A Genuine Experience

Travel is what I live for. I have been lucky enough to visit more than a few countries on various continents, and my appetite for seeing the world is only getting stronger and stronger. Even though I always try to really explore the destinations I visit and be respectful of their customs and culture, my experience with the Centennial team on the 2018 GCELE in Costa Rica taught me that there are definitely ways in which I can improve as a traveller.

Our group was introduced to a few Indigenous groups in two parts of Costa Rica. We had a great privilege of getting to know some of the members of those communities. They welcomed us with their arms and hearts open. It was an experience that most likely none of us would have had the chance to get without the hard work and the networking between the staff from Centennial College and our Costa Rican partners.

Admittedly, these were the most genuine and life-changing interactions that I have ever had with Indigenous people abroad. Travelling from a country like Canada, it is easy to get wrapped up in your own expectations of what your planned cultural experiences should look like. You may want to witness ceremonies, dances, and see people walk around in their traditional clothing. There may not necessarily be anything wrong with that. However, you should also ask yourself: Am I really finding out who these people are? How did they get to where they are now? What are their current struggles? Is there anything I can give back to the communities that I visit before I leave, or do I just want them to perform on my own schedule before I get on my way?

In Costa Rica, we had a chance to see what the lives of Indigenous communities really look like. We met with university students from remote parts of the country who moved to Cartago to pursue higher education and better their lives. It was really heartwarming to find out that some of their main goals focus around using their knowledge to give back to the communities that they came from, as well as to aid underprivileged people from all of Costa Rica. We also learnt how community members and their allies formed an organization that gives Indigenous people the power to coordinate and dictate how tourism happens in the areas that they inhabit. Also, we met with female entrepreneurs who were able to build successful businesses despite numerous adversities, as well as members of an organization that focuses on helping women who are escaping domestic violence. The list goes on…

Throughout the trip what stuck out to me was the great strength of the people we met, their genuine concern for one another, resilience, humility, hospitality, and willingness to share with us.

Would I have learnt all this from an afternoon spent at a village built for visitors, snapping away pictures, and being a tourist myself? Certainly not!

I am forever grateful for this life-changing opportunity. I am also hopeful that I can now more respectfully participate (even if for a short while) in the lives of people from countries that I visit. I would like to instill the same gratitude in everyone whom I may help plan their own adventures in the future.

I am determined to always be a traveller, not a tourist!

Greg K.

GCELE – Leadership and Sustainable Practices – Cartago, Costa Rica

Permaculture in Cuba- My GCELE Experience

The night before our flight, I wasn’t sure what to expect on this GCELE. Sure, I knew we’d be working closely with the growing permaculture community in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba. So like plants and stuff, right? And as I discovered, yes there were definitely plants and stuff, but also so much more.

Cuba can be described as a closed system due to heavy restrictions on importing/exporting. As a result, resources can be quite limited. These limits on trade are one reason why developing and maintaining food security in Cuba is especially essential. It also means that labour intensive field work is not as convenient as it would be here in Canada (unfortunately you can’t visit your local Home Depot when your shovel breaks).

The words of a Cuban permaculturalist stuck with me; she said that necessity forces people to learn and adapt. The hard times that Cubans have experienced has generated a wealth of creativity and ingenuity; particularly in the areas of food security and sustainability. Having the opportunity to take part in this project was nothing short of incredible. I’d like to share a few of the cool things I saw with you.

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A permaculture site, Sancti Spiritus

i) Banana Circle (upper left corner)

A large hole is dug and banana trees are planted in a circular formation around it. In the hole, compostable materials such as dead leaves and branches are thrown. This allows organic waste to be reincorporated into the permaculture system and at the same time gives added nutrition to the soil. In addition, trees planted like this are more likely to survive storms and hurricanes as opposed to conventionally grown banana trees.

ii) An example of vertical growing

In order to make the most efficient use of space, some crops are grown vertically. Here in this picture you can see this concept applied in the stacking of the tires which contain different vegetation. 

iii) Resourcefulness  

As mentioned earlier, Cuba is a closed system with limited resources. Accordingly, waste is kept to a minimum as new uses are found for items that would otherwise be thrown out. Discarded tires and bottles were used in the physical framework of many of the permaculture sites we visited. In this picture old bottles are used to create borders.

This GCELE has been humbling and insightful. I had the opportunity to observe and experience a very different way of life, one that contrasted with the fast pace of the city most of us are used to. More significantly, it has made Global Citizenship realer to me. There is a strong connection between local and global issues, and by learning from each other regardless of borders, solutions can be developed collaboratively.



My experience in Costa Rica was definitely something that I would never ever forget because of several reasons. We went to 3 different Indigenous territories in Costa Rica. Where we did language and culture exchange. So, as we learn about their cultures and traditions, they too learn about ours. There was also a language exchange where we learn a few words from their native language and they learn English. There are so many things that I would like to write about, but for this blog post, I will focus on the things that impressed me the most and that I felt really connected with.

Before going on this trip, education to me is something that dictates someone’s status or achievement in life. Growing up, I was told that I should get good grades so I could get into the most prestigious university to get my degree and hopefully get a high paying job right away. But during my stay in Costa Rica, my views on education shifted. It is not about the grades, it is not about the salary, and it is not about which university one graduated from. To them, education is about giving back to their community. Using their knowledge and their strengths to better their lives as a community. It was a very collectivistic approach to solving social issues to create social change.

During our second day in Cartago, we attended a presentation held by Dionisio and Jose at TEC University. One of their projects is called EULER: Editor for Universal STEM Resources struck my attention. This is one of the few projects that focus on the use of technology to promote inclusivity and accessibility for people with disabilities. EULER is a mathematical-scientific editor that can be used by people with visual disabilities. It provides assistance in reading and translating different equations and formulas so the learning process of mathematics in situations where one has a visual disability can be much more fruitful. As a Child and Youth Care Practitioner, I will work with a population of children and youth who have learning disabilities and I find this super fascinating. It does not stop a person who cannot learn, to do something that they love to do and to reach their goals in life. Another reason why I found this project super fascinating is that both Dionisio and Jose applied what they have learned in class and used their strengths to find a way to give back to their community. To fight the stigma that is being placed on people with disabilities.

During our fifth day, we travelled from Cartago to Talamanca where we visited the Bri Bri tribe and learned about their culture and traditions. In Bri Bri culture, most of their traditions are passed down from one generation to the next through story-telling and there aren’t a lot of written documents about their origin and culture. So, education in this perspective helps preserve the culture and identity of the Bri Bri community. Their culture is within their language. Throughout our stay in Talamanca, Roger, Jerry, and Geider showed us around their community. They taught us a few words in Bri Bri, they taught us how to swim through the currents in the river and showed us how to drink water using banana leaves. They have taught us a lot of things about their culture. Roger, Geider and Jerry are really passionate about what they do as tour guides because this is their way of learning more about their culture.

As mentioned, we did Language activities throughout our stay in Talamanca. We taught English to people of different age groups. The willingness to learn is super evident as some people walked and hiked 6-8 hours just so they can attend the language classes. It was a very humbling experience for me. I was impressed at how passionate they are in learning just so they can give back to their community. Jerry, for example, is training to be a tour guide in his community. He told me that one of his goals is to speak English fluently so he can communicate better with the people who are visiting his community. In this way, he can educate them about his culture with more passion and allow the exchange of culture to be more effective. As a CYCP I started to think of strategies and ways on how to support Jerry to reach his goal. I started to write down the words that he needs extra help with pronunciation and I spelled it phonetically for him to successfully pronounce the words. I colour coded it so it will be easier for him to navigate through the table of words. In the end, we ended up with 56 words and he was very thankful and happy. I told him that I wished we stayed longer so that we could come up with more words. And he said that I don’t need to worry about the time because even though I was only there for a couple of days I helped him out a lot. And I felt very happy for him too because he is taking one step at a time to reach his goal. Also, he is not only doing this for himself but also for his community.

Going to Costa Rica, I did not really know what to expect because I have not been. But this trip has opened my mind to so many things. It has helped me to think more collectivistic rather than individualistic. It has taught me the value of education and teamwork. It is about working with and not working for. And we can see the difference when everyone in the community is involved as everyone plays a different role in the success of a project. Also, I learned that you can feel accomplished in life without having to gain any materialistic things. The prize does not always have to be tangible.


Stephanie Lomingkit


Costa Rica 2018 – (GCELE)


Pura Vida!!!

The view from the balcony of Rinconcito Verde Hotel in Cartago, Costa Rica

My experience in Costa Rica was phenomenal, dare I say, life-changing. With an amazing group of 13 other Centennial College students, selected from various study backgrounds, I had the opportunity to travel and learn about the Indigenous population of Costa Rica. Although we spent the majority of our 2 weeks in Costa Rica immersed in various Indigenous communities as means to experience and learn about their cultural traditions as well as the social issues they still face today first hand, upon arrival in Costa Rica, we spent our first couple days attending Costa Rica’s Institute of Technology, also known as TEC. While attending TEC, we spent our nights at the Rinconcito Verde Hotel. The hotel had a pool with a temperature that was always just right, a view that would take your breath away, and WiFi, we were all thankful for the WiFi.

Above is a panoramic view from the balcony of the room I stayed in.

Aside from tasting some awesome snacks, our purpose for being at TEC was to gain insight into the communities we would be moving on to visit for the duration of our trips, such as Brian, Bri Bri, and Boruca Indigenous Territories.

While travelling together as Centennial College Ambassadors we visited Indigenous communities and engaged in learning workshops that detailed cultural traditions and beliefs. Our goal was to serve the communities in whichever way it was that they desired. In the Bri Bri community, we taught English in the community and at the local school, there were no buses so our method of travel was to hike to all our destinations, giving us great opportunity to experience Costa Rica’s vast bio-diversity.

As we arrived at Cahuita National Park, we were lucky to be greeted by a sizeable Iguana.

We also visited Cahuita National Park where we saw different animals and swam in the saltwater beach.

There was no better way to end our trip than to visit the Hot Springs in Cartago. We all felt rejuvenated before our flight back home.

Celebrating our last moments in Costa Rica at the Hot Springs.

My time in Costa Rica has strengthened my foundation and philosophy as a Child and Youth Care student. We are all one humanity with shared strengths and weaknesses. Before we can hope to carry out positive change, we must first educate ourselves by experiencing and most importantly, Listening.

Nostalgia … Adios


Jaleel Alfred, Known in Costa Rica as Jota.

GCELE – Cuba Sancti Spiritus

Cuba is a wonderful country filled with music, art, and culture like many other Latin American countries. However, Cuba, due to its trade embargo has made its citizens remarkably resourceful. They have been recycling and reusing materials and resources, and keeping machinery running for decades. Food scarcity is an ongoing problem for Cuba, but the permaculture movement shows promising return on the energy expenditure and labour intensive process that is required to get one of these sites up and running.

The Urban Farmer, a Canadian organization teams up with the Antonio Nunez Foundation, a local Cuban organization, to educate Cubans on how start their own  permaculture farms or gardens. These spaces allow people to supply their families with food, and make a small living by selling some of what they grow. This new way of farming looks at integrating people, animals, the elements, and plants to build a sustainable food source that allows a symbiotic relationship to form amongst all of the participants in this eco system, the way nature intended. Thus reducing or nearly eliminating garbage and waste, and finding new ways to use items such as tires and glass bottles that are difficult to recycle and breakdown into raw materials for other uses.

As members of the GCELE Cuba team, we were able to experience Cuba from a perspective that is very different from one that a typical tourist would be exposed to.  We met a number of local volunteers, who were very knowledgable, and passionate about their work, had pride in their country and wanted to share it with us. They were compassionate, kind and welcoming hosts to all of the student travellers. As a part of the Cuba Gazelle, we were able to see Cuba for the country it is, learn about its history, see the impact of climate change, and politics, and a very different way of life than the ones we lead here in Canada. The streets of Sancti Spiritus had children riding bikes, playing with each other in the city square, and we were able to eat authentic cuban cuisine, and experienced Cuban hospitality with open arms.

The Cuba Gazelle has been running smoothly for many years, and this year was no exception, it was both enjoyable and educational for all of the students. This was largely due to our in-country expert Ron, the volunteers, and our amazing Centennial College faculty, who came together and made this an unforgettable experience.  Ron has a truly inquisitive nature.  Even though he’s been to the country on several occasions and had taken groups just like ours a number of times previous to this trip, he was still a sponge for knowledge and information, as well as a permaculture encyclopedia, and most importantly an invaluable resource to the team.

This GCELE to Cuba’s Sancti Spiritus has empowered us with the education required to make real differences, and made us more conscious about our actions and the impacts they have on our planet and everyone thing else that lives here with us.  We were shown ways we could make small changes here in Canada that would help reduce waste, and better utilize our resources. We can start the healing process to help battle climate change, soil erosion, and decrease dependency on our current food supply systems by making these small changes such as growing some of our own foods, using reusable containers, bringing our own reusable grocery bags, and being responsible consumers.

Goldie Açai

GCELE Kenya: An unforgettable experience.

The world is a big place and people love to see it in person. With all of the exotic locations that international travelling offers, it was surprising for my friends when I told them that I have chosen to apply for Kenya. Outside of that bubble you will find a proud cultural heritage, warm-hearted local people and incredible landscape that will stop you in the moment. National reserves, unforgettable safari, Maasai warrior and kids– these are the main things that I will always remember about my time in Kenya.

Finally, the day arrived when we all gathered at the airport before departure. I was feeling curious, excited, nervous and lonely. There were so many things going on in my mind at that moment. Most of us didn’t know each other before. Took a 15 hours in-air journey to reach Nairobi. Now, I was getting nervous and a little bit of helpless while wondering, how will I as a part of team would be able to contribute when I have never been part of such project before? We took 7 hours journey following day and reached our destination, Ol Pajeta Bush Camp, Laikipia region near a village names Nanyuki.

A “Stick”, a “Rock” and a “Take-away” A series of Reflective stories

So where do I begin…There are just so many elements of this global experience that have “stuck with me, rocked me and that I have definitely taken away with me.” When I consider the application process for the Kenya 2018 GCELE, I remember some of my written words – “rich heritage birthed out of the richness of Africa”; “life changing opportunity to assist in the development and delivery of education in rural Kenya”; “everyday cross-cultural interactions being real opportunities to begin actualizing our global responsibilities”; and “a witnessing of the transformation of our students through concrete experiential learning” – all these elements (and so much more) were realized via this GCELE.

The excitement of the long journey ahead could be scooped up at Pearson International Airport as the Project participants and Team Leaders arrived on Thursday February 22, 2018. As I watched each of us arrive, I could see the unspoken anticipation and wonder on everyone’s face. DSC_1148[1]Although late in the evening when we arrived in Nairobi, Kenya on Friday, that same look had turned to amazement, as we had finally reached the Mother Land! After a restful night (and a hot shower!) at the Wildebeest Eco Camp, located in the heart of Nairobi, it was here during breakfast that I had my first encounter with a gentleman named “Nigel Linacre”, the co-founder of an organization called “Wellboring” – whose mission is to bring clean water to more Kenyan Schools. As I listened to his unabashed, passionate account of the work his organization (of mostly volunteers!) and the impacts on the lives of the people of the villages and communities who worked in collaboration on these sustainable projects, I was totally blown away that it was not “happenstance” that Nigel and I encountered each other, but this was a powerful introduction to the experience this GCELE was to afford us. After soaking up the beautiful surroundings, serene sounds and heat that washed over us, we were off to our first stop – The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Nursery located in Nairobi National Park, who provide a safe haven to orphaned baby elephants. “The Nursery provides the first stage in the hand-rearing and development of milk dependent baby elephants. Once they graduate from the Nursery, aged 2-3 years, the elephants move to one of the DSWT’s Reintegration Centres in Tsavo East National Park, from where they will ultimately return to the wild.” DSC_1178[1]To be this close to these majestic, wild animals and their caretakers (who knew each of the elephants by name and each of their personal characteristics) was awesome and I learned (more than I ever knew) so much about the natural life span of elephants in the wild and the incredible efforts being taken in the area of Conservation here in Kenya. We were also afforded a front rope view of an orphaned giraffe (quite a frisky one!). DSC_1181[1]After our experience at the Elephant Orphanage, it was back on the bus and on the road to our home (for the next 10 days) Ol Pejeta Conservancy in the region of Laikipia, outside of the town of Nanyuki…a 6-7 hour bus ride!!!! Good thing I brought a book…that I never opened, because the sights and sounds on the road to Ol Pejeta were jaw dropping.

And that’s another story:)

Angela Provo,
Professor, Early Childhood Education Program

Kenya 2018 GCELE

Lost (and Found) in Translation: A (Kinda-Sorta) Spanish Speaker’s Cuban Experience

“this blue blob of rusted ancient metal (well, it’s about 60 years old) clunk-clunk-clunks through centuries of resource and decades of revolution. it’s careening over rocky roads and stumbling through the sunshine, searing like scrambling eggs on summer pavement (well, it’s the middle of spring).

we doze off on top of suitcase armrests – I’m the last to fall asleep because I’m distracted by the wind behind me. I try to stay conscious through this travel through time and time again.

the speedbumps aren’t just for show here; they’re our unwarranted alarms, but we’re never in harm’s way despite this steel juggernaut’s jerking over years of winding and unwinding history interlaced with intersections and precarious infrastructure. we’re Davids within this goliath, but in this edition of the story we’re not here to conquer – we’re collaborating with compassion with newfound companions.”

These were the first words I jotted down to remember this experience as we drove through the Cuban countryside from Varadero to Sancti Spiritus on May 16th, 2017, the day our unforgettable journey began. When I look back, my stream of consciousness seems just as shaky as my writing was, just as the bus ride was: I don’t think I’ll be able to translate perfectly through either words or pictures, but I can always try. After all, these GCELE opportunities encourage us as students and global citizens to work towards dismantling barriers – and we do that through communicating with each other on our trip, with our new Cuban friends, and with you, the person on the other side of the screen reading this and wondering, “what do you even do on a GCELE?”

As someone who spoke Spanish really well in high school, but graduated high school five years ago, I’ll admit that I overestimated how fluent I was. “I speak Spanish at a conversational level” is easy to say in Canada, when you’re introducing yourself at the GCELE pre-departure orientation to your new Canadian friends, some of whom do speak Spanish but most of whom know “hola”, “adiós”, and “despacito”. It’s even easy to live up to that statement at the airport when you’re going through customs or asking your bus drivers their names. But in a country where Spanish is the official language, especially in a city like Sancti Spiritus that isn’t overrun with tourists, the locals don’t sound like the slow, articulated, over-pronounced audios from your classroom. They grew up with this language, of course, and so you feel like a child relearning how to speak – but you’re also translating for others at the same time that you’re trying to keep up. Challenge accepted, but maybe I dove in too quickly?

But nine days in Sancti Spiritus taught me much, much more than some of the words and phrases I’d forgotten. Sure, I felt anxious about not being a perfect translator: one event comes to mind in which I forgot the Spanish word for “box” when some of my friends wanted to take some pizza they’d ordered back to the casa particular where we were staying, and I internally panicked. But what I quickly learned from so many new friends is that it’s okay not to be perfect: it’s better to make the effort to communicate and get to know the people around you than to be completely grammatically correct. Enthusiasm, positivity, and curiosity about new environments go a long, long way.

I became inspired by my fellow Centennial students to stop letting my fear of being perfect get in the way of communicating. When I stopped overthinking about the exact words or grammatically correct phrases to say, I actually felt so much more comfortable speaking with volunteers, families, and permaculture enthusiasts in Sancti Spiritus. Whether it was finding a common love for YouTube makeup tutorials with Lorrettys, listening to entertaining stories about motorcycle mishaps from Sandy, or comparing tattoos with Felix, I found that there was so much that unified us Canadians and Cubans that the language barrier wasn’t an obstacle, but a springboard. And as we all laughed and chattered with excitement in basic English, basic Spanish, and wild hand gestures, I realized that this is what makes new experiences so rewarding: you don’t need to be fluent to build friendships.

That said, I would highly recommend all of you to learn how to say “the toilet’s broken” in the language of the country where you happen to be travelling next because it’s best to be prepared too.


Written by: Amy Yvorchuk

Food Security in Cuba – An Introduction

GCELE: Pathways to Community Food Security in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba

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My name is Gun, but you can call me Chino because that was my nickname during my time on this Global Citizenship and Equity Learning Experience. Along with 14 other students and staff members of Centennial College, I was given the amazing opportunity to travel to the humble city of Sancti Spíritus, tucked away in the heart of the island country of Cuba, to learn about food security and permaculture.

Food security can be defined as having access to affordable, nutritious, and sustainable foods or food resources. Food insecurity, as one could probably imagine, is the opposite of that. When we think of food insecurity, we tend to conjure up images of impoverished children living in war-torn countries and poor, undeveloped nations. On this trip, however, we were taught to re-imagine and reflect on those images not from a political & economic perspective, but through a socio-cultural lens.

Cuba has gone through an incredible amount of social, political, economic, and cultural growth and transformation within the last 30 years. This is the result of an economic crisis, known as the “Special Period”, that began in the late 1980s due to a halt to the import of oil, food, and other goods from the Soviet Union. With their economy already damaged by the trade embargo set by the United States in the 1960s, the effects of this crisis were felt all over the country.

During the Special Period, Cubans all around the country had to ration their food supplies and limit the use of any fossil fuel-dependent machinery due to their lack of oil. Many farmers suffered greatly because they could not use their large tractors or harvesters and could not easily transport the goods that they produced any more. This also meant that urban communities began to see a decrease in accessibility to foods as well. People were becoming hungry and increasingly reliant on the government for support. Cuba was in need of a solution that would provide food security to its citizens during this vulnerable time.

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Luckily, a few teams of Australian volunteers came and shared with the Cubans a new method of sustainable farming that could be easily integrated into the lives of citizens, both urban and rural, and was seen by the Cuban government as a method to combat the increasing amounts of hunger and poverty that were beginning to spread throughout the country. This new agriculture vision was known as “permaculture”.

Permaculture is the combination of 3 words; permanent, agriculture, and culture. It is a system of beliefs that revolves around the development of sustainable agricultural systems that closely resemble natural ecosystems.

Natural ecosystems, like the earth, are considered to be self-sufficient. This means that they require little to no maintenance in order to proliferate on their own. There exists cycle in nature that all organic material can enter to be broken down into the basic building blocks of life; carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. New plants can use the products of that breakdown, combined with the seemingly limitless amount of energy from the sun, to supplement their own growth. This happens on a large scale all over the planet and seems to have worked so far in creating massive, self-sufficient ecosystems (think large rainforests!), so therefore by integrating these biochemical laws of nature in their own farms, permaculture farmers have been able to produce a large quantity of healthy and sustainable vegetation.

A lot of the food that we eat comes from monoculture farms; farms that only produce a specific crop (e.g. orange farms). Monoculture farming definitely has its benefits, but it is not a sustainable method of farming. They reduce biodiversity, make it harder to recycle nutrients, and often rely heavily on chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

Permaculture is a different take on the typical monoculture farming that we see today. One of its concepts involves incorporating a wide variety of plants and using them in a way to maximize each plant’s individual development. This is almost identical to the First Nations’ “Three Sisters” concept, where corn, beans, and squash are grown together because each crop has a unique characteristic that provides a benefit to the other two, maximizing their growth potential.

On  the third day of our trip, we planted banana circles at a farm named “Lo Real Maravillosa”. Banana circles are another type of system of crops like the ones described earlier. By planting banana & papaya trees and sweet potato roots in a circular mound with a pile of compost in the center, the circles act as great natural composters, abundant sources of food, and storage sites for greywater or rain.


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Another concept that is a part of permaculture is the idea of producing no waste. Many of the foods and waste products that we simply throw away today have huge amounts of energy and nutrients left over that can be re-purposed. The whole idea of composting is to break waste down into dirt that is enriched by the nutrients that were trapped in the waste before. By composting kitchen scraps and food wastes and turning them into dirt, farmers can save money on fertilizer and produce better yields of healthier and tastier crop.

I remember visiting a man named Edison’s farm and noticing that the ground we were walking on was covered in something that wasn’t dirt. He told us that they were rice husks; waste products from a local rice mill. Edison made a deal where he would take all their waste and use it on his farm. The rice husks would naturally degrade and the nutrients trapped in them would return to the soil, thereby enriching and protecting his soil.

Even human waste can be re-used. For this reason, almost all of the farms that we visited had composting toilets, or dry toilets that collected our waste products, which were added to compost to help make nutrient-rich fertilizer through the bacterial breakdown process. Human waste also contains a lot of bacteria that, during the composting process, produces methane gas, which was used to power some of their stoves.

The final permaculture concept that I will talk about is setting limits and sharing the surplus. Many of the farms that we visited did not only produce food for themselves, but made an excess that helped to feed the rest of their communities. They also sold some of their crops in the local markets. By taking only as much as they need for themselves and ensuring that there is enough for others as well, then there will continue to be enough for all in the future.

This trip taught me extremely valuable knowledge on food security, the country of Cuba, and permaculture. I will definitely apply this knowledge in my future career as a nursing student and I am very grateful for the new perspective I’ve been given on agriculture and food. Thank you, Centennial College, for this amazing opportunity. Sancti Spíritus, I’ll be back!

By: Gun Chong Yang, Nursing Student

My Learning Journey in Sancti Spiritus

Feeling anxious about what my next 10 days were going to be like, I hopped on the plane with 14 strangers and off we went to Sancti Spiritus, Cuba. For the next 3 hours, my imagination was free to run and wonder what exciting things were just a few short hours away from me. We stepped off the plane and as I inhaled with much excitement we started our journey!

We all gathered on the back of a bus with benches for seats and windows as air conditioner and our suitcases packed between our legs! An experience you might ask – absolutely! The next five hours were full of an experience like no other gaining friendships and seeing the world beyond my typical norm. We arrived at the foundation we would be staying at for the duration of our stay and the greeting, although a language barrier, was very special and inviting. One thing about the foundation was whenever we walked through the doors the table was set every single time with delicious meals prepped for us like clockwork. Beautiful dinners of fresh local fruits and veggies, freshly squeezed fruit juice from local farms – it was wonderful.

As we began our adventures, day by day the experience got greater and connections became stronger. The team work was phenomenal. I have never been part of a team who worked so collaboratively in my life. We laughed we cried but most important we worked together. We saw tarantulas and encountered scorpions, slightly shocked by the shower head (it pays to know the language and read the signs 😂😂). It was used to heat the water but clearly had written do not touch shower heads.

Those are just a few of my wonderful experience but let me touch on the amazement of the utilization of material and waste matter that was so efficiently reused to build garden beds and dead leaves and grass used as mulch to turn into amazing soil. This way they reused human and animal waste to create soil from mother nature. It was so amazing to see the beautiful gardens flourishing with fresh tasty fruit and not to mention the all natural medicinal plants they had for many different illnesses. I was truly inspired by the hard but not too challenging work the Cubans had put together. They have done the gardens in a way that is so amazing and eases the work load daily.

I was truly inspired when I returned home I had reused 2 old BBQs I had and cleaned them lined them and created beautiful garden beds that have now started to grow carrots, tomatoes, green onions, squash and more. To touch on modes of transportation a tad, the coolest experience we had was riding a horse and buggy. Though our horse took a little hissy fit and decided which paths he wanted to take and when, it was quite the experience. The truck we took was an open back and that is something I’ve always wanted to try. Every morning we woke, ate breakfast and on the back of that truck we went.

The Cuban friends we made were so amazing and accommodating. They taught us to dance salsa and took us to a wonderful beach (I might add we were stung by jelly fish, just another experience to add to the list 😁) but the friendships gained were friendships kept. We swapped emails and keep in touch on a a weekly basis. It’s amazing how the experience continues to flourish even after the project is over. One last piece I would like to add is they have taught me so much in such a brief time. My eyes have been opened to a world of amazing new opportunities that I continue to carry with me.

By: Alysha Morris