Friday, January 29, 2010

Está viendo a pasado..

EXCITING NEWS! I made the first fundraising payment! I don’t have to put a personal contribution forth! Thank you to everyone who helped through making donations, purchasing bracelets and participating in all of our fundraising efforts so far! I feel as though I am accepting an academy award – and unfortunately I may even start crying.

Good Global Citizenship Think Tank

Last Friday, January 22, I was part of the Good Global Citizenship Think Tank this was an event put on by Joanne, our director of the Beyond Borders Program, and Michel, the chair of the Global Studies department at Wilfrid Laurier University. They hosted scholars from universities across Canada. This was a very unique Think Tank because the people involved were from different positions (such as professors, international service-learning program directors, academic advisors, deans, students, the director of Intercordia, and coordinators of all sorts), different faculties (such as religious studies, global studies, education, political science, nursing and social work) and different parts of Canada (Ontario, Alberta, New Brunswick, British Columbia and Saskatchewan). So as you can see we came from all different walks of life and created a very diverse, experienced and knowledgeable group on international programs.

At the Think Tank, Joanne had asked me to talk about my experience in Guatemala. However, due to time constraints I didn’t end up presenting. This was beneficial because I didn’t want to have to get up and speak in front of the group again. I would like to share my experience though, and this is a great way to do it because if my face happens to go red no one will see.

Olivia’s Guatemala Experience

Two years ago this March I travelled with a group of eight other students and two high school teachers to Panajachel, Guatemala. We were there for 10 days and after accounting for travelling time, orientation and a bit of tourist action we spent five days building two houses. We split up into two groups while we were working but other than that did everything together.

We didn’t receive very much preparation. Reasons for this are likely because the trip was roughly a week long and it was the first time any of us students and the teachers had participated in something like this. We did some team building activities which were especially helpful for me because I was from a different high school than the rest of the participants. We also organized some fundraising initiatives together which created bonding time. From Habitat for Humanity we received a handbook before our departure which discussed the liabilities and type of work we would be participating in, and what we should pack. Upon arrival we met up with a leader that was organized and supplied by Habitat for Humanity. He had gone on these missions a few times before, but was a volunteer like us.

There were challenges and/or weaknesses to this experience, but the main one was the language barrier. We received zero language preparation. At first we were told that we would be getting a couple of basic lessons from the Spanish teacher of the high school but they fell through. We had a translator for the week who came everywhere with us and made the experience that much easier. However, when we split up into our two different groups to build the house, our translator could only go one way. I was in the group that did not have a translator and it became very difficult because the people we were working with didn’t know any English and the family only knew a small amount. It was challenging to try and communicate with our foreman and sometimes felt like I was more of a burden then help because it would take so long to delegate tasks to us. One incident that I found the language barrier extremely difficult was during one of the days that we were at the site. I was working on creating the rebar (reinforcing bar) formation that helped reinforce the concrete and make the house less vulnerable to earthquakes. For the last couple of hours I had seen a young boy, maybe nine or ten years old, standing off to the side and clearly interested in helping and taking part. I wanted to ask him if he would like to help me as it was a menial and easy task where he couldn’t get hurt but I didn’t know how to speak. I was asking the group if anyone knew how to say “help” and other words so that I could convey my meaning to him. We finally managed to understand each other through demonstration and hand movements and I adopted a side kick. While we silently stood side by side working there were so many questions running through my mind that I wanted to ask him, “what was his name?”, “what did he like to do?”, “where he was from?”, but unfortunately I couldn’t express any of them. I felt very ignorant for not knowing any Spanish while down there. It is because of this experience that I decided to learn Spanish. I wish to one day return and go see our family again and be able to speak to them properly.

It was rewarding though for the following reasons:
•I was building a house for people who had worked for this opportunity. Habitat for Humanity makes sure that the families meet a level income that is necessary to keep up the house and pay bills and won’t take the service for granted. This made the families very appreciative to have our help and they themselves helped with the construction also.
•We worked with local construction workers and builders. So profit was going back into the community by paying the workers.
•We got to interact with the families we were building the houses for. It made it much more personal and genuine. It was amazing to be able to play with the children and talk/play charades with the parents. I never expected to become attached to the family and the experience and I surprised myself by balling my eyes out during the goodbye ceremony.

So that is the presentation that I would have given on Friday, but it likely sounds much better being read than being dictated. I hope you enjoyed it.

That is all I have to share this week. Hopefully next week I will be able to indulge you readers on more information about my upcoming trip. Thank you for tuning in!


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Semana tres!

Week three, already? How do they arrive so quickly? In our first week back to school we had a seminar for Beyond Borders. At this seminar we spanned from a personality assessment to a self-defense lesson. During the personality assessment I discovered that I am equally tied between Authentic Blue, Inquiring Green and Organized Gold, that’s awkward. So in a situation such as this though, I am clearly an Organized Gold. This means that I require, and even desire, “clear and specific feedback on behaviour and efforts”, “definite regulations, rules, procedures, and constraints”, and “opportunities to organize people and things” (as quoted from the handout received). And do I ever! That is why I am trying to take up space by explaining why I have no idea what to write about. Similar to last term’s critical response papers we have been told that “[t]he format, style and content of the blogs are entirely up to you as long as it deals with your experiences as a Beyond Borders student”, thanks for the definite regulations, rules, etc Joanne! I don’t know what can be classified under my Beyond Borders experience! Everyone else is lost on fundraising or wondering what their placement entails and here I am panicking about what I’m supposed to write in my weekly blog when not much happens that week. You may be wondering why I am subjecting myself to a program and career that involves the most unpredictability anyone could ever predict. Truth: I never considered this problem before; and at this point it’s probably best I just don’t consider it at all. As for things related to Beyond Borders, I accomplished a few menial tasks this week...

1. I took a bus adventure to downtown Kitchener! After my second time I think this could turn into a relaxing pastime. After class on Wednesday I grabbed my most beloved article, my iPod, and it’s only beloved because it has music – not because I’m materialistic (blech), and hopped on the Ainslie Terminal iExpress. It was a crisp, cool day – but I was equipped with my handmade, fluffy, green, and in support of Beyond Border-er Jacquelyn’s SCARF ($13 each – I’d recommend one). I made a stop at The Bead Bazaar to pick up some supplies. I invested in some nice new beads for Bracelets Beyond Borders, which are producing some very lovely new additions to our collection. Then I leapt back on the bus and continued on my journey to Kitchener. I got off at Charles St. Terminal and found my way to the KW Multicultural Centre, which really isn’t that difficult as it is a block away – but if anyone else who is directionally challenged can relate, it was a nerve racking experience. I successfully dropped off my application to be a One-on-One Tutor – mission complete! Now I just have to wait to hear from them so that I can start my volunteer hours. I then found my way back to Charles St. Terminal while only being slightly confused and made my way back to sweet home St. Jerome’s. As a bonus it was certainly a productive day of people watching.

2. Oh AL. For those of you non-UWers, this is a building on campus called Arts Lecture and therefore its short form is AL. This is where the Arts Student Union (ASU) is located and they allow us to sell our articles for fundraising. Jacquelyn managed to book us Monday and Thursday so that we could sell our bracelets, her scarves and Lara’s 50/50 tickets. However, as per typical with fundraising, it wasn’t as easy as it sounded. On Monday morning I loaded myself up with boxes full of bracelets, scarves, money, donations containers etc and head off to AL...the wrong way. I took the wrong bridge and had to walk the long way to the building. Then once I arrive, the ASU had forgotten they were going to give out free apple cider, hot chocolate and cookies that day so they booked us anyways. Not too much of a big deal, except for the loss of sales from those who we had told about the occasion. So I walk back to St. Jerome’s (and take the right bridge this time) and by the time I get back my arms feel like jell-o. I think it was a curse because I didn’t go to the gym that morning. If you can imagine, my arms were sore for 2 days afterwards – just from carrying bracelets and other miscellaneous objects! However, Jacquelyn worked some magic and we were able to sell some product on Tuesday and a few more on Thursday. I am hoping to set up a table in the St. Jerome’s cafeteria to sell some bracelets, so keep your eyes open!

So that is what happened in Olivia’s world of Beyond Borders this week. If anyone (especially Beyond Borders persona) would like to give me some advice as to what I should write about (especially since you saw my mental breakdown with the response papers last term) it would be much appreciated!

Mucho amor mis amigos!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

¿Qué hay de nuevo?

So here we are in week 2 of this blogging expedition! You may be wondering, 2 out of what? At least thirteen...most likely more though. I have some interesting things to discuss in this week’s edition which will include some updates on Argentina, our field trip and some info about fundraising.

I’m starting to wrap my head around the idea of going to Argentina now and I’ve begun doing some research. I am extremely fortunate because Joanne was in touch with a student from Calgary who is working with Fundación iDeas right now and I have been able to email her to ask some questions. She told me a bit about Córdoba city, the Fundación and the people of Argentina. As far as I know I will be living about 30 minutes north of the city, but there’s a bus I will be able to take in. Córdoba is the second largest city in Argentina, but according to Katie (my new pen pal) you get the vibe of a small city because everyone is so friendly and welcoming. Once you’re in the city centre you can walk everywhere you’ll want to go and there are plenty of internet cafés so I will be able to keep my blog up to date! I’ve also been told by both Katie and Joanne that it’s pretty safe. I am not sure what it is that she is working on but I am assuming that because she is working in the heart of the city and I will be working in one of the villages we probably won’t have the same job. However, her experience with the Fundación so far has been a positive one. Katie has praised them for being very flexible and accommodating. The one thing I’m looking most forward too though, and Katie confirmed this, is the people! She said that they are very open and ready and willing to befriend you. Hearing details like this get me so excited! Once I find out what I need to pack I won’t be able to calm myself down (because as boring as it is, it’s the one thing that gets me most excited!)!!

Before I get ahead of myself though and start making a packing list, I still need to complete RS 383! One component of this course is finding a volunteer placement in the local KW (Kitchener-Waterloo) area. This past Monday we all travelled to the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre! This is a place geared mainly to new Canadian immigrants. As we found out, arriving in Canada (especially under refugee status) is a very difficult process but then trying to accustom oneself to the culture can be even more difficult! These individuals or families need to find a family doctor and a job and fill out numerous forms, which can be made even more difficult when they don’t speak English. So among their programs such as settlement counselling, job search services, job search workshops, community outreach program, library settlement program, internationally trained physicians project and documentation, they offer a one-on-one tutoring program to teach new Canadians English. I am hoping to be accepted as a tutor for the centre, it would be an extremely rewarding experience. I have been working on learning Spanish since September now so it would be good practice if I was able to work with Spanish speaking individuals. For a more detailed look at the centre check out the website at .

Another task that must be completed before I can hop on a plane is FUNDRAISING! Fundraising is a great opportunity for you to interact with your community and to get those who support you directly involved in your experience. So far we have had limited success with our group fundraising efforts but they have been opportunities for us to learn and improve. Last term we organised a bake sale and a band night, we tried to sell our cause through Friday night lectures here at St. Jerome’s and through 10 000 Villages (a store here in Waterloo) and submitted a proposal to the Arts Endowment Fund. Some were more of a success than others, but learned more about fundraising and about our group throughout all of them. To try and get the ball rolling Jacquelyn (follow her blog at ) and I started Bracelets Beyond Borders as our own fundraising initiative. We make lovely bracelets and sell them to YOU for an amazing price of $4 (if anyone is interested!). This coming week we will be selling them at Arts Lecture (AL) here on campus at Waterloo! Come out on Monday and Thursday from 12:00-3:00p.m and check us out! Here are some photos of our work:
Hopefully we will start up some more group fundraising initiatives and use our honed fundraising skills to rake in the dough!

Thanks for tuning in! Chau!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Saludos mis amigos!

Welcome to my blog! This is a first so bear with me as I get into a groove. I’m looking forward to sharing this experience with those of you who read this. I’ll indulge you in a bit of personal background, some information about the program and then a peek into my experience so far. I hope you enjoy and thank you for tuning in!

I am in my second year here at the University of Waterloo, registered in Honours Arts at St. Jerome’s University. I am planning to graduate with a major in political science, a minor in Spanish and complete an option in international studies. What am I hoping to achieve with this degree? I would really like to live in South America and work with an NGO (non-government organization) as my end goal. However, after school I hope to work for the Canadian government in the general area of diplomacy to get an idea of the field and stabilize myself before going off on my adventures. I am a born and raised Canadian but I have always loved learning about cultures elsewhere in the world. I have been lucky enough to travel multiple times before. I went to Florida, England, Dominican Republic and Venezuela with my family. I also travelled to Guatemala as a volunteer, which confirmed my interest in an international service career. In grade 12 I was able to go to Guatemala for a week with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village program to assist in constructing a house which was the best experience ever. All of these experiences have led to my desire to join Beyond Borders.

I discovered Beyond Borders in my first year here at St. Jerome’s. I was talking to my academic advisor about changing programs and what I wanted to do and she gave me a pamphlet about the program. She was part of the first Beyond Borders group when she was doing her undergrad here at St. Jerome’s and didn’t even have to convince me -- I was hooked. Beyond Borders is a service-learning program that is offered through the Religious Studies faculty at St. Jerome’s but is open to all University of Waterloo students from all faculties. I took RS 283 this past term (Fall 2009) and am now taking RS 383. During our classes last term we discussed theories of development and were challenged to think very differently. These courses try to prepare us mentally, emotionally and physically for what we may encounter on our trips this summer, which is a unique aspect of the Beyond Borders experience in comparison to other international volunteer programs. If you are at all interested in service work, volunteering, travelling or a challenge I would advise you to check out this program.

Originally I was scheduled to go to Peru this summer. I would have worked with the Pura Vida foundation in Cusco, Peru. Pura Vida was founded by Nathan Beninger who is a Canadian photographer who packed up his Canadian lifestyle and moved to Peru. Pura Vida opened a shelter in 2009 that supports women and children who had been sexually exploited. The women and children could stay for a night but the goal was to have them move in permanently. The shelter would provide them with courses to learn life skills and provide a loving home. However, this arrangement fell through unfortunately. It is best not to dwell on the past though, especially when I have been offered a wonderful alternative: Argentina! Hiccups like this are to be expected because of the types of issues we are participating in and the areas of the world to which we are travelling. Their environment is unpredictable and therefore so is my journey. For all I know it could change again (although fingers crossed it won’t). I only found out about my new placement a couple of days ago so I’m not yet an expert on the topic but I’ll share what I have discovered thus far. I will be in/around the city of Cordoba, which isn’t the capital but is a major city in Argentina. The organization I’m working for is Fundación iDeas (iDeas stands for Instituto de Desarrollo Educativo y Acción). The website is if you would like to go check it out. The description that I received from Joanne about what I will be doing is that I will be working “with the local indigenous people promoting artisan activities and running programs for youth”. Unfortunately I don’t know too much else, and I agree that this seems like I’m leaving you with a cliff hanger, but I’m on the edge of my seat too!
Until next time...Adiós!