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.

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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

Facts about living in Costa Rica

Hello! Pura Vida to everyone. In this post I am going to sum up 6 things I have learned during my stay in Costa Rica so far. Hopefully this will be helpful for whoever plans to come to this beautiful green country after me.

  • Pura Vida. Pura Vida means literally everything. Whatever happens and whatever you do, you can always say Pura Vida. It translates to “pure life” and you can say it in place of good morning, hello, goodbye and many other things. This phrase represents the simple life we live in Costa Rica. Your bus is an hour off schedule? Pura Vida!
  • You are going to sweat like you have never sweat before in your entire life. The simple fact that you are alive means that you are going to sweat. It doesn’t matter what you are doing. You are going to sweat.
  • In Costa Rica you can find the most enormous insects you could ever imagine and the smallest of insects. You can find a moth the size of Michael Jordan’s hand or an ant as small as the tip of a pencil.
  • Mosquito Nets. Check your bed out before going to sleep. There might be a critter waiting for you to say goodnight- like a tarantula, or snake. This is why we have mosquito nets. Pura Vida!
  • Speaking of bugs, bug spray will be your best friend.
  • Rice and Beans. Gallo Pinto is the typical dish in Costa Rica which includes rice and beans. You will see it everywhere and eat it everywhere at any time- breakfast, lunch and dinner. I have eaten more rice and beans in these two months more than I have in my entire life.

To finish, I am going to show you some more pictures!

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-Alberto Fabra, Project management

Internship in Costa Rica – Villas Mastatal

Hello everyone!

My name is Alberto, I am a student of Project Management at Centennial College. I am doing my internship at Villas Mastatal in Costa Rica. Mastatal is a small village (about 80 people) in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle, midway between the capital (San Jose) and the Pacific Ocean.

Villas Mastatal is an eco-sustainable organic farm owned by a friendly and young family, Javier, Raquel and their little son Andres (just 4 years old!) I have been here since July 1st but I haven’t been able to post because the Internet connection here is quite bad. Although it is frustrating at times to be without wifi, it is very peaceful to feel completely disconnected in a small paradise.

Butterflies The place where we do yoga in the afternoons!

There are several volunteers at the farm who help the family to maintain it. When I got here we were sixteen, now we are like eight, it depends, as all of them are travelers coming in and out. I have met so many different and unique types of people from all over the world on the finca (farm). We are all very different but have similar characteristics. Villas Mastatal attracts similar people who are spontaneous, open-minded, and adventurous. We are like a family here and switch off helping with meals and cleaning. To help with meals we go out on the farm to collect the leaves for the salad and other fruits and vegetables.    Some of the work we do

They also do have several small-scale projects in the farm, such as:

  • Create a butterfly garden
  • Compost and eco-friendly toilets
  • Protect and fix trails at La Cangreja National Park
  • Design and construct a greenhouse for tomatoes
  • Other necessary stuff that needs to be done to maintain the farm, like digging, shoveling out, planting, etcetera.

 

– Alberto

Prince Edward Island, the birthplace of Canada.

Words cannot describe how amazing and humbling my experience with Habitat for Humanity PEI has been. This past week, I had the opportunity to work alongside some of Centennial College’s most hard-working, respectful and hilarious staff and students whom I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet outside of being selected for the GCELE. Additionally, I had the chance to meet and work with some of Habitat for Humanity’s most dedicated and inspiring employees and volunteers.

lastday

Prior to this GCELE trip, I had attended a HFH volunteer orientation session in Toronto a couple of years ago. I didn’t commit to any builds at the time so I wasn’t sure of what to expect on this trip to PEI. With this trip, I was thrown into close living quarters with 13 strangers. We had little Internet access, very few hours of screen time, communal accommodations and a structured schedule set by Habitat for Humanity.

Here are some things that I learned while on this GCELE:

  • Hearing individuals’ stories of hardship and perseverance make way for personal reflection and feelings of gratitude. One of the restaurants we went to during the week was Sadat’s Cuisine in Charlottetown. The Sadat family of seven came to PEI as refugees in 2007 (article here). And with the help of Habitat for Humanity, the Sadat family was built the biggest home on PEI to date to accommodate their large family. While Said Akbar Sadat was telling his family’s heart wrenching story about coming to Canada and starting over, his voice was filled with love and appreciation for the kindness and gifts they’ve received.
    nine-mile-creek-build
  • Teamwork, pitching in and cooperation are vital interpersonal skills – especially when drywalling! We were there to help build a house for a family in need – there was no room for people to slack off and not participate in the daily tasks assigned.
    drywall
  • You are bound to experience discomfort and inconveniences – you’ve just got to suck it up and stick it out! I can confidentially say that I had the most mosquito bites of our group on this trip. My left eyelid was swollen for the first half of the trip with a bug bite below my brow line and one under my eye making me look like a female Quasimodo without the hunchback. Showers, bathroom and the kitchen were shared spaces so you had to be mindful of others. There may be snorers amongst the people that you’re sharing a room. Your everyday comforts and luxuries are not always readily available, so find better ways to spend your time. Another takeaway from this point? Bring lots of insect repellent and ear plugs.

I had a wonderful time in PEI and I am so grateful to have experienced it through Centennial’s amazing GCELE program. From my experience, Islanders are very friendly and gracious people. The lifestyle there is very relaxed compared to Toronto and there’s very little traffic on the roads. There’s a strong sense of community and pride in PEI… I mean it is the birthplace of Canada after all.

PEI-bridge

Fiona Lui
Children’s Media post-graduate program
PEI TEAM #2

Be Who You Want To Be

At their Jr. High School in the mountains Butuo County, we asked a class of Grade 8 girls the same question we were asked at their age: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Most girls answered that they wanted to be a doctor, teacher, or famous singer. I found it curious that the girls wanted to enter into the same professions, despite each of their unique qualities and talents.

When we returned to Xichang, a larger city outside of Butuo, we ran a similar Career Workshop with a different class of girls and asked them the same question. We were pleasantly surprised by a host of varied and enthusiastic answers: lawyer, chef, fashion designer and shop owner, music teacher, engineer! These students were older and had received more education than the younger students in Butuo.

We worked with the students to create their own “Dream Boards” to show their hopes and dreams and who they aspired to become in the future. One of the students had the most thoughtful Dream Board. It showed that she wanted to travel the world, become a lawyer, or an accountant, or a ballet dancer, get married and become a good mother.

When she presented her Dream Board to our group, she said, “I used to only have one dream. But the future is uncertain, so we must have many dreams. You must be who you want to be!”

Our group on our last day together. Our t-shirts say,
Our group on our last day together. Our t-shirts say, “Make the most of it”.

The students in Xichang grew up in Butuo County and have had to overcome many obstacles to get where they are today. In spite of their difficult journeys, the girls in Xichang dared to dream to enter such creative and personalized professions because their education has allowed and inspired them to.

On this GCELE, my ideas on the value of education were reinforced. Education has the power to reach into a seemingly hopeless situation, widen horizons, open doors to opportunities for growth and excellence, and maximize potential.

Education truly makes a profound difference. It is a priceless gift. You and I have the power to give it!

– Althea Gorospe

Educate A Girl, Educate A Village

I met Emma at her Jr. High School in the mountains of Butuo County. At almost nineteen years old, Emma is the eldest of her class. I remember that she is shy, but has the kindest smile and the strongest singing voice. She impressed me by saying that she wanted to be a photographer or journalist. To me, these seemed to be out-of-the-box professions, as her classmates wanted to be doctors, teachers, or famous singers. As I helped her fill out the Goal Worksheet we distributed to her class, she told me that she loved watching the news reporters on television. She wanted to see the world and take photographs of her travels.

Photo taken by Emma.
Photo taken by Emma.

Emma had lived a difficult life and still dared to dream. Her hopeful and resilient spirit humbled and inspired me. We spent the rest of the day by each other’s side. She held my hand as we said goodbye; I didn’t want to let go. I reminded her to never give up on her dreams and to always keep smiling. She asked me to never forget her, and I certainly never will.

Later, I learned that Emma’s mother had pulled her out of school three years earlier. Her mother had arranged a marriage for her, and she was engaged to a man from her village. Emma’s family had already paid a dowry to the man’s family. Her mother insisted that she give up her education so that she could return home and get married.

Fu Hui Education Foundation negotiated with Emma’s family in order for her to return to school. They made a contract that would allow for Emma to attend school for another three years, until she finished Jr. High School.

Outside of Emma's school in Butuo County, Sichuan Province, China.
Outside of Emma’s school in Butuo County, Sichuan Province, China.

Unknowingly, I met Emma while she was in the last days of her formal education. Summer was fast approaching, and Emma was due to return home and get married. She would never be able to attend high school, graduate from university as a journalist, or travel the world.

I can’t describe the feeling I felt when I learned the truth; perhaps I could say disappointment, or sorrow; burdened, or heartbroken. Perhaps a mix of all of those. One of the kind Fu Hui volunteers comforted me with this: that although Emma would not be able to continue her education, she would return to her village as an educated woman. Emma has received endless benefits from her education, and she would share these with her family, her future children, and others in her village. She will be a beacon of light, a carrier of knowledge that can lead to hope for a better life.

“If you educate a boy, you educate an individual. If you educate a girl, you educate a village.” – African Proverb

Emma and I.
Emma and I.

– Althea Gorospe

Love Crosses Oceans – Julia Portaro, Waves of Hope, Nicaragua 2015

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.GCELE (252) “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

Listening with my eyes

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 ourselvesNicaragua. 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.

  • Amy Mepham, Nicaragua 2015

19+30 for BETTER

“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.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Samuel Beckett

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.

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Centennial College Student Ambassadors
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Centennial College and Fu Hui Education Foundation
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Team Happy
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Linda – Limay – Miranda – Yuonne – Monica – Max – Chelsa
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With the girls
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Enjoy the moment
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Mabel

 

– Jules

Habitat for Humanity and the Learning

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!

Rebecca Harber

Habitat for Humanity PEI

GCELE PEI Team 1

Early Childhood Education Program