Leaving Toronto to PEI with no clue what I would get and do but building a home to a mother and a daughter. It started how I was over excited to get ready what should I bring: a note from pre-departure meeting was really helpful. I got everything I needed especially things related to my skin cares. on Sunday June 21, 2015 , Charlottetown greeted our team with pouring rain and no sun. Oh well, It looked so gloomy but the excitement shed up all the anxiety. When we arrived at the Brackley Hostel, I was silently speaking to myself: “How could I survive?” , Who are going to be my roommates?” ” Will I get along with them?” “oh well… whatever happens let it happens….I will make it work somehow”
It”s still raining, we will still work! plan B work! instead of working at the job site on Nine Miles Creek in Cornwall, we headed off to the warehouse of Habitat for Humanity PEI. We are doing wood cutting. From the stage of scared of hand saw to the stage of having fun with it. It’s a learning process on going. Although I currently study at Architectural Technology program, it does not mean I will be able to apply the knowledge I have learned in practice. It’ s a labour intense. Either you have to have a strong muscle or you have to have a strong will to be able to survive here. I have the second one ( according to my team leader).
We are expecting a sunny day. We started by having breakfast made by 2 wonderful ladies Daisy and Beini, our Team Leader Pierre and Rebecca help washing dishes. Day 3 it’s our first day at Nine Miles Creek House. Our schedule for today are : assembling scaffolding, finishing all rigid insulation + taping, putting doors and windows and framing interior walls. We did it a good job and we reached the target. Therefore, we deserve good dinner.
This morning I woke early at 6.00 am and I was talking with my dad and my sister on video call. I found out that mom does not do well, a day before they took her to the hospital and she is being treated at ICU. Dad told me to stay strong and to be professional and to stop crying. My team are awesome they give me hugs to comfort me. So enough with a sad moment, I make crepes for all: cooking always makes me happy. Our Schedule for today is to assemble the shingles and to continue the framing job. . After working hard, we go back to the hostel , take a nice showers ( we competed to get to men shower rooms with our only guy in a team: first come first serve type of thing). this Evening we are going to have dinner to a restaurant named Lobsters Wharf by the Charlottetown waterfront ( it sounds fancy, right?), After Dinner we have 2 surprises from our sweet project coordinator Monic, The surprise visits for the night are the Cow ice cream and Tim Horton!!!! the Cow ice cream visit after dinner is the hit of the day. However, for others, they are happy too because they get the surprised visit to Tim Horton
wait for my Day 5-Day 8 story : its getting more interesting…………..
Nicaragua has been one of the most incredible experiences in my life that I will cherish with me for the rest of my life. I am so happy to have had the chance to take part in this amazing opportunity. I was able to educate the community and receive a deeper connection with the people of Nicaragua. I was blessed to have made great connections and relationships with many individuals. I will always remember the impact I had created in others but also the impact they had on me. I am able to picture the faces of the massage therapists when they were learning new techniques and learning business skills. I am also able to picture the faces of all the children whom were interested in the topics being taught to them like hand hygiene, oral hygiene, physical health and more. It is also such an amazing feeling to be able to imagine their faces every day of my life now here in Canada, of how happy everyone one was, how happy they were to learn, how happy they were to play and how happy everyone was to connect as a whole. I greatly admire Waves of Hope and El Coco Loco for their initiatives and their outstanding impact on the community. They made my experience very enjoyable and inspired me to continue mission work. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
I knew that going to a new country and communicating with a language barrier would be a challenge. I will admit that I was worried about it. How am I going to connect with them? How will we build a relationship if we don’t understand each other? I wasn’t too anxious about it, but these thoughts were certainly on the back of my mind.
To my surprise, it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had imagined! We did have the help of translators when we were presenting health information to a group but for one on one things we often did it by ourselves. It was a very interesting and enlightening experience because for the first time in my life, I was listening with my eyes. People would explain their body aches and pains and instead of listening to the words they used, I was listening to how they told their story, when they used inflictions to emphasize a point, or when they used gestures to explain that something was important. I have always been a good listener but I have never consciously noticed how much people speak with their bodies. Through these expressions, gestures and varying tones of voice I was able to understand what was being said to me, as well as communicate back. By the end of the trip I had learned tons of techniques for communicating across a language barrier, and realized that I had nothing to worry about in the first place.
“Into the unknown… embrace the fall… enjoy the ride…”
These are phrases I kept telling myself while I prepared for a trip described by many, as a trip of a lifetime. It wasn’t a trip, it was far from that, it was an experience of a lifetime, and I was not prepared for the impact it would have on me or everyone else, I don’t think anybody was. We were 19 students, strangers to each other, with different backgrounds, different believes and different career paths, put together for one single goal; be better and encourage others to be better. The fact that we all came from such different places became an asset; we saw things differently, we had numerous reactions to a single situation and we pushed each other forward, sometimes by agreeing with each other, others by disagreeing with each other. Each one of us played a key part in this experience, there was something unique of everyone that shone throughout the journey; like Althea’s everlasting smile and undying enthusiasm, Irfan’s playfulness and bad jokes, Nisha’s serene voice and attitude, Courtney’s empathy and charm with the kids, Crystal’s willingness to help, Rohini’s resolve, Mila’s funny craziness… too many to name them all. However, I’m grateful to have shared this journey with them.
After our time in the mountains, we traveled back to Xichang to meet 30 Fu Hui Girls with whom we spent the next 5 days during the Empowerment Camp. During this time, we tried to give the girls all our collective knowledge and wisdom (as little as it might be since we are all still learning) through the workshops. In return, they gave us so much more, they showed unmeasurable gratitude, joy and love. They reminded me what it is like to see the world through innocent eyes, to be open to change without fear and to enjoy the little things. In our final day with the girls, we were surprised to that none of the girls in our Team Happy was outside to meet us upon arrival like the rest. As we walked inside, we found our girls in the classroom, practicing for our performance. To me, this gesture meant our goal was accomplished. By this little silly thing, a performance for the rest of the class. We saw them working on their own, setting the bar higher and trying to be better for themselves. Those were my last words to the girls before saying goodbye, be better everyday. Everyone has their own version, they pushed us for ours as much as we did so for theirs.
There were too many amazing, touching and memorable moments during this journey. One in particular comes to mind, on the first day with the girls, one came up to me, we chatted for 2 minutes, we got separated into other groups, then after an activity we were back to our places. When I saw this girl again, I greeted her by name, the look on the face was indescribable, she was so surprised, touched and excited that I remembered her name, we connected right there and from that point on whenever she saw me, it was the same joy, excitement and pure appreciation from that first day, right until the last day with her gripping my hand strongly as we were saying goodbye. Her name was Mabel, it will not be forgotten. During this journey, I was reminded to be grateful, to appreciate the little simple things, and to never underestimate the impact you can have on someone else’s life. We choose whether it is for the BETTER.
The last blog I wrote I talked about specific experiences that were very valuable in my learning throughout my trip in PEI. This one is more about what Habitat is all about and the learning that I experienced personally. First off Habitat for Humanity is a not for profit organization that helps families that are in need of affordable housing. To qualify you must make a certain amount of money a year, put in 500 hours of volunteer work for Habitat and the family also pays a mortgage back to Habitat for Humanity and that money goes to making another Habitat house for another family. That is pretty incredible in my mind because the families put in the time and buy paying the mortgage of there house Habitat is able to provide other families with the same opportunities to fit their needs.
Personally I did not know what to expect going on a GCELE for Habitat for Humanity within Canada. There are differences in culture even in the same country! Their highways are different, their traffic lights are different, the air is different and the people are different. They are so relaxed, calm and friendly. You hardly ever go out without seeing someone you know. I personally like this small tight community because I am a very friendly and social person who loves to talk. There was a lot more physical work than I expected! Our team and myself personally pushed ourselves above and beyond what I thought I and our team was capable of. I never envisioned myself shingling a roof. That was an incredible and confidence boosting experience. It was also an emotional and mental roller coaster. We had to learn how to work with others who come from all different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs. We also lived in very close proximity to each other for 8 days which can be tough having little privacy. Being able to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself to get out of bed even when I was exhausted and sore was hard. But something I always said throughout this trip was that this trip was not about me. Every time I said that I was able to move forward. I became mentally and emotionally stronger because I was tired, sore and still worked. If you got hurt we would stop pull ourselves together and keep going. That’s just how our team worked. We worked so well as a team and their is no other group of people I would of rather built this house with than them.
Thank you to Centennial College, Habitat for Humanity PEI and all the people that made this trip possible. I truly learned a lot and can proudly and confidently say I am a stronger person physically, mentally and emotionally.
This is just a little video I put together about my team and I on our trip and the experiences we had the opportunity to have!
Being chosen to go on a GCELE within Canada – PEI I did not really understand why in Canada as I did not see absolute poverty in Canada which was my idea of poverty. Although Canada has a lot of relative poverty such as living pay check to pay check. After meeting the family at the welcome dinner I started to understand why I was here. Erika (the mother) also wrote us the letter below which was so nice to read after meeting her.
I realized that this trip was not about me but to serve others. I still had not seen the awe factor of what my hard work was going to do for a family to its full extent until Day 4.
Journal entry Day 4,
Erika and Alyannah (the family we were building a house for) showed up this afternoon to see the progress on the house and they were so happy. When I asked Alyannah (the child) where her room was she would run to her window inside and say look this is my room banging on the window with such a big smile on her face. That was worth it all, to see her face was incredible. Aly asked me if we could go out back to see the work we had done on her house so I went with her. I brought her back inside and Erika came up to me and said thank you so much. She was like I am just going to give you a hug. That was absolutely amazing to be apart of.
This encounter/entry made me realize what we were doing was giving a family such joy, hope, safety and love. They were so thankful by the end of the week of what our team had accomplished. We built the entire foundation of her two bed room, one bathroom home. At the end of the week the family and Habitat for Humanity PEI thanked us with a thank you dinner. Erika and Alyannah were so thankful! Alyannah gave us each one of these unique frames below with a map of PEI on it. Alyannah had drew a heart on it where we built her house. It was absolutely precious to see her face and for such a shy little girl at the beginning of the week to come out of her shell and love us so much!
Myself and Erika top left, Myself and Alyannah top right, and the thank you gift from Alyannah on the bottom.
I was thrilled to hear my professor Marg announce that she would be going back to Guatemala to continue her work. I submitted my application on the very first day, and was already planning my trip before the acceptance letter. A few months later, I landed at Flores airport. That was unreal.
The purpose of our trip was to teach the local midwives how to use a birthing simulator MamaNatalie, teach the local women how to make reusable menstrual pads, and provide First Aid training to the local health promoters. We visited six different communities throughout our stay, and each community was unique in its own way. Most of the communities we visited are Q’eqchi’, the Maya people, hence it requires double translation from English to Español, then to Kekchi. It was challenging, but in a positive way.
I didn’t really experience “culture shock,” definitely some “culture surprises” during our stay in Guatemala. Photos speak a thousand words, hence I will walk you through our wonderful journey through photos. Have some tortilla chips ready, sit back and relax.
Day 1:Our flight is TO -> Miami -> Guatemala city -> Flores, then finally a two-hour bus ride to Sayaxche, It was tiring, but we were warmly greeted by the heat wave in Guatemala.
Day 2: Flores -2 hours smooth bus ride to Sayaxche
Meeting with Apidec (Programa Integral de desarrollo Christiano) & World Renew staffs. Had a crazy ride in a “cage” to our first village. I was chosen to be the first to do MamaNatalie (meaning I have to fake birthing). I knew I did an awesome job because everyone outside heard my screams from the classroom. Some said my hysterical screams scared some babies and kids oops. There is no bridge to cross the river in Sayaxche, so we had to take the ferry. Unfortunately on our way back to the hotel, a truck was stuck on the ferry and we waited for an hour before crossing a small river. Apparently the government made big profits from the ferry, so bridges are unnecessary. We had to hide in the jungle for toilet break! We were still full of awesomeness but began to feel the heat wave eating away our energy.
Day 3: Meeting with the Ministry of Health of Guatemala (Gobiernode Guatemala Ministerio de Salud Publica y Assistencia Social) in the morning. Visited our second village “San Juan Acul” in the afternoon. This village has a huge shelter outside. Sweat was pouring down, but the hot & humid breeze meant so much to us! I’ve said “mi nombre Beidi” so many times. Awesome but the heat was unbearable. We definitely had an awesome time at this community all thanks to the shelter that they have.
Day 4:Third village “Herencia Maya” meaning Heritage Maya. Most residents only know Kekchi, a Mayan language, so we have to translate from English to Spanish then to Kekchi (most communities we visited are Q’eqchi’ so triple translations hence triple the fun, and most of the communities were receiving visitors for the very first time, not to mention first foreign visitors). I used leftover fabrics to make♥and stars to the kids and they love it so much. This heat was overwhelming… people were starting to get sick😦
Day 5: Visit to Tikal, the Mayan ruins! Everyone was excited though we were not feeling well. The heat was not bad, bearable. Awesome day!
Day 6:Boating to the zoo in the morning, and had a fabulous view of Flores from far. Was a little upset that we had to cancel our afternoon trip to another ruin😦but at least we went to a good restaurant and I got a super yummy chicken sandwich and a Jamaican Rose drink. Got a super-itchy spider bite, and the rash was crystal-like. Finally started raining on the way back to Sayaxche, it cooled down the heat.
Day 7 & 8:Can’t remember what exactly happened during these two days. I was drained, and totally shutting down. I remembered the tables were so small and low, I have to bend down all the time while surrounded by groups of women and children. The noise, the heat, and the environment was sweeping over me like waves after waves. Due to the heat and long bus ride, more people felt unwell. I forced myself to drink lots and lots of water, and I survived the hardest period during this trip.
Day 9:Visited the last community! The kids there were overwhelming. They dragged you everywhere, touched your hair, put their little hands in your pocket digging for stuffs. I went to the bathroom with ten kids surrounding the door. Last time using MamaNatalie, my energy level left only 10% while doing it. A long day ended with kids holding my hands, grabbing my leg, and singing my name.
Day 10:Meeting with Ministry of Health again with reporters, and many cameras. Seemed like we’ll all be in Peten news! Our efforts had been paid off. Our MamaNatalie, menstrual pads, and First Aid sessions benefited the locals so much that the MOH will continue teaching the midwives and women with MamaNatalie and menstrual pad making. I felt so grateful. Drove back to Flores and finally SHOPPING TIME!!! (didn’t buy a lot because I was… exhausted). Day ended with a two-dollar ice cream.
Day 11: Guatemala City was raining and flight was delayed. Almost missed our Miami flight back to Toronto because of that. One American said “look at those crazy Canadian girls running in airport.” First thing back home is feeling extremely cold in 20ish temperature, but home sweet home :”)
I have to thank Centennial College for this amazing opportunity.Thank all the staffs from World Renew. Thank you Marg, Roya & Jo! Although we faced many ups and downs in this trip, extreme deprivation of veggies, tears and laughter, it was an experience that could only be experienced. It made me question my values, tested my limits, and forced me to grow. Thank you Guatemala! Someone told me this quote during this trip “You have to do other won’t, so you can have other can’t.” and of course my own quote “IT’S ONCE IN A LIFETIME!!!“