United With the Great Leaders of Today

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


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

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

By Sharrmini C., GCELE Jamaica 2016

My GCELE Learning Experience

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

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

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

Juliana Cristofoli, GCELE Jamaica 2016



The GCELE experience was one of the greatest experiences I have had and I am grateful to have received the opportunity to be a part of it.

Participating in the camp was so amazing and taught me so much. The children along with the camp inspired me and taught me to ignore the negativity not only from life or others but from myself, it has always been a challenge for me. I learned about self-motivation and being true to myself regardless of stigmas or any negativity. I learned about the power of being self-confident and the freedom of being true to yourself. Although I am still working and learning how to do this they have helped me come a long way and for that, I am forever grateful; it is a lesson I will never forget and will always hold close to my heart.

Author: Anna-Kristine Psomiadis, GCELE Jamaica 2016

Life Lessons Come From Dancing

While volunteering at the Camp Power to Be, I learned a life-changing lesson. With the help of the campers, I’ve learned to focus on doing what I enjoy and not fear much about how other’s will judge me.

As I watched and learned how to dance from the campers, I realized how powerful music and dance can be. They didn’t seem to care about what the audience will think of their dance, nor how others will think of them. They just danced to the music. I was surprised to see the campers dance so freely as it reminded me of how uniquely different we are – there was something I could learn from them.

Rehearsing before the talent show.

The talent show day finally came and my heart was pounding because we were in the spotlight and the audience was watching. My knees were tense but jerked into action the moment I heard the music start. I looked around at the campers and thought “Wow, I did not know I had the courage to dance on stage, but I am doing it, and I don’t regret a single thing of it.” I no longer feared what the audience though; I was having so much fun and thought about how regretful I would have been if I stood on the sideline watching the performance.

Volunteers, campers and I dancing on stage at the Talent Show.

As a nursing student, I stress and wonder a lot about my future self – will people see me as a good nurse? Does this profession match with who I am? I tend to overwork myself in order to fulfil society’s ‘ideal image of a nurse’, but I’ve learned from the campers that life can be less stressful if you focus on fulfilling your goals and not the goals of society. Just like dancing, I should not stress about how others will see me in the future, instead, I should focus on achieving my current learning goals – like enjoying my clinical placements, and mastering my skills as a student. Only then, will I feel less stressed and cherish my time as a nursing student more.

After the trip to Jamaica, I have used this learning experience to remind myself:

Don’t worry about what others think because most of the time, the one who takes risks will learn more than the one who just watches on the sideline 🙂

Can’t stop dancing – even after the Talent Show has ended!

By Marlene Tran, GCELE Jamaica 2016

My Unknown Home Away From Home

It all began with a resume, an interview, patience and acceptance. The process to get on the GCELE Jamaica team was one of the most nerve-racking parts of the GCELE itself. I was introduced to nine strangers, who like me were seeking a unique experience. All of us had come from all walks of life and we were all anxious to begin a life-changing journey. I did not know these people and they did not know me but we all trusted each other to work as a team and live together as a family for 8 days.


From the very beginning of my experience, I was exposed to the reality of being in a new world. Although I myself am from Jamaican descent, I never realized just how fortunate I am to live in a place like Canada. The first day at Camp Power to Be was so enlightening because of how welcome I felt amongst the volunteers and campers who had come out at 9am to learn about the importance of literacy, the power to be strong, united, a leader, trustworthy, kind and last but not least awesome!

The kids were so unique and each one had a different story to tell. Some acted out to seek attention and acceptance and others remained silent as to not make themselves known. They were all amazing to me because they always came back to the camp the next day with a positive attitude, smile and a “Goodmorning Miss!”

I tried every day to put myself in their shoes and see this experience from their point of view. I understood that being at camp was one of the most important experiences of the summer for the children. I caught myself several times thinking “Wow, it is too hot to be outside. I need some air conditioning and a cold bottle of water.” Only to realize that majority of the children did not even have air conditioning in their homes and some of them did not have access to cold bottles of water. All they had was a pipe to catch water from.

The moment that will change me forever was the last day after the talent show. When the excitement wore down I realized that my experience was over, that these kids were going to go home and forget my name and that I would be going home. I was so shocked that I grew so attached to these kids and how much they changed my view of what is important in the world. The youth everywhere are our future and some don’t have the guidance or the opportunity to thrive and grow to be their best selves. I believe that if people invested in children as much as they invested in clothes, shoes and electronics each generation would support each other’s potential and growth.

I went home feeling empowered and changed for the better. I felt that no matter what I do as long as I am setting an example for the youth, providing them with guidance and any resources I can give that I could make a difference. I came home with new friends that I know I will keep for a long time because we shared such an important experience together. The Camp Power to Be was aimed for the youth at the camp, but I believe they changed me as well. I feel like a new person and I feel now that everyone can make a change. Like a flower, all that is needed is fresh soil (support), a seed (you) and a little water and sunshine (positive people and positive vibes) in which to bloom.

By: Anidra Francis, School of Community and Health Studies

Camp Power to Be, Literacy Program

Centennial College took me and other students to Negril, Jamaica for a life-changing program organized by Power to Be International. The program was from July 16 to July 24. For some of us, including me, this was a whole new feeling because I’ve never had the opportunity to participate in a program with so many kids.

DanielThe first day for me was tough but the next couple of days were a lot different. I had the chance to know and understand the kids and found out how cool and understanding they were. The kids are really smart and sure we had difficult moments! However, the kids know why they are there what they wanted.

At first, I thought we were just there to teach and help the kids with literacy, but then I realized I was learning a lot from the kids too. They taught me about their culture, music, shared stories and language. A lot of people from around the world can really learn from this program.

I also got to know fantastic people I came with, who I am grateful to have come across in life. This GCELE was an eye-opener for me and it allows me to appreciate things more. I am really grateful to Centennial College for selecting me for this program and also am happy to have met everyone at Camp Power to Be.

Written by: Daniel Mogbojuri, School of Engineering Technology and Applied Science

Beyond a Traveler’s Eye

Upon an island far away from home, there is an existence of a cultural, agricultural and spiritual crowd who come together to celebrate life. We call it Jamaica. Many people have seen the world, but how many have truly seen beyond tourism?

SAM_2223If you have never been, keep reading….

The skies are clear, the water has a taint of aqua blue, the sun warms every citizen, every crop, every tree and every beam plummets into the Caribbean Sea. Oh what a feeling! Jamaica’s temperature is about 35 to 38 degrees Celsius on a regular day… Still you can witness their citizens with long sleeves or heavy jeans working hard day and night.

As you begin to understand the life in Jamaica, citizens have been engaging for many decades in agriculture, farming, construction and governmental effort in order to survive this life. Living in Jamaica has become more sustainable over the years and continues to bloom although there are still some corners of the island that needs care, attention and dedication. Negril is one of them.

The camp Power To Be International was created to address some of the equity and social justice issues that exists in Negril; education, lack of resources, and negligence of youth development just to name a few. What this camp provides is a safe place where they can live, laugh, learn but most of all, be themselves! The mission is simple, “Helping youth discover their Power to Be”.

ChantalCoverEveryday, there was a morning assembly in order to create excitement at the camp. The students would dance to their favourite theme song, learn what the “Power to Be” characteristic was for the day and how they were able to implement this in their behaviour. As you meet the students for the first time up to the last day, you instantly make connections and most importantly, long lasting friendships. These our students who will never forget our faces and what we have contributed for them in a week time!

Through all this experience, I have felt much of this culture shock transforming itself into really what I would call culture appreciation. I have learned the importance of engaging in global communities who are less fortunate than I. Together, we can make a change. It is not about how big this change 369f9a1is, it is about the effectiveness of each and every one of us contributing to it. As global citizens, we come together to create this positive global change to see its effectiveness, to inspire others to do the same and to be a part of something much bigger. If we have the power, the strength, the leadership skills, but most importantly the will and urge to make a global change,then I’d say it starts with YOU!!!

By Chantal Hudon, GCELE Jamaica 2016

Connecting the Dots

Aimann Lou Balatayo, GCELE Jamaica 2016


“Children close their ears to advice but open their eyes to example.” – Author Unknown

Being one of the volunteers at the Power to Be International camp has challenged me in multiple ways – from how I express and compose myself in front of my peers and in front of the children, to how I view myself, an engineering technology student, in the grand scheme of global events. However, one of the greatest challenges I faced was getting a child to write their own name.

Out of the many wonderful and lovable children that surrounded me over the course of five days, there was one who stuck out – due to him being present on the first and last days only. He was particularly quiet, and trying to get him to do the morning exercises was a task all in itself. This was not due to any animosity or disinterest on his behalf – rather, he did not grasp writing with the same strength or aptitude as his peers.

During an exercise in having the students write their name in Braille, every attempt for him to write his own name resulted in large scribbles. No advice I would have given would have helped him any better. Not to be set back, I found myself idly poking at the paper with a marker, leaving large dots in the page. Taking a moment to pause, an idea ground to life in my head.

Asking to borrow his sheet for a moment, I took a pencil, and began to draw large dots on the page, all in the shape of the letters composing his name. Giving him the pencil, I asked him to connect the dots. Surely enough, he connected the dots together, before staring at the paper in bewilderment and amazement. Although it was messy, he still managed to write his own name. Rewards in the form of hi-fives and cookies followed, and the smile on my own face was eclipsed by his own wide-toothed grin.

I entered Negril, thinking I would be teaching children – in the end, I found that while I guided and taught them, they also molded me and taught me aspects of myself that I would have never unearthed.

Learning From the Best Teacher


At the Camp Power To Be Literacy and Leadership Camp in Negril, Jamaica I made a friend who reminded me of a younger me. I did not spend much time with him because I did not want to show preference above all the other campers. However, every time I had the opportunity to talk to him, I shared as much advice as I could and asked as many questions as the time let me. I felt he is the kind of person that this world needs – he is part of the next generation.

One day he was unusually quiet. I just walked next to him without asking because I did not want to invade his privacy. He told me that his grandfather passed away a week ago and this was the reason why he was sad. I hugged him and told him that his grandfather is in a better place. I did not know what else to do. Then, he left running towards the rest of his friends: the Gorillas, as they named themselves. A lot of questions remained: Is he ok? How is he doing? Should I do something else?

A wonderful kid taught me how to grieve. I was supposed to teach him, but I was the learner. Jamaica has been a reminder that we must be humble and learn from kids and not believe that they only have to learn from ‘grown-ups’. There is also another message: Canada and its’ students can learn a lot from Jamaica. We must know that the world has a lot to share and they are willing to do so. Let’s open our senses and be humble always!

Written by: Javier Garate Alfaro, The Business School

Jamaica — July 2015

What an exciting week working collaboratively with The Power to be International organization in the planning and delivery of the Community Literacy, Leadership and Engagement Camp for children in Negril, Jamaica.  It was a very unique and rewarding opportunity to volunteer in an international setting that also allowed us to gain a better understanding of global issues and our roles as global citizens.

Welcome to Jamaica - July 11-18, 2015 IMG_0690 IMG_0814

I could not have asked to share this experience with a better group of Centennial students and colleagues, everyone worked collaboratively and were fully engaged in learning, planning, coaching, singing, laughing and so much more.  Jamaica is a beautiful country, filled with warm and caring people.  It was a privilege being in the classroom with so many children and meeting the caring staff and volunteers who make this annual camp experience possible!

Everyone can make a difference, please visit http://www.thepowertobe.org/ to learn how!

Vida Barker, Faculty Project Advisor