on their natural resources. For example, we bought from the local vendors stalls souvenirs such as jewelry made from local material called larimar a rare blue stone found only in the Dominica Republic. We then made our way down the trail stopped at a cave (yes ppl a cave),  which appears to have been there since the time of the Tainos.  I would say my day was a full course meal and i enjoyed every moment. multiple stops between but this is just a taste for you.

International Development in Panama

As a student in the International Development Program at Centennial College, I had the opportunity to participate in the Faculty-Led International Program (FLIP) to Panama of the Services and Global Experience (SaGE). As the program’s name implies, the idea was to complement our learning at Centennial College with experience abroad, to know more about the work of international organizations on the ground.


The destination was the City of Knowledge (CoK) in Panama City. CoK is a hub where UN agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), think tanks and educational organizations share a space to facilitate mutual cooperation on development issues.

The academic aspect was our top priority in the trip. We had a valuable and incomparable experience. But, we also had the opportunity to taste and enjoy the Panamanian culture. We took a tour of Panama City and learned about historical and cultural sites. The visual contrast between the old and new parts of the city was surprising. The city has two different faces standing literally beside each other; that was like being in two completely different parts of the world when we were in fact in the same city.

As expected, the gastronomy is highly based on seafood as the city is surrounded by water – so we got to try it. But, as expected for travelers like my classmates and I, we decided to try different things every day, not only from Panama but also from different Latin American cuisines. Food lovers would understand why we do not regret it!

According to one of our hosts, diversity in Panama City can be compared to Toronto but on a smaller dimension, as one can see many people from different backgrounds in one city, this can be attributed to the Panama Canal and its importance in trade for different nations. Our trip was short so we experienced just a bit of that diversity.


My recommendation: If you get the opportunity to participate in this kind of experience, just take it! It will force you to get out of your comfort zone, challenge you to adapt to a new environment, open your eyes to different realities, allow you to experience a little more of the world you live in, know more about different people and cultures rather than what you are used to and, along with all of that you will learn a little more about yourself. If you get an opportunity to go to a different place, learn, discover, do yourself a favor and be a traveler, not just a tourist.

Violeta Bastida
International Development

panama dancers



I am Lawrence, a student of Community Development Work at Centennial College.

We went on a FLIP to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic to bring our studies of Community Economic Development (CED) to life and to learn from the locals’ experiences.  Interestingly, all the contents and principles of Community Economic Development that was taught in class really did come to life in this context as we observed real people put these principles into practical application.

On our trio we learned that tourism is one of the mainstays of the economy in the Dominican Republic, after remittance.

The principles of CED focus on the use of local resources, by the local community to create wealth for the benefits of all, improve quality of life and enhance socio-economic well- being for people.  The principle I would specifically like to focus on are the use of and benefits to the physical environment.  There are many rich ecological resources present at different locations of the Dominica Republic that help to drive the citizens’ collaborative efforts. For example, natural vegetation within a lush nature  provides fresh and unpolluted air, fertile soil for agricultural produce (cash crops i.e. coffee, cocoa) and food crops such as bananas and so many other varieties of tropical fruits.


Mineral resources such as Amber, the sand, sea, and sun are also all natural resources that stimulate the economy and the community members’ enterprising spirit.
I observed that the Dominicans are very friendly and entertaining, they also make good use their local resources to promote the growth and development of their tourism industry. They have been very successful as many of the citizens are gainfully employed in the industry of tourism. The increases in the tourists arrival was also noticed both at airport and on a visit to one of the popular beach in a town called, Sosua.

I really appreciate this great privilege from Centennial College. Travelling to the Dominican Republic to see and observe community development principles in real action was incredible as a learning experience. This exposure is an indelible asset for me. I will apply the knowledge acquired from this trip to foster, promote and stimulate the growth of any community that I will have to work in future by helping them to identify the local resources, emphasize on their strengths, promote themselves and  encourage economic self-reliance through their natural assets and resources.


Blog design & Photo credit: Hasan Mahbub, Faculty- Community Development Work.

Isabel’s FLIP experience in Dominican Republic

Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again. –Nelson Mandela

My name is Isabel Murambiwa, and I am a student studying in the Community Development Work program. During our FLIP to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, we learned how the local citizens of this area are involved in  Community-Based Tourism.


Lissete, a Community Development specialist in the area who works with the Ministry of Tourism, visited us at the Tubagua Eco-Lodge, where we stayed, to present to us about this new concept of Community-Based Tourism (CBT). From her account I understood that this type of tourism empowers local communities and residents to have substantial control, involvement, and management of their community’s development so that the benefits and profits remain within the community. CBT also fosters use of and collective responsibility for initiatives of ecological sustainability within the community.


With respect to the Community Economic Development principles I observed, locals in this Puerto Plata region rely on their locally produced goods and services. For example, the food we ate while staying at the Eco-Lodge was locally produced and the staff that worked at this Lodge were also locals in the Tubagua area. Even the Damajagua Water Falls, a project started by local youth, who have managed to build schools and buy buses with the proceeds they get, has now become one of the regions’ great attractions for both locals and tourists.


In conclusion, I would like to say, I enjoyed every moment while in the Dominican Republic and would go back again if an opportunity comes. I would like to thank Centennial College, International department and the professors that travelled with us. for giving me an opportunity of this great International experience in my learning and this will open many doors for me.

Blog design & Photo credit: Hasan Mahbub, Faculty- Community Development Work.

Principles into Practice: Community Development Work Students FLIP to the Dominican Republic

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Faculty Led International Programs (FLIPs) are a unique learning approach that was implemented at Centennial College early this year. As our first engagement the FLIP model of approaching international learning experiences, members of our Community Development Work program visited the Dominican Republic during Student Engagement week this past Winter 2017 semester.  Nine students from the Community Economic Development (CED) course and two faculty members visited the region of Puerto Plata to learn about an emerging tool of economic development referred to as Community-Based Tourism. This FLIP has provided an opportunity to our students to look at CED through an international context and apply theoretical knowledge in new intercultural settings.

DSC_3783During the trip, students stayed in the Tubagua Eco-Lodge (www.tubagua.com) and visited various tourist places and social enterprises such as the historical Mount Isabella, the Damajagua 27 waterfalls, the Pedro Garcia Coffee Plantation and Production, and a an Amber Mine location with local artisans and artisan products. We also enjoyed a handful of key note guest speakers come to share their stories of building community organizations throughout the region into a coalition to address the needs of local people along with their motivations to engage a community development strategy that would help them address and improve the economic, social and environmental conditions of their region and the communities that compose it. One of those guests included a band of Merengue musicians, Community activists in their own right, recounting the history and origins of Merengue music and the power it has to invigorate and unite the locals in celebration of their unique cultural and traditions.

Our students received not only a wonderful experience from all these community-led tourism programs, but also applied their classroom learning, namely the 13 principles of Community Economic Development, to assess the Strengths, Weakness and Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) of each tourist program. After each day of field work, students participated in the SWOT analysis all for the purpose of preparing a report on the experience to send to the Director of the Chamber of Commerce, Puerto Plata.

Here are the 11 Principles of CED our students used as a lens to integrate their experiential learning into the application of CD in action:


Our students and faculty would like to thank Centennial College for giving us such a wonderful learning experience. We would like to thank Jennifer Woodill, Chair Community Services for her encouragement, and the office of Global Citizenship and Education team for their support. We also appreciate the great cooperation of Tim Hall who hosted and coordinated our visit in Puerto Plata.

This is our first blog on the FLIP in Dominican Republic. Our students and faculty will be sharing their stories and experiences in the next few blogs. Please stay tuned!


Blog written by:

Hasan Mahbub, Faculty; & Rachel Larabee, Program Coordinator, Community Development Work Program. Centennial College.
Photography: Hasan and FLIP Team.
For more information, please contact: mhasan@centennialcollege.ca & rlarabee@centennialcollege.ca

I went to China, and it changed my life


I mean, it really did. And I’ve been back for over a month (or 2) now and have spent most of that time trying to figure out how to put a life changing experience into words. Starting from the beginning is always good, which in the beginning of this journey I almost didn’t apply. One of my professors passed along a message to my classmate saying he thought we would both be awesome candidates for this opportunity. I was flattered. Ok I was anxious first, then nervous, then flattered. I’m a mature student with 2 little ones and I’d never spent 2 weeks (the duration of the FLIP) away from them. It wasn’t an exciting thought. Then the typical anxieties came flooding in like what if I don’t like it? The flight is so long!! What am I going to eat there?? It went on like this for sometime, until on the deadline day for the application I decided to go for it with hours to spare. We can fast forward all the red tape up to the fact that I went and it was amazing!

As a hospitality student and lover, I was so impressed and pleased with how we were treated. From the moment we landed and were introduced to our student friends and professors, they were the definition of hospitable. They wouldn’t even let us carry our own luggage! The very first night there we were taken out to the most amazing dinner. This was probably first “I’m not in Toronto anymore” moment because they only had chopsticks to eat with and I was so hungry, I had no choice but to learn. And the food was amazing! Only one of many amazing meals I would experience.

Suzhou is a beautiful place, both during the day and at night. A modern city that’s always busy. That made me feel more at home. Where we stayed was a place called the education town which is basically an area filled with colleges and universities from around the world, apartments and little plazas and grocery stores. There were always students buzzing around buying coffee and breakfast to get to class or buying dinner to go home and study with. I instantly felt at ease being here, any anxieties I felt before the trip were gone. Of course there were cultural differences, we had to squat to use most public toilets (a lot easier than I thought it would be!), and there was an obvious language barrier. But none of these things made our trip difficult, in fact I enjoyed all the new experiences and being outside of my comfort zone.

Did I mention this was a culinary FLIP? I like to cook as much as I like to write an essay (not very much) but Chef Feng made it easy, enjoyable and loveable. They only use one knife in Chinese cooking, a cleaver, and while it takes some getting used to, it is much easier than switching out knives all the time. They also only use a wok to cook every part of the meal in. The meat/fish, the rice, the veggies everything! After each part is done the wok gets a quick rinse and it’s on to the next. My fondest memory would have to be that by the end of the trip we had memorized Chef’s go to seasoning for every dish we made: Salt, pepper, little sugar, little MSG (still a huge part of Chinese cuisine), little Chinese cooking wine/vinegar. Like clock work, we would add this combination to every meal. Some of my most memorable moments were spent in the kitchen learning new things and jumping out of my comfort zone.

Other memorable times were the time spent in the classroom with our amazing teacher Lissy learning about Chinese culture. Every thing about their history and way of life is based off of their rich history. Every holiday has a deeply touching story, stories about love, respect and happiness. We created a presentation all about Canada, lead by myself, some other students and our teacher Wenli. We taught everyone about our own culture, history, we even passed around some of our coloured money (their money is still paper and all one colour there) It ended with a game to test their listening skills which everyone loved! On our day off, we took a trip to the beautiful Shanghai by local subway and speed train. Shanghai is one of the most stunning places I’ve seen, reminding me of Toronto or New York City. And finally, at the end of my trip, it was my birthday and to get to celebrate it with new friends both from home and abroad, made it one of my most unforgettable yet.

The last night in Suzhou was the best by far. We had the chance to talk about our experiences on this trip, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. We cried and cried, so moved and forever changed by these short two weeks. I cannot thank Chef Sam, Wenli, and the SAGE team for giving me the opportunity to take this trip. Enjoy a small fraction of some of the pictures we took on this trip. It truly changed me and I will forever be grateful. If you ever have a chance to visit China, do it! Your heart and your stomach will be better from it.

All photo creds go to my picture goddess Julie Miguel http://www.juliemiguel.com. She also made a blog post about China, so head on over to check it out!


Thanks for reading 🙂


Renee Tingle