Learning experience

My experience in Neyaashinnigmiing was filled with opportunities to meet Natives and learn about the connection between what we know as sustainability and their common knowledge of protecting the land and water. I think there are a lot of misconceptions, and perhaps I held some of those stereotypes as well, that the traditions of the Native people are lost. What I have learnt is that if anything the traditions are thriving. Considering the system has been set out to make sure inequality, especially among the Natives, remains, it is a wonder that a community could be so resilient. I am a witness to the inequality, by learning about the issue of housing on the reserve, and I sat through a land claims hearing that is only meant to discredit the fact that the Natives of Canada were here before any of us. I have learnt how subtle inequality functions in our society. Inequality now perpetuates through technicalities. Regulations, financing, purchases all require written code and have loopholes due to the nature of our Treaty system. Natives can be swindled out of opportunity simply because the Canadian government does not want to address how to incorporate the Treaty system into our own established paradigm. Before anything can truly be done about inequality, acknowledging the root causes must be done first. I believe the root causes of the inequalities in our society stems very much from denial. Governments deny the history of when the inequalities in society really started to become disparaged. Even when it comes to addictions, mental illness, and homelessness in our society, recognition of individualized histories of how these members of society become vulnerable is ignored. There are a lot of assumptions in a society like as long as you have education, health care or employment, that is enough for you to sustain yourself. But it is not enough, humans go through stresses, which I think relates a lot to see the devastation in the world. Seeing nature being treated the way it is, feeling helpless to this, and feeling helpless when it comes to seeing wars, or famines in the world as well. Humans are living in an unsustainable world, and the call to action feels weak at times. But speaking on these issues and showing a counter-argument to what is seen as the cultural norm, can change minds and hearts when it comes to voting and making sustainable choices.

Staying on the reserve


Staying in Neyaashinnigmiing, changed my outlook on Native communities from reading so much, to actually meeting the people that I did. When one of the Native fishermen was sharing his story, I was overwhelmed with tears. I had to step outside into the cold and felt the air like never before. I felt like I was suffocating when the cold air filled my lungs, it quickly stopped my tears. That is the power of storytelling, of sharing experiences. Face to face conversations moves the objective story away from the forefront and the true human emotions come forward. Understanding does not come from books only, it comes from our lived experiences. To truly believe in change, you must value what you know.

What we can do


The key to sustainability is the individuals’ choices. By raising awareness, and questioning people’s core beliefs in what they hold to know to be true about the environment, about themselves, and about the interaction between oneself and nature. The Bagadiwaad-Alliance will continue to educate students, sowing seeds of knowledge throughout communities in Ontario. I have learnt too much now to not try to take that seed and let it grow throughout the Centennial College community. The biggest lesson I took from the global experience program is what pride means to me. Understanding pride also means understanding shame. I am proud to be Canadian and I am proud of how beautiful the land is here. I am also ashamed that my choices could potentially contribute to a climate and food crisis. Every choice I make can be as small as treading a needle to as large as being a leader in motivating others to make more sustainable choices. We are humans, we can make mistakes, but we can also make the choice to correct them as that is the power of free will. Every choice we make is an exchange with mother earth. Everything is matters from nature, from the concrete we walk on to the beautiful flowers we see. Mother earth can teach us as well as sustain us. If we listen with our minds, hearts, and intuition, we will protect future generations.

– Oriana Cardarelli-Goddard, GCELE



GCELE Kenya 2019 – 14 days – Lives Transformed.

GCELE Kenya 

(We invite you to read, ponder and feel free to comment and share this blog with others. For more information on how you can be a change advocator or learn more about evolving in your understanding and opportunity as a Global Citizenship, please visit Centennial College Centre for Global Citizenship Education and Inclusion.)

We chose to construct this blog as a team where individuals shared daily reflections and in turn transformed 13 individual posts into one to share our experiences more holistically. Our hope is that not only will you glean insights from our experiences but also be challenged to support and use the privilege and influences that we have as individuals and a collective society to create meaningful and impactful change.

Kenya, a land of kindness. A place where wildlife and humans co-exist respectfully. A nation where the people are so vast and diverse yet celebrate their cooperative society by embodying what it means to make sure the past is honoured, the present is celebrated, and the future preserved. A land where the world should learn from ways that blend the advanced and the simple to create sustainable systems.

We were fortunate to have been allowed to attend as a group of 13 inspired and heart-directed representatives from across the college (ten students and 3 Faculty members) for ten days in Kenya through Centennial College and the visionary Global Citizenship office. A college where Global Citizenship and Social Justice is at the forefront of the academic experience and where donors come together selflessly to provide transformative experiences for the college community through different initiatives. A college where the focus is on offering the highest level of education but with a realization that learning the curriculum is only one essential aspect of creating change. Providing strategically crafted experiences guarantees that in our own way, assumptions can be broken down, divides solidified into a strong movement, minds shifted and the theoretical transformed into the applied.

These 14 days were an intense blend of collaborating with teachers and students at the Mitero primary school as well as sitting in the quiet strength and presence of a 90 plus-year-old Momma, whose mind is as alert as if she was still 15 years old and carries an immeasurable physical power and reminds us that storytelling is a conduit to understanding the past and how it impacts the future. Nightly reflections under an uncountable amount of stars and constellations break down our assumptions, perceptions’ and stereotypes while educating and challenging our learning under the limitless sky around the bonfire. Experiences that remind us that privilege is fluid and it is what we do with our privilege that is most relevant and influential. The honour of listening and breathing in the stories, challenges and vision of two different Woman’s Camps that work from a ground roots effort to create actual change and understanding and a 5-hour walk into the beauty and vulnerability of the Ngare Ndare Endangered forest/conversancy. 14 days is not enough for us to create massive change no matter how hard we contributed through our collaboration – in fact, it is a gift that is given to us to learn and grow a seed in our minds.

We heard a perfect quote from one of the managers at a Nursery where they grow exotic and indigenous plants, trees and flowers that they will sell to the community to create future growth. A place where if you buy 10 plants/flowers/trees – they will automatically plant 10 more for free. WHY? It’s a selfless, practical and visionary way to provide value and continuous rebirth to the community, earth and the future.

This gentleman said, ‘planting is not the key to true life; growth is.’ What he reminded us was that if we want to see permanent change – we cannot ‘plant’ something and walk away. We need to grow it – through unconditional love, intelligence, commitment, hard work, curiosity, kindness, attention and respect. This trip has done this. The long-term results of the growth will be determined through each of the individuals that were selected to be part of this experience. However; we feel confident that change has happened and like a butterfly, the transformation will be stunningly convincing.


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In the words of the students….

April 29, 2019 (Reflection #1) Silvio Santos

Our first full day! We went to the elephant orphanage in the morning and could see an organization involved in taking care of and preparing baby elephants to go back to nature. We saw them having milk with a gigantic baby bottle, eating tree branches and even touch them before heading to our first camp on the border of Ol Pejata Conservancy.

April 29, 2019, Kaitlyn Popert (Reflection #2) (Program – Social Service Worker Diploma Program)

We started our first full day in Kenya with a trip to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage just outside of Nairobi. This was by far one of the best experiences for me since it has always been a dream of mine to experience the endless energy and joy that baby elephants offer. Everything we experienced after this was just a bonus. My favourite part about this day was hearing the journey these orphaned elephants have gone through, from being rescued to rehabilitation and being released back into the wild. The dedication and love the caretakers provided was reflected in the way the elephants engaged with them and the visitors. I would visit this amazing place again and again.

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April 30, 2019 – Ukweli Wilson Reflection #1 (Program – Bachelors of Public Relations Management)

The Art of Perseverance

I really am so grateful at this moment. Firstly, I’ll start by saying that God really does have a sense of humour. A couple weeks ago, I remember specifically praying and asking to be more efficient when completing tasks and just generally getting into the habit of persevering through difficult circumstances; too many times I find myself being intimidated by daunting situations which often results in me giving up. Added to this however is my general contempt towards physical activities and pursuits which I view as more of a mental challenge than the physical one at hand- more often than not, I give up mentally before even attempting, and this too was something I wanted to work on personally.

Today was our first official day of work at Mitero Primary School. Initially, we thought the school was about a 5-minute walk from our camp, but it turned out that it was actually a different school we’d be going to that this one was about a 45-minute walk away! Needless to say, my first morning going to school was a challenge! (I would also learn to appreciate and welcome that word “challenge” more as the trip progressed.) The walk to the school could be defined by two main factors; extreme heat and length. Some parts of the journey saved us by providing shady forestry which allowed for us to cool down, just before embarking on another set of equator-temperature sun. With this being our first time making this trek, it definitely seemed more challenging- we were unsure of our exact destination and had no clear end in sight. But on we went- and what a treat was in store for our day ahead!

Upon our arrival at the school, the student’s break time came soon after. When the students saw us in the courtyard, the whole school came running out of class and towards us, swarming all around. It really was quite a moment. One little girl in particular by the name of Ann stuck by my side for the entire break. Playing with the students of Mitero after completing a very challenging walk for me was the icing on the cake. The day in itself provided so many personal victories. Even though I initially felt very overwhelmed by the day, having accomplished those few challenges gave me a feeling of hope which I took with me throughout the remainder of the trip. Would you believe I woke up the next day looking forward to the walk, and believe it or not, I gained new perspectives of the scenery and land we crossed with each journey I took?

Whenever faced with a difficulty or challenge now, I first ensure that my mentality is positive. With that, persevering through anything comes so much more easily! I’m thankful for that very challenging day which preceded and set the tone for the rest of our time in Kenya. What an experience!

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May 1st, 2019 – Tommy Lu (Program – Bachelor of Science in Nursing Collaborative Nursing Degree.

 It is only the third day in Kenya and I can already say this trip is something I will treasure and cherish in my heart. May 1st is our second day with Mitero primary school however it is also Labour Day in Kenya, meaning no classes. Despite the fact that there was no school, we still had the delightful experience of playing with a few students that decided to come along! What surprised me the most was the fact that Samuel, the father of two of the students, took time out of his day to come help and talk with us. His work habits and dedication is truly an inspiration to many who had the pleasure of being able to interact with him.

During our discussion with the teachers of Mitero, they talked about how parents are usually supportive of their children going to school however their impact on the school remains neutral. Samuel, however, is an excellent example of a positive contribution to Mitero. All the work he does for the school is unpaid for, meaning he is offering his time in order to give the students of Mitero a better environment for education. He is someone who truly believes that education is important and acknowledges that it is crucial for children to be educated and pursue a future that differs from that of the traditional lifestyle that many Kenyan children are still used to.

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May 2, 2019 – Abdalla Ali (Program – Truck and Coach Technician Diploma)

My day on the 2nd of May started off like no other, we had breakfast at the camp and headed to the school. What happened after lunch is what really got to me the most. While waiting for the meeting with the teachers, Natashia and I decided to go into a classroom that had no teacher after the students insisted that we come in and do something with them. The school had a limited number of teachers and that meant some classrooms had to wait for them to finish with others to get to them. While the students waited, they would take turns teaching the class on previous lessons. The students were very respectful, they stood up as we entered and greeted us with a welcome song and only sat down after we instructed them to do so. After some introductions, we started off with hangman and gave them easy words, but after a couple of the letters, they were already guessing big words. The level of intelligence they have was something that still amazes me, by the time we were doing harder words they were going through them like it was nothing. Their level of understanding and positive attitude towards learning is something that stood out to me. After the games, the students kept asking us questions and just wanted to learn more about us and where we came from. Their curiosity and hunger for knowledge reminded me of myself and how I always go out of my way to learn new things about my profession and personal interests. The students taught me to value the knowledge I have and never take for granted the resources I have access to here in Canada.

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Thank you Centennial College for this great experience.

So as today was our last day with the Mitero Kids, we were all ready to finish the last little bit of work there needs to be done. We had prepared a little song for the kids so they can sing along with us, and they shared their talents with us! We prepared the interactive Little Shark Song for them, which we ourselves enjoyed practicing. So as we reached the school we drank some water and continued to our designated work. As part of our project, our goal was to plant 100 trees and we were only a few behinds. Five of us continued to plant trees and today as we had more people we were able to dig more holes for the plants compared to the past few days. It was such an amazing experience planting trees and watering it once it’s done. The rest of our group continued with wall paintings (the talking walls on the outside of the school and educational pictures in the Kindergarten classroom.)

At the end of their school teacher and students welcomed is to the open around and they asked us to sit on the ground for some performance. Students from grade 7 started to dance and sing some songs for us. We all enjoyed every bit of it. And then Joyce (our amazing guide and partner from Rift Valley Adventures) went up and asked some academic questions and handed out prizes to the kids who answered it right following which came our part of the performance. We all gathered up at the front and started singing. The kids started to laugh and clap as the song was sung by our team. We improvised on the song a little bit and called in the school teachers to join is on the performance. In the end, we asked all the kids to join and it went so well and the happy part was, the kids loved the song. We all took a final pic together with all the students and teachers and our Centennial Team. It was a pleasure working and meeting the students. 🙂  It was such a nice and great learning experience for us and I was glad to be part of it.

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May 4, 2019 – Reflection #1 Abhishek Rajgor (Program – Construction Management)

After 4 days of overwhelming and beautiful experiences at the School, we had mixed feelings in terms of exploring newer activities of GCELE but also for not being able to be with the school kids. So the 7th day began with a relaxed morning schedule (which meant more sleep J), we were excited to explore the town of Nanyuki as it was our first instance of experiencing an urban environment in Kenya other than camp and the village we were at. The town was vivid in its own ways – from the colourful buildings to the sweet chaos of the marketplace, the town had everything to offer for a visual delight.

We strolled through the streets of the busiest areas of Nanyuki and were welcomed by locals at every corner with wide smiles & offering to visit their shops or stores.

It was indeed interesting to see how extremely contrasting the lives of people exist so closely in the town of Nanyuki which boasts almost all urban facilities and the small village of Mitero which struggles to get electricity on most days.

May 4, 2019 – Reflection #2 – The Wisdom of a Mama   

Today was a blend of the past, with a step into the future. Before heading into the urban town of Nanyuki, we walked to a nearby farm and was privileged to sit and listen in the presence of a 90 plus-year-old Mama. Her stories recounted experiences and lessons from her youth to the present day while she freely shared her wisdom and insights. Her small physical stature was overwhelmed by her quiet strength, eyes that have experienced many lessons and her joy and faith that she endeavours to pass on to future generations.

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May-5: Silvio Santos (Program – Program Management, Post-Graduate)

Safari day in Ol Pejeta. Time to see the animals in the reserve while having a lot of patience and maybe luck. The first animals to be seen were the impalas that were closed to some buffalos. Wild pigs with its big two teeth running, stopping eating grass, looking at the bus, running and stopping and so on. This animal had a short memory, it’s funny to observe it. Two charcoal were looking for eggs in a bird’s nest on the ground. Zebras with its unique stripes all over the body.

The reserve integrates agriculture with wildlife, there were around 40 cows with huge horns, a characteristic of Uganda cow type. I’m the night they are kept in a big cage so that they can be protected against lions. Cattle stays in the cage and will only go to eat grass in the reserve when they grow up enough to run away from lions. Lions usually don’t attack cows during the day because they prefer to avoid humans.

A family of three white rhinos (male, female and child) were spotted drinking water and defining territory by pooping. The reserve mission is to protect black rhinos and they’re doing a good job so far since in the 2000s the number of rhinos was 450 and nowadays is around 700. Poachers want the horns that are sold with a gram price higher than gold. It was believed that rhino horn powder would increase sexual performance, but nowadays it has been scientifically proofed it’s is a big mistake.

After lunch, we spotted a tower of giraffes when a ranger approached and told our bus driver the place where we could find two cheetahs. They were sleeping, but woke up, stared at us and slept again.

The day was fantastic so far, but it became perfect after we found a lioness and a lion – this closed our day with four of the five big animals. We couldn’t see Leopards (as they are not native to the conservancy) but it was great anyway.

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May 6 – 7, 2019 Nicole Umana – Project Management – Post Graduate Certificate

May 6th – Twala Maasai Village

By this point of the trip, we were already in the second half. We travelled for the most part of the day. Somewhere around 1 pm, we stopped to have lunch in the middle of what I called nowhere (probably somewhere for someone who knows the area) and ate lunch with the most amazing view.

We arrived at Twala, a space owned and managed by women of the Maasai Tribe. For the next two days, we were given the opportunity to camp there in order to learn more about how these women have grown as part of their tribe and the difficulties they have had to overcome to be respected as a part of a male dominant society.

For the rest of the day, we set up our tents, made dinner and reflected around the fire on life and career plans, which led us to a discussion about hard work, passion and the importance of self-thrive to succeed in life, no matter where you come from.

FUN FACT: In Africa, wildlife runs the business, so we had to fix our schedule for tomorrow because it seems like the elephants are hanging a little too close to the camp, making it unsafe for us to go start early in the morning for activities. In the city, how many times have you been late because of elephants?

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May 7th – Rosemary 

We woke up early and met Rosemary, the woman who started this community of woman. She told us a little bit about the start of the community and how the group has grown from 10 acres and 60 women up to 40 acres and 203 women currently.

This full-day was about learning how Maasai women go on with their responsibilities.

We had the opportunity to fetch water as they do daily. They dig a big hole on the ground under they find clear water, put into a container and carry it with their heads, backs and the help of a cord. Each container weighs about 40-50 pounds (according to our estimates) and they usually have to carry them for very long distances to get some water to their houses. When we tried to do it, we carried the containers for less than 1 km and ended up exhausted. This was an eye-opening experience on how usually we take for granted the ease with which we have access to some resources.

Later on, Rosemary showed us around the land where they have developed different activities, that have turned them into the major economic support for their families. This is incredibly important because it has empowered women all over the community and it has helped them fight against previous traditions of the tribe such as female mutilation and arranged marriages. Nowadays girls get to decide who they want to marry, which is completely amazing.

Finally, my favourite part of the day was when we had the chance to sing and dance with the women. They have such great spirits, they are warriors and they have accomplished so much by working together, that songs and dances seemed like the perfect way to close a day that filled me with awe and admiration of how powerful we can be when we decide to work together.

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May 8, 2019 – Katherine Armstrong (Program – Child and Youth Care)

Today began at the Maasai women’s community and was our last morning with them. We packed our bags and tents, shared our final breakfast with Rosemary and Cecilia, and thanked them for sharing their space and stories with us. We then headed out for our drive to the next camp, which was approx. a 2.5-hour drive. These long drives usually consisted of card games, music, and LOTS of jokes. Thankfully we had a few stops along the way – our first stop was at Cedar Mall, somewhere we stopped often for a bathroom break and some Java Coffee House milkshakes. Our second stop was to another Maasai village, which was where one of our guides, Francis, was from. We were welcomed with songs and dances and had the opportunity to ask the women questions. They’ve been a community for 3 years and were so kind to us – they even prepared lunch for us, consisting of rice, lentils, and cooked goat. For many of us, it was the first time we’d ever tried goat – literally, every day is a new experience. They took us around their community for a tour, where we saw how they prepare food and sterilize horns used to store milk. After that, we got on our way and left the village towards our final destination, which was only a short 30 min drive.

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May 9, 2019, Keisha Beattie (Program – Broadcasting for Film, Television, Digital Media, and Radio)

I cannot believe that we had to say goodbye to the place where we called home for two weeks. We began our day with a bushcraft lesson from Francis. To be honest, before today, I had never heard of the term bushcraft ever in my life. We essentially went into the bush with Francis and he taught us survival skills that the Maasai warriors use. The highlight of this bushcraft experience was learning how to start a fire using cow poop! The hardest part of the day came upon us where we had to say goodbye to everyone who we met at Rift Valley Adventures – Joyce, Francis, Dorito, Omari, Ritchie, and everyone else who was so gracious to us. Goodbyes are tough. Especially to those who have made such an impact on your life. I think what I’ll take away most from this whole experience is, the fact that everyone who we came across was just so kind and warm-hearted to all of us. The people who live in Kenya may have it tough, but not once did we ever come across anyone who was unaccepting of us. Everyone wanted to share their stories with us and ensure we had the best experience we possibly could. I’ll always remember this trip and the people of Kenya. I will return back to Toronto with a heart that’s so full of love and appreciation.

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We thank you for taking the time to read our blog and hope that it has inspired and entertained you! Wherever you may travel, may you be inspired to use your privilege, influence and joy to create positive and collaborative change through every encounter, in each moment?

With heartfelt thanks and gratitude to Centennial College, the Global Citizenship and SAGE teams, the donors and to Joyce and Rift Valley Adventures (our partner in Kenya) for memories and experiences that will impact for a lifetime.

Created by Silvio Santos, Kaitlyn Popert, Ukweli Wilson, Tommy Lu, Abdalla Ali, Abhishek Rajgor, Nicole Umana, Katherine Armstrong, Keisha Beattie, Vaaranan Jayakkumar, Brendan Chapman, Natashia Deer and Susan Chandy

GCELE Kenya Team 2019

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Rapar – India, a spiritual retreat to improve me as a human being

How I obtained a positive decision for my trip to India it’s a mystery. To my surprise, after submitting the application, I received an email with an invitation for an interview, I went and gave my best but and after a few days, received a negative answer… They didn’t select me.

Rapar, India
Wearing classic Gujarati dresses

However, many weeks later a new email turned up, it was a new invitation to join the group! I was astonished as it wasn’t in my mind to travel abroad. It took me a few days to re-think the invitation and organize all my school work and personal responsibilities to take a final decision and join the journey.


Without any doubt, the trip was a great experience that helped me to improve myself as a global citizen and be more human. I practiced empathy and compassion every single day of the trip.

What did I expect?

I went to India without any assumptions, only the idea that I was going to give a hand in the construction of sustainable houses and see how people live there, but that was just a tiny part of all I have experienced and learnt.

The objective of this trip was to know more about the situation in Rapar, India, a small village in the state of Gujarat, also support the Institute for Social Action and Research (ISAR).
This Institute helps women in vulnerable situations, many of them due to problems related to SATA marriage (a system of exchange marriage) or simply because of their gender.

Life Stories

While in Canada we still dealing with some gender issues, in India be a woman, gay, lesbian or queer is a synonym of minority and inequality. This sad situation brought me to the point that sometimes we need to look beyond and support those in need on time because this can affect generation after generation.

During our stay, we had the chance to know and talk to a few women that suffered from violence, their stories impacted us a lot, It wasn’t easy to digest. However, thanks to the hard work of ISAR, now those women are empowered and ready to help their community.
It’s exciting to hear stories of bravery and courage, listened to them with opened hearts motivated and made us realize how cruel and unfair a human can be when morals and ethics are not part of our life, no matter where you live.

What we did

We have visited villages, schools and some tourist places to know more about the history of Gujarat. To know more about the reasons for the current status in India, we also had the opportunity to follow a few lessons about Sociology, Feminism and Economy with excellent teachers that I hope I can see again.


A fantastic experience

We made friends with locals who made us laugh and helped us with everything. I have no words to explain how they treated us, how much we laugh and cry together.
India wasn’t a school trip, was more than that, was a spiritual retreat which pumped up our souls and allowed us to be aware of the necessity of this world; Love and compassion.

Thanks to ISAR and Centennial College, I re-confirmed the following quote:

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”.

Trip to Puerto Plata Sponsered by SAGE

The Trip

As a group of students, we were offered the opportunity to visit the community of Puerto Plata and learn about the community development skills, observe the economy of the people, and build skills among other things. It was an eye-opening experience, where a student like me was able to see an entire world outside of Canada and experience something I wouldn’t have been able to without Sage.
We got to meet local community members that accepted us like family, help them with different initiatives, and immerse ourselves in the Dominican culture. The opportunity to observe the local economy as well, see the strengths and weaknesses associated with it, and make note of the opportunities of growth there helped us gain experience with international economies and how to help them with their various needs. Another amazing thing that we were able to do was to have to opportunity to listen to a number of different speakers and guests who taught us a multitude of things that relate to our field and future career paths.

One of our amazing guests showing us how to really market and start off a business step by step.
The Centennial Team staying at the Ecolodge!

The Economy

The main reason we went to the Dominican Republic as a class was to observe their economy, analyze its strengths and weaknesses, and apply our Community Development techniques there. When people think of the DR the first thing that comes to mind for a lot of people in the resorts, and the party life on the beach. But as we had come to learn, this beautiful land had a lot more to offer than that.
The economy of the DR is comprised of a very intricate web of corresponding political bodies, agencies, and international organizations. One interesting thing I learnt is that the Japanese helped to boost tourism for the DR, but only for a contracted amount of time. Aside from tourism though unfortunately there is a huge gap between the wealthy and the poor. If you are not able to work with tourists, or know English it is hard to make a sustainable living for many Dominicans. We have noticed a paradigm shift in thinking though when it comes to economic development strategies, and local communities are now starting to take advantage of their local commodities and cultural hotspots. One that I wish to mention is the amazing coffee in the DR. There has been an effort to attract tourists to see the coffee manufacturing process, from the tree to the cup, and with the added bonus of seeing the locals sing to the beans, it is a great experience they can capitalize on.

The People and the Experience

Overall this was an amazing eye-opener of experience and one that was a huge learning opportunity for a lot of us. For some, it was the catalyst for them to realize what exactly they wanted to do in the community development field. For others, it helped them learn more about the economic development of countries outside of their own. And for myself personally, it was a chance to learn more about myself and how I can better interact with not just my classmates but with different kinds of people around the world.

The scenery was absolutely breathtaking, something that a lot of us did not expect. Waking up every morning to see the sunrise over the hills of Puerto Plata, going for 4 hour-long hikes across the land just to dive into a beautiful lake and more was something that created a deep connection between nature and us all. But the most beautiful thing we encountered on our trip was the people. Every Dominican we met showed us a level of love and care that we don’t often see from strangers. When they found out we were there to do Community work as well they treated us with even more hospitality, and this is something I would like everyone who visits the DR to see, and not just the resorts that don’t help their communities. In conclusion, this trip was an amazing life-changing experience that I must thank SAGE and Centennial College for giving me the opportunity to experience!

Written by Abdifatah Hussein



One must travel, to learn

Mark Twain

This was my great summer ever that I have a chance to participate in the Summer International Program e of Centennial College in Turku, Finland. Learning through going out of the world and travelling is one of the best and fastest way to learn. For me, the experience in Finland is invaluable and bring to me many new insights about life.

 Turku is a city in the south of Finland, which is used by its former capital in the past. Not so crowded and bustling like Helsinki city (the capital of Finland), Turku is an ancient and peaceful city with an old town and landscape. However, this city has a great number of students every year, so it was called “the city of students”. Turku has provided an ideal friendly environment for studying including many high-rank universities and offers a variety of programs with a high quality of educational levels.

In the summer school of Turku University of Applied Sciences, I chose the course Developing Wellness Tourism Destinations and Customer Experiences. This is a great course which had provided me with many skills such as presentation, active learning through ask and discuss the problems with teachers. They used new and modern methods of education to transmit boring knowledge into practice. The teachers here are like friends and they were willing to help whatever within their abilities. Here, learning is quite comfortable, less pressure but the student still acquires a lot of knowledge.


In Turku, I also met with a lot of people from different countries in the world and made friend with them was my pleasure. I have learned a lot from their diversity of cultures and we talked a lot. They were very nice and we all study together, had field trips with many unforgettable memories. Thanks to them, I can understand the lessons deeply in a different view of aspects and also know more about the culture of other countries.


In Turku, besides studying hard, I also joined many social programs to discover more about Turku’s famous places. That was a great opportunity for me to make new friends, learn more about the culture of Finland as well as the people here. I was very excited to join in those activities. They were organized after school time. Let’s look back at some of the greatest moments that I had on those days!

This picture was taken on the Night of Arts. This was one of the biggest art events in Turku, Finland. As the name says, many activities were organized to honour the importance of art in their culture. That was so impressive to see many people singing, playing musical instruments everywhere and you could also visit the museum with discount prices too!


In my studying schedule, I had a chance to go to Naantali town. This is Finland ’s one of the most important attractions. When I came here to do the research with class, I couldn’t stand off the beauty of this place. This small town also has the Finnish oldest spa. The swimming pool and sauna there were amazing. Talk a little bit about the sauna, the sauna is not only a way to relax but also a special Finnish culture.  People said that if you didn’t take the sauna in Finland once, you had never been to Finland. Mostly every Finnish house has a sauna room to enjoy the relaxation after a long day of work. Naantali was a good place to go in the summer.


Moreover, I had a chance to visit the Finnish President’s summer house (Kultaranra). The house was located near the beautiful town of Naantali and surrounded by the gorgeous garden. The President will stay here during the summertime. So good to have some good pictures with friends in this beautiful garden.


Turku city is not only modern but also traditional. It still keeps the old town, the old village (Luostarinmaki Handicrafts Museum) and an old castle (Turku castle). I fell in love with the old traditional history here, so good to step into the old castle and imagine a heroic past was happening.


Luostarinmaki Handicrafts Museum


Turku Castle

In this trip, I meet different people with different cultural backgrounds. For me, meeting new people and being exposed to many different cultures is the best gift this trip has given me. For two weeks, we were having fun together with unforgettable memories. In my opinion, young people should have a chance to go out of the world and experience new things. I am very grateful for this trip for giving me that experience that will never found again.

Last day, we all have a farewell dinner together to celebrate the journey in Turku. For me, I will never forget those friends who stayed with me for two weeks. I wish that I could stay longer in this beautiful country and learn more about this place.

Goodbye Turku, goodbye to Finland and hope to have a chance to come back here again. Thank you Summer International Program of Centennial College has allowed me to learn new global experience, made new friends and had a wonderful summer ever.

– Mark Twain

Learning About Mental Health in Brazil

“Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured… Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to”
-Susan Cain


Ever since I could remember, I’ve always been different. Meeting new people has always been daunting and challenging for me. Described by most as quiet and shy, it’s sometimes difficult for me to navigate the world.

As I grew older, I started to research about personality. I soon realized that in addition to these traits, I am also very introverted. To elaborate, I am often consumed by my internal world—distracted by ideas and observations. I love people but sometimes I’m overstimulated and need to spend time alone to recharge. Living in a culture where being outgoing and social are pillars of success, it’s challenging to be introverted.

Despite my reserved personality, I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. Before my trip, I simultaneously experienced excitement and hesitation. While some people worried about possible encounters with snakes or hiking up mountains at night, the thought about leaving my comfort zone scared me the most. However, I was determined to face my fears and take on Brazil.

My GCELE to Brazil blew all my expectations. The landscape in Brazil is breathtaking, but the people, tradition, and culture are even more beautiful. Among many things, we learned about coffee production, nutrition, environmental sustainability, and equitable practices.

Mental Health and Brazil
One afternoon, our team visited a centre in the nearby city, which provides services for at-risk families. The centre also acts as a liaison to external services such as housing. One of the centre’s programs focuses on traditional dance and music. During our visit, we had the opportunity to dance and play instruments with the children. This was by far my favourite experience in Brazil.

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Reflecting On my Experience
As a student in the Addictions and Mental Health Worker program, I learn about Canadian mental health services. Since we learn mostly about Western practices, it’s often easy to forget that there is no universal definition of mental health.

In Brazil, I learned about the benefits of community programming, which heavily focuses on connecting youth with their cultural ways of knowing and doing. The traditional music and dance program is one way for the children to express themselves, learn about history and culture, and socialize with other children.

I came to Brazil with the understanding that mental health must be approached through a holistic understanding. My time in Brazil has taught me that improving mental health does not solely equate to addressing people’s problems. Mental health initiatives and programs must also explore activities that improve mental health, such as music, exercise, gardening, cooking, and art. Helping children develop skills and discover what they like to do can have long-term mental health benefits.


Take Away
Each person I met in Brazil has a different narrative and perspective on life. Instead of trying to change the way I am, I learned to embrace what makes me unique. I learned that being different is a good thing because you bring a different perspective to the team.

Not only did sojourning give me the opportunity to experience a new culture, but as a result, I became more open-minded and conscientious. My GCELE gave me the opportunity to learn about mental health in Brazil while simultaneously reflecting on my own mental health.

Written by: Caitlin Cosgrove



My GCELE experience in Brazil was amazing. It was a great opportunity for learning together with the opportunity to meet new people and to make new friends. In this GCELE we had the opportunity to learn a lot about coffee production and its relationship with social, educational, and environmental practices.

The Coffee Farm

We stayed in the “Cachoeira da Grama” Coffee Farm for 10 days when we could participate in the coffee picking and selection of the best cherries for exportation. We participated in the harvesting of the “canario” and “bourbon” variety of coffee, which has yellow and red cherries, respectively. The picking can be done selectively or non-selectively. Selective picking means to collect only the cherries that are mature, which increases the quality of the coffee, but it requires more time and is harder to be done. Non-selective picking is the collection of all the cherries, in a faster way, but not mature cherries may also be collected. Furthermore, it was possible to observe the mountains of the region where the coffee has been planted, which is directly related to its quality and uniqueness.

Olive and Macadamia Farms

We could also have the opportunity to visit a coffee farm who started the production of olive oil (Irarema Farm) and another one who started the production of macadamia (Corrego das Pedras Farm). The soil and conditions of the area make both production very successful. The complexity of the environment where the olive’s tree grow influence the aroma and the testing of the olives. It occurs because several other species grow together in the area, such as coffee, eucalyptus, guava, and others. In addition, the modern machinery allows the extraction of the oil to be more selective, creating a huge variety of olive oils. In the Macadamia Farm was possible to observe the trees, originated in Australia, has been grown successfully in the mountain climate in Brazil. The Macadamia seeds are planted and when it grows, the baby plant is planted in the soil. The mature fruits are collected from the soil, who had already fallen from the trees by being ripped already. They are selected by washing, that separates the fruits by weight. The good fruits sink and stay for drying for two days. After that, they are separated by hand to select the fruits that do not have any imperfection.

Bourbon Specialty Coffee

After the coffee picking, we also have the opportunity to learn more about the coffee production in Brazil, and the differentiation between the regular and the specialty coffee. At Bourbon Specialty coffee, we could learn how they select, buy, and grade the coffee they receive from the producers. The producers deliver a sample from its coffee, which quality is evaluated by giving them a score up to 100 points. The coffee selected for exportation usually gets a score from 80-87 points. Coffee which does not achieve this score is sold in the domestic market.


The School

Also related to the coffee activities are the social activities. In the Cachoeira da Grama Farm, there is a public school that attends the local community. The kids are usually the sons and daughters of the workers from the farm, and their education as well as their food while in the school are free, paid by the government. At the school, we developed an activity with the kids of all ages, related to the topic “Nutrition Awareness”. A presentation was elaborated by the group and presented to the kids, which were organized by age to watch the presentation. After the presentation, we engaged the kids in activities related to the topic of the presentation, according to their age. In the end, the kids could try a healthy recipe for a healthier yogurt.

Also, at school, we participated in the preparation of the kid’s food and we could observe they eat healthier food than the Canadian kids. Furthermore, we helped to improve the school’s garden, where they cultivate organic vegetables that are used to prepare the kid’s food. We also had the opportunity to play soccer with the kids and to participate in a very traditional Brazilian dance, called “Quadrilha”, which consists in a dance in pair with some steps according to the music.

The Social Projects

In addition, we could observe two social projects associated with culture. One of them is called “Projeto Guri”, where kids learn how to play classical instruments. There, the kids are divided according to their learning in groups A, B, C, with the group A being the most experienced kids. We could watch the presentation of all the groups and notice their evolution in learning. The other project is called “Bourbon Musical” and the kids learn how to play different instruments and how to dance traditional Brazilian rhythms. In this project, the whole family is assisted, with psychological and even financial help for them to restructure their family. In both projects, the kids only go in a different shift from their regular school shift.

My reflexion

My experience in Brazil was amazing because I could learn about my own country from a different point of view. I knew that Brazil was a great producer of coffee, but I had no idea that it is also a great provider of specialty coffee. The sad part is that the coffee sold inside the country is the worst quality one and most Brazilian people do not have access to better quality coffee. However, I could learn more about how to make better choices in my personal life, choosing to consume less, but in a better quality.

It was also very interesting to learn how the production of coffee is related to the local community. In the farms we visited, the workers can live inside the farm, in houses provided by the owner of the farm, not having to travel to work and avoiding the expenses of buying or renting a house. Their salaries are mostly the minimum wage, which is very low in Brazil (around Cad$ 300 per month), but some workers also receive some basic food as part of their salary, that is called in Brazil as “cesta básica”. This is a very low salary, but since their lives are very simple and they do not have many expenses for transportation and housing, they may not struggle to sustain their families.

In addition, this salary would never allow the parents to pay a private school to their kids, but in the farm, there is a public school that seems to be very good, compared with the reality of public schools in Brazil. They have around 15-20 kids per class, which is a very good number since in the public schools in Brazil this number is usually 40-50. The teachers seemed to be very passionate and dedicated and the kids look happy in their school. It was very nice to see a good public school in my country because of the reality in the rest of the country is completely different.

On the other hand, it was very frustrating to observe that the producers use the word “sustainable” as a stamp for their coffee, but what I observed in the farm is far away from being sustainable. As an ecologist, my point of view of sustainability is when we have the whole ecosystem preserved in order to preserve the land, the forest, the water, and the animals. What I observed was a very degraded ecosystem, with the land dominated by coffee plantations or by species that are not native from Brazil or that area. The waterfall that occurs in the farm is surrounded by bamboo trees, which are not native and, even worst, are just one species that does not provide the necessary food for the native animals.


In addition, when we visited the Macadamia Farm, it was explained that they need to preserve a percentage of their area, according to the law. However, what I observed is that they planted any species, with no criteria. Brazil is one of the countries with the highest biodiversity in the world, and each area has its own characteristics. What they were doing there was just planting any tree, with no respect to the characteristics of the region, which will implicate in not playing its role of preserving the ecosystem. Furthermore, the fragments are not linked to each other and these very small areas of preservation cannot support all the native fauna, especially big animals, such as the jaguar and the cougar, with are the biggest Brazilian native animals, which play a very important role in the ecosystem.

Therefore, my experience in Brazil was amazing because I could learn a lot and observe a good reality from the point of view of the community. However, I was sad to see that the natural environment has not been respected and Brazil continue to lose its biodiversity day after day. I hope my reflexion inspire others to apply for the next GCELE, especially to Brazil, to learn more about a wonderful country that has much more than samba, beaches, and soccer.

Published by: Denise Mello do Prado Cordiero

School of Engineering Technology and Applied Science

Where’s the Food in Cuba?


This 2018 Centennial College group of Permaculture scholars arrived in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba on April 30, 2018. If you were with us during our trip you wouldn’t know that there is a food shortage in Cuba, unless you paid attention. We were accompanied by Ron Berezan (our program leader), who has a well-established network and history in Cuba. As such, our experience in Cuba was conducted in a privileged manner. Also, we as Canadian students have access to a specific Cuba that is different than that of a typical Cuban. We have money, we have the support of a Canadian institution, and the Canadian dollar to support our needs. The purpose of our time in Cuba was to learn the design, techniques and implementation of permaculture in Cuba to facilitate the need to attain a sustainable domestic food system. It’s important to note that Cuba’s introduction and use of permaculture and urban agriculture were adapted through necessity.

The importance of a sustainable domestic food system can be further understood by the fact that Cuba “imports 70 to 80 percent of its domestic food requirements, with most imports slated for social protection programmes…farming technology is obsolete, making for low productivity and high post-harvest losses” (WFP, 2018). <;

Our group in Sancti Spiritus had most of our meals at the Antonio Nunez Jimenez Foundation, which was a museum that we used as our central meeting location, lecture and reflection space and for some of the group had there sleeping corridor located at the foundation. We have welcomed guests in Sancti Spiritus and were lucky to always have access to an excess of food. I was told that the possible reason behind this may be because the people of Cuba suffered from limited access to food for many years and wanted to ensure that we had food and felt full. We were well fed and we ate three meals and had snacks in between. Before our arrival I had the expectation that food would probably be limited and that I may lose some weight – since I had just finished my last assignment the day before arriving in Cuba and gained some weight the past two months from the stresses of being a student, I was looking forward to limiting my food intake and losing a couple of lbs. But that wasn’t the case for us. We were well received and well-fed.

So, what was the point of our trip to Cuba? we were eating a lot, therefore, access to food is no longer an issue in Cuba.

Once you step out of our Centennial bubble, you begin to see that food reserves and resources are limited. You enter grocery stores and you begin to realize that they are nothing like our grocery stores in Canada. There not fully stocked and there aren’t aisles of food. A shop in the main square (Parque Serafin Sanchez) for instance has four horizontal freezers, but it’s strange to think of its purpose because every time I was there, it was either empty or had a couple packages of meat inside of them.  The food shelves were also sparsely stocked. You may think maybe this is something common in Latin America. From what I have seen in Latin America it isn’t. I have had the opportunity to travel to other parts of Latin America and I haven’t had this experience until now.

Another indicator of food insecurity that I noticed was from the bread store near the Antonio Nunez Jimenez foundation. Every morning people would be lined up waiting to purchase freshly baked bread. Why would people line up and wait for bread? Is the bread that good? Maybe? I didn’t get the opportunity to try it since there was always a line-up and when there wasn’t, it was because there wasn’t any more bread to sell. So why doesn’t a bread shop make enough bread to fulfill its customer demand? Customers + sales = money. A simple solution is that they should make more bread and make more money.

I was experiencing so many new things in Cuba that I didn’t reflect and connect the things that I was seeing. After I departed from Cuba I had the opportunity to further reflect on my experiences and the things that I saw. During my time in Cuba, I never connected the idea that the bread store’s lack of bread sales was likely the result of the lack of resources in Cuba. The bread store likely did not produce more bread because they didn’t have enough ingredients to make more bread for the day or had to limit the use of ingredients to allow the supply to last longer.

The answers come from the fact that Cuba to this day has limited resources and relies on food imports. Cuba does not have food security. It has not been able to domestically produce all the resources that it needs to be self-reliant on food production. This is why the shift towards urban agriculture and permaculture continues to grow in Cuba. It’s part of the solution to attaining food security in Cuba. The goal in Cuba is to produce a stronger domestic food production chain, locals producing for themselves and selling excess produce into local markets. This also includes the creation of small scale urban farmers who can sell to their local markets. The production of food in cities will meet the local food demands, creating a sustainable cycle of food production and consumption. With Cuba’s long history of food and resource import reliance, this food model will aid in securing the future of Cuban and will protect them from international instabilities.

Published by: Aaron Eugenio

The Business School

A Brief History on Cuba

History of Cuba

Cuba is a nation of resilience. It has fought for its freedom and has spent a 100-years trying to establish food and energy security. Until 1898 Cuba was a Spanish Colony, bringing over 400 years of Spanish occupation. Cuba fought for independence and would only gain a quasi-independence in 1898 from the United States. The Cuban War of independence was succeeded with American intervention. This was in part with the coinciding Spanish-American War, where hostilities would lead to American intervention in the Cuban War of Independence. The following decades until the 1950s would have American backing and support of the Fulgencio Batista regime. In essence, a shift from Spanish colonization to American colonization occurred. During this period Cuba saw significant economic development. However, economic development was only beneficial to the wealthy Cubans and for Americans. The distribution of wealth did not reach the average Cuban. Therefore, deepening the inequality in Cuba. As a result, Americans cheaply purchased Cuban lands and the American holdings on sugar plantations occurred to support American demand for sugar use.

This led to the Cuban revolution of 1953 and 1959, where Fidel and Raul Castro Ruz led a revolution. The Castro brothers successfully overthrew the Batista dictatorship and the Castro’s would eventually nationalize all land and business’. This included nationalizing American business’ and investments in Cuba. In combination with Fidel’s socialist state and Communist leaning attitude – the United States established an embargo isolating Cuban commerce and travel from the United States.

The political and economic isolation of Cuba from the United States created an economic freeze for Cuba. Batista’s economic development was due to an economic reliance from the United States. Therefore, Cuba lost its biggest partner for petroleum, food, and technology. Without these resources, Cubans did not have petroleum to fuel its agriculture machinery, cars, and in essence its economy.

This led to the partnership between Cuba-Soviet Union. Two countries who contributed to the communist ideology. Once again Cuba was able to resume economic development with the support of the Soviet Union. Cuba received petroleum, business, and loans. This continued until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. This once again brought the Cuban economy in a standstill as its major partner could no longer maintain its established relations.

This ceases of imports from the Soviet Union led to the ‘special period’ in Cuba where Cuba exhibited an economic depression. The collapse of Cuba’s heavily industrialized and import-dependent food system collapsed and an economic crisis ensued in 1989. Cuba’s society was paralyzed from the loss of resources for its transportation, industrial and agricultural systems.

-Aaron Eugenio

An Once in a Life Time Experience

If I could describe my GCELE experience in one word it would be unforgettable. Prior to my departure to Cuba, I had anxiety of about if I would fit in with the group or if I would be able to adapt to a new culture. Even though I had anxiety, I’m extremely grateful that I was apart of this GCELE. I had such an amazing time learning about Cuba’s history, culture and the concept of permaculture. Permaculture is focused on design elements of agriculture ecosystems that support each other and a sustainable human habitat.

During this GCELE, we learned about different design layouts that were used in the permaculture sites. The two designs that I was able to contribute to was the mandala and the spiral.

While I was working on these design elements, I was amazed at how the local Cubans who helped us were extremely fit and hard working. It was nice to see the community support and help one another. This also made me realize how hard some individuals have to work in order to be food secure.

This experience taught me how to be humble, resourceful and insightful.  I am thankful that I was able to be a part of this once in a life time experience. I was able to meet amazing new people and learn how I could apply permaculture elements in my own garden. If you’re thinking about applying to any GCELE, I say go for it! You get the chance to learn something new in another country and the opportunity to experience a different culture.

Elizabeth H.
Social Service Worker Student