Volunteering without Borders – Bénévolat sans frontières

Raymond_Opolot_BlogThis past summer, I went to Uganda, a country in Africa that is about a 20-hour flight from Canada. While there, I volunteered at my grandmother’s school –  Namutebi Nkata Nursery and Primary School – as part of my Duke of Edinburgh service hours.

The work I did consisted of compiling an index of newly received library books. These were some of the over 3,000 books collected so far by my two sisters and me since 2013 from friends and well-wishers in Montreal.

While doing this, I came up with the idea of starting a book club. I developed a draft concept and presented it to the principal who loved the idea! The purpose of the club is to expand the students’ vocabulary and to strengthen their reading, writing and presentation skills.

In order to promote the club, I organized the first meeting where I read to 21 of the students at the school. The thing that fascinated me most was their love of reading. The children seemed very excited to receive so many books because of the lack of accessible literature in Uganda. Here in Canada, we are very fortunate to have both school and local libraries, while in Uganda this is not the case. – Raymond Opolot ’19

The Privilege of an Education

Meghan_Fersten_Blog_005Last summer, I travelled to China on a trip organized by Me to We, a non-governmental organization which helps create sustainable change by transforming local and global communities. J’ai voyagé avec sept autres étudiants autour de mon âge venant de Montréal et New York, ainsi que deux animateurs de Me to We. From my past experiences at the Round Square conference in Argentina last year, as well as volunteering in the local community, I was always interested in community service. However, I can honestly tell you that this trip changed my life.

Meghan_Fersten_Blog_001Nous avons passé nos premiers jours à Beijing en visitant des sites bien connus, tels que Tiananmen Square, des temples Buddistes, et nous avons même monté la Grande Muraille de Chine! Nous avons ensuite conduit pendant plus de six heures à une communauté rurale, Gufubao. It was a relief to finally be away from the pollution and smog of Beijing, and beautiful is not a good enough word to describe where we were. Nous étions complètement entourés d’énormes montagnes et des champs de maïs. It was really amazing for us to meet the kind locals, who take great pride in their natural environment, regardless of the extreme poverty that they live in. In addition, they always ensure that their environment is being taken care of, by being cautious of how much water and food they consume, as well as constantly making sure that their agriculture is properly cultivated and protected. Some locals even took us on hikes around the community, where we saw some unbelievable views.

Meghan_Fersten_Blog_003Pendant dix jours, nous avons enseigné l’anglais à des enfants défavorisés, et nous avons travaillé sur la construction d’un enclos pour des cochons, la première source de revenue pour la communauté. L’école était un bâtiment de briques avec trois salles de classe et un petit terrain de jeu dehors, les deux construits par Me to We. Lorsque nous sommes arrivés, nous avons été accueillis par une cinquantaine d’élèves, âgés entre cinq et 12 ans, qui étaient très contents de nous voir. Since it was July, all of these students were in the middle of their summer holiday, so you would think that going to school in 40 degree weather for the entire day was not exactly what they wanted to do, right? Wrong. These kids were more than happy to do so. Puisque les enfants parlaient très peu d’anglais, ils étaient très excités de nous montrer qu’ils pouvaient compter de un à 10, et qu’ils connaissaient les couleurs de l’arc-en-ciel.

Meghan_Fersten_Blog_006Why did I choose to write about teaching English to students in China? Well, we later learned that only 1% of students who have attended the school in Gufubao go on to university. That’s only seven or eight students at LCC progressing to CEGEP or college. Think about that for a second: all of the hard work that we put into our studies every day would only pay off for seven or eight of us in the Junior, Middle and Senior Schools combined!

We’re so lucky to go to LCC, with its amazing education programs and opportunities, inside and outside the classroom. Seeing how much the students in Gufubao appreciated going to school made me reflect on how I see education. Now, I go to school every day wanting to learn more. I’m excited to see where my education will take me, so I can use it to make a difference. Going to school is a privilege, and I think it’s important for everyone to realize that, just like I have. – Meghan Fersten ’18

Le grand nettoyage du canal Lachine

2016_2017_Community_Clean_Up_004Malgré le froid et la pluie, nous étions 19 pour la 5e édition du grand nettoyage des berges du canal Lachine. Cette année, nous avons eu la joie d’avoir des élèves du Junior School.

De 10 h à 12 h, nous avons ramassé: mégots de cigarettes, capsules de bouteilles, sacs en plastique, câbles métalliques et manches à balai…

Voici quelques commentaires des élèves :

J’ai appris pendant cette expérience que les poissons mangent les mégots de cigarette décomposés et puis on mange les poissons alors on doit nettoyer l’environnement pour le bien des animaux est de nous aussi.

I liked doing this community service activity because it felt good to clean up the area and help the community. 

You know what you did is good when people stop by to say thank you!

Despite the rainfall, the amount of trash on the ground was more saddening.

I was really amazed at what people put on the ground without realizing that they shouldn’t do that. 

J’ai trouvé qu’il y a trop de personnes qui ne s’occupent pas des déchets.

Photos

Cleaning Up the Local Beach in Eckernförde, Germany

RS_Com_Service_GermanyWednesday was service day at the Round Square International Conference in Louisenlund. I was assigned to a larger group of ~60 delegates, all of whom would be participating in a cleanup of a local beach in the town of Eckernförde, just off the Baltic Sea. When we first arrived, I remarked to a friend that there really wasn’t much to clean: the beach looked spotless!

Boy, was I ever wrong.

We split into two groups and got our hands dirty, closely inspecting the sand for any trash in need of proper disposal. Amazingly, after a short half hour into our search, we had amassed several bucketfuls of various types of trash, including cigarettes, straws, wrappers and other unrecognizable pieces of plastic.

On Tuesday night, we were shown a clip about the staggering “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” It explained how the plastics in most consumer goods degrade extremely slowly in the ocean, though ultimately disintegrating into microplastics, or tiny pieces of plastic less than five millimetres in size. These plastics become extremely difficult to filter out from the seawater because they are so small, yet they still pose a deadly threat to animals and to other members of the aquatic and even terrestrial ecosystems.

We were stunned by just how much garbage we had collected during our short walk on the beach, especially after having been told that the particular beach we were on was being thoroughly cleaned weekly by the tourism office of the town. All the plastics we had found had essentially been washed ashore by the rolling waves of the Baltic Sea within the preceding few days, which is extremely concerning, especially seeing that we barely notice the issue of our polluted oceans on a day-to-day basis. –Adam Vandenbussche ’17

RSIS Peru 2016: Service Trip a Rewarding Experience

Gift exchange with the local kindergarten children

Over the course of my Senior School years, I have been involved in numerous Round Square related activities. In grade 9, I was given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend six weeks in South Africa on exchange. The following year, I attended an eight-day conference in Los Angeles, which turned out to be equally as memorable. I was, therefore, very excited when I decided to go solo on a three-week service project to Peru this summer.

One heavy bag, two stressed parents and a cancelled flight later, I miraculously ended up in Cusco on July 11. There, I spent the first two weeks with 18 other students who had travelled from all the edges of the world. Along with the two adult leaders, Andy and Nina, we formed team “Llama”.

The two first days were planned primarily for us to acclimatize to the high Cusco altitudes (3,400m) as well as get to know one another. This was accomplished by taking part in creative activities. First, we travelled to a place called Apulaya Music where we spent the entire afternoon learning about Andean art and music. I was taught two new ways to draw: Kaninpacha and Ukupacha, which give life to inanimate objects. As well, I added another instrument (along with the French horn!) to my list of skills by mastering the Andean panpipes, something we all played at the end of the day for our final celebration.

Second, my group and I successfully completed a Via Ferrata, a form of intense rock climbing that has become quite popular in South America. This adventure required us to climb up a 400m ladder that was both vertical and horizontal. Once at the top, we took six zip lines back to the bottom, something I had never done before!

After these orientation days, we were eager to get to work and headed to a town called Kaninchimpa to begin our project. During these eight days, we were split into three local families. My host parent’s names were David and Ophelia. They had a daughter named Olga and a niece named Vanessa. They also had (get ready for this!) a dog, two cats, five cows, five chickens, a dozen lambs, three pigs, two oxen and 60 guinea pigs! Everyday, we’d wake up, feed the guinea pigs, and then walk up to the work site where we’d spend the entire day. Our goal was to build a school on top of the site since the school the children are going to now is extremely far away from their village. To build the school, we first made a solid foundation by digging and filling the holes with rocks and mud. To then build the walls, we had to make bricks (which took four to five days to dry!). This was one of the best parts of my trip as we were given welly boots and had to walk around making mud for hours. This may seem like an easy job (I sure thought it would be at first) but I can assure you it is difficult as the mud is thick and hard to pop in and out of. In fact, one day, my boot got stuck and I ended up walking right into the mud with nothing but my sock! By the end of our trip, we had built half of the school, something we were all very proud of.

Kaninchimpa was certainly my favourite part of the trip. The bond I made with my host family was truly special. Although communicating with them was quite difficult, we tried our best to interact and play with them. I would always help them with dinner, ask them for different words in Quecha and even taught them multiple card games like Uno and Spoons, which became our daily activity. As well, I realized during my stay, that this type of experience was something I knew that I wouldn’t have the chance to do again. That being said, I tried to be adventurous and take advantage of every opportunity and new thing that came my way. For example, despite my small stature, I was always offering to do mud mixing, wheel barrowing and brick carrying. Also, I tried lots of new food (even guinea pig!).

After having worked for eight days straight, we all got to reward ourselves by visiting the one and only Machu Picchu! Team Llama was out in the bus line at 4 am, however, we only started our tour at the site at 7 am. Once the tour was over, I was allowed to spend the entire day (a whole 12 hours on the site) doing whatever I wished. Although I really liked the Inca Bridge and the Sun-gate, simply being there was amazing.

So that is what I did for the first part of my trip with team Llama. The group left on the 25th and, on the 27th, my new team, team Condor, arrived in Cusco. I was with this team for half of their journey as a student leader intern. Now, you may be wondering: what exactly is a student leader intern? I, with three other students that had been with me in team Llama, redid the trip with team Condor. This time, however, we were in charge of running it.

Being a leader is scary enough but I was even more nervous to be a leader in PERU! Nonetheless, the student leaders had an entire day to prepare with our new leaders, Andrea and Freddy. Had it not been for their expert advice and confidence in us, we would not have been able to have done such a good job.

Leading team Condor taught me numerous things about myself. First of all, I was rather nervous about the prospect of leading students my age. My experience was limited to being a CIT for a bunch of 3-6 year olds last summer. Having to lead a group of people my age seemed more difficult, as I wanted them to respect me but at the same time, like me! Also, going into the trip, I did not think I’d make the same bonds with team Condor that I did with team Llama. Needless to say, I was so wrong! I connected with everyone on team Condor just as much. As well, they all felt comfortable enough to come to me for advice and questions, which I really liked.

Secondly, I am considered to be extremely organized. This was both my biggest strength and weakness going into the trip. Let me explain: sometimes, I like to plan out my entire day to the minute. This means that I do not like change. Being adaptable was therefore a strength I wanted to develop. On my day to lead, as usual, things did not go as planned. Two teammates had to go back to Cusco and some people did not have proper equipment. Handling these problems and making changes to the schedule without freaking out was a skill I definitely learned that day.

Lastly, since I had already experienced the trip before, I was considered an expert and, because of this, I didn’t think I’d learn anything new. I was, once again, wrong. With team Condor, I continued to learn and experience more and more things. I did this by asking lots of questions. For example, I learned that some houses in Cusco have two bull statues on their roofs, which stand for protection. Also, at Kaninchimpa, we organized a soccer game with all the local children. That night, we played for hours with the sunset in the background, an image I will not be forgetting anytime soon.

In conclusion, the RSIS 2016 Peru trip has been, like my other Round Square experiences, absolutely incredible. Even though team Llama was great, I thought that my time as a student leader intern was the most memorable and helpful. As I go into my final year at LCC as Round Square Head, I have lots of new ideas and leadership skills that I will most definitely be using because of what I have learned in Peru. I cannot wait for the year to start! – Abby Shine ’17