Community Service: A Global Perspective

Throughout my high school experience, I had the opportunity to travel abroad multiple photo[5]times. These travels included a student exchange to Australia, two Duke of Edinburgh Gold trips to Peru and an International Round Square Conference in South Africa. Each of my experiences gave me a new perspective in terms of community service, the diversity of people in the world and the challenges faced by those in developing countries. Not only have these experiences broadened my global awareness; they have also helped me grow and continue to grow into who I am.

When I arrived in Peru two years ago, it was my first exposure to a developing country. I thought I knew what to expect: barefoot hungry children, worn down houses and desperation. On my first day doing service at a shantytown called Las Palmas outside of the capital city, Lima, I found out my preconception was very wrong. The conditions were worse than I expected: stray dogs roamed all over, dust covered absolutely everything and a rotting stench filled the air. Fortunately, I was also wrong about the state of the people in the community. The children were happy and eager to play with us and each other, and the adults possessed a sense of pride in themselves and their community. The physical labour we performed was not enough. Upon our arrival home, a few friends and I decided we needed to do something more. We started fundraising in hopes of helping improve the community as much as we possibly could.

A few months later, along with other LCC representatives we set off to South Africa for an International Round Square conference. Besides partaking in the conference, we helped out at a daycare and school for kids who grew up in impoverished conditions. We only spent a few hours volunteering: taking care of the kids, painting a roof and playing soccer. I left the service days extremely upset. Between my experiences in Peru and South Africa, I noticed how happy the locals were in spite of their assumed “lack” of materials that we consider necessary for our happiness here in North America such as cell phones, cool shoes and ice cream desserts.

On the plane ride home I began to contemplate – why am I so lucky to have all that I do? What is the point of doing “service” for a few hours when at the end of the day these children’s lives are “unimproved”?

I returned home in a philosophical crisis. I wanted to help, Peru, South Africa, everywhere! I just didn’t know how to do it in a way that would actually help them, and improve their lives.

My friends and I who were already fundraising for the community in Peru decided we could start a micro-loan fund in the community, a lump sum of money that would go to starting businesses for women so they could be self-sufficient and help feed their families. After hours spent discussing how the fund would work with the mayor of Las Palmas, the town, and signing the necessary documents, we handed over the money to the mayor. While the money did end up in the community, we have yet to hear back on the happenings of the fund for the past eight months, so we do not know how it turned out. Unfortunately, all we can do is hope it ended up benefitting the community in some way. This is an example of why even though you may have good intentions, you have to be very careful when it comes to international service and make sure you trust the person dealing with your money.

Fortunately, we were more careful when we fundraised for the daycare we worked at in South Africa. The money was handed over to a woman who we had met and who worked to improve the day care, so she had already successfully dealt with donations like ours.

Ultimately, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from these experiences is that it’s important to learn about the world, because exposure is the first step to help making it a better place. Although in my life I hope I discover the “best” way for me to do service, there is certainly no right answer. Once you are exposed to an issue, it is very difficult to simply forget about it. Whether it’s in the city of Montreal or some remote village in India, it is important to realize what matters locally and internationally, and to do your best to help. – Sarah Salzman (Pre-U ’14)

Student Exchange: Internationalism Changed My Life

 

 

 

I am born of Polish parents. I am an American citizen. I live in Canada, but I am a citizen of the world. It’s funny how things happen. Three years ago, I was introduced to the idea of a student exchange. I saw and heard so many things about students traveling abroad, and I made it my goal to experience an exchange on my own. I wanted to go somewhere completely foreign, someplace that no one I knew had gone before, so I chose Thailand.

 

From the very first moment I stepped onto Thai soil, Thailand became my home. I spent six weeks atThe Regents School in Pattayain boarding and I had the time of my life. I played basketball, did cross country running and played in their school band. I took weekend trips to pristine island resorts with my local friends and did a bicycle trip through the slums of Bangkok. Every weekend, I would get the opportunity to volunteer through different clubs in the school and help out at a local orphanage for handicapped children with my friends. In my boarding house alone, I met more people of diverse backgrounds than I could have imagined. I made friends from Bhutan, Lithuania, Armenia, South Africa and South Korea, just to mention a few. When it came time to leave, I felt like I was a movie character – as I looked out from the back window of the moving car on the way to the airport, all of my friends stood in a line, crying and waving goodbye. I, too, was in tears and didn’t want to leave.

 

Many people may say that their exchange was wonderful or enlightening, but my exchange experience changed my life. After having discovered a new exotic world and making unbroken friendships, I decided that my travel to Thailand would not stop there. I made it my goal to go back the next summer to see my friends, and on top of that I wanted to try something new and volunteer abroad. That’s when, with the help of my father, I found the Mercy Center and embarked on a four week independent volunteer trip to Bangkok’s biggest slum – Klong Toey, the “Slaughterhouse”.

 

I was extremely nervous because I was going to live by myself in a major city where crime and corruption was supposed to be very widespread. In the taxicab on the way to Mercy Center I obviously had thoughts racing through my head of, “Oh. Maybe I should turn around now. It’s not too late.” But chickening out was not the answer. I had traveled 26 hours and there was no turning back.

 

What really made me push forward, though, was the idea that I would be doing something useful and unique. The service I was going to do was not meant for me, but for the people in need. To turn back would be selfish and irresponsible.

Before I knew it, I was at the entrance of the Mercy Center, with a big purple suitcase in hand.The Mercy Centre, established by Father Joe Meier, is an emergency organization that takes care of families that have been exposed to human trafficking, rape, AIDs, sickness and any disaster. Many kids that live at the Mercy Centre are there because they have lost their families or were abandoned.

 

So I spent my summer working in the “Slaughterhouse”. The struggle started on my first day, when I was told that I would be teaching English to kids of all ages. Now imagine yourself in my position.This wasn’t a “read to your buddy for an hour” situation. I was a 15-year old girl that had to make a lesson plan before the next morning, get familiar with 20 students in my class and teach them. Oh yeah. I forgot to mention. None of them spoke a word of English and I had no idea how to speak Thai.

 

What made everything easier, though, was that all the kids were so sweet and wanted to help me do my best. They were super attentive and worked so hard in class – they really wanted to learn. After my first full day in the classroom, I was ecstatic. I loved my students and could not wait to see them the next day! When it was time for lunch for my pre-school students, I would go to the outdoor basketball court and play soccer on the smooth surface with the older local kids. I was really bad at soccer, but they still always let me play with them and taught me so many tricks.

 

Over my four weeks, I got the chance to work with kids from the ages of 6 to 18 and even worked on the organization’s farm outside of the city once a week.

 

There, I truly didn’t feel like I was doing community service, but living a normal life in a city that never sleeps.When I wasn’t working, I was spending time in the small alleyway home where I lived with eight Thai university students. I had only a tiny room with a bed and a fan, so with Thailand’s rainy season and 30+-degree weather, AC was something I had to learn to live without.

 

As you can imagine, it was truly a parallel world with a completely different culture, language and society rules but I soon blended in with the help of the locals’ open-mindedness and friendliness towards me.

 

In the end, my whole idea of this volunteer trip being only for the people in need was wrong. By the end of my trip I realized that the students I was teaching, helped me more that I could have imagined. They taught me responsibility, perseverance and acceptance. They accepted me as their teacher and they cared for me from day one.

 

I never imagined that going on an exchange would have done so much for me. Taking that chance three years ago helped me build a bond with the country and the people that I see myself revisiting for the rest of my life. I am going off to university next year, but I have promised myself that I will take at least six months of my four years in college and go back to the Mercy Center to live and volunteer full time.

 

The internationalism that I gained from going on exchange and volunteering abroad is immeasurable. Maybe you may never reach a stage in your life where you will visit a slum or go on an exchange, like I did. I feel at home in Thailand, but many people may not feel the same way. But I know that each and very one of you have the potential to do service in an environment that you feel comfortable in and grow to love.

 

I encourage all of you to step out of your comfort zone and take any opportunity you have to travel and help others while doing so. I can assure you that you won’t regret it, and it may just change your life. – Olga Jablonski (Pre-U ’14)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duke of Ed Gold Trip 2012: Peru Expedition Update

March 8, 2012

Upon my return to Peru, I did not know what to expect. I would soon find out that, although many landmarks were familiar to me, I was seeing everything in a completely new light. I was wiser and the shantytowns of Lima didn’t shock me. Rather they incited me to want to get to work immediately!

We spent four days in Las Palmas completing our community service project, which included a new set of stairs, a new fence, a fresh coat of paint and a new roof. By the fourth day, every student had mixed feelings about leaving Las Palmas. Although we may have been filled with excitement with the prospects of beginning the hike in Cusco, we would be leaving behind a community to which we had grown very close.– Emily Tiberi ’12

Five days ago, eighteen LCC students who would work on the service project in Las Palmas flew into the desert city, Lima. With last years experience doing the service project and the Salkantay Trek, I didn’t feel nervous. I was rather excited to see how things had changed over a year.

Every morning, when driving to Las Palmas, I noticed that the poverty levels hadn’t changed. The chaotic way of life and the number of shantytowns stacked on the desert was the same. It seemed as if I had not left Peru last March. When working at the community, the locals treated us with the same respect and warmth they had shown us in 2011. I remembered their names and faces and so did they. Under the scorching heat, we worked on the concrete roof until the very last minute. Today, we fly to Cusco. We are anxious about the hike, but at the same time, excited to walk the same path where Incas and adventurers explored.– Kenya Shatani (Pre-U ’12)


What’s in a Number? Pre-U Results…That’s What!

CONCORDIAThe results are in! Well, most of them, and the members of the Pre-U Class of 2011 have a lot to be proud of.

With so much of the Pre-U year focused on applying to university, awaiting the inevitable admission decision is an unnerving time for our students. The last month has been a whirlwind of highs and lows, with the crush of a refusal and the exhilaration of a university acceptance sometimes being experienced within minutes of each other.

But once the emotions settle down, it’s time to for that major, life-changing, decision – where am I going to be next year?

Not everyone has finalized their university decision yet, but when our 25 students cross the stage on May 19th at their graduation ceremony, this is what I know:
• 52% of the students will be attending university in the United States
• 38% of the US-bound students were accepted at universities that have admission rates under 15%
• 75% of our students who applied early to US universities were accepted
• 100% of the students who applied to UK universities were accepted
• 87% of the class has been offered admission scholarships
• 50% of one of the most prestigious scholarships at a top Canadian university were offered to our students (4/8)
• 100% of the Pre-U students will join the Class of 2015 at a university somewhere in the world beginning September 2011

The Pre-U Class of 2011 may be small in number, but they are mighty in many ways. And although, I’m not one to quantify the Pre-U experience—after all, Pre-U is about so much more than just getting into university— the numbers do speak for themselves and are a great reflection of the overall success of our Pre-U students this year.—Kim Tulloch, Director of University Advising

Life After High School: Plan Ahead

PreU_Blog_18Jan2011Come grades 10 and 11, students begin to think about their future. What is the next step? Well, the first decision is Pre-University or CEGEP. For those who know that going away is not for them, their decision is quite easy. But for those who have even the slightest interest in a different kind of experience, the range of options is even greater.

Pre-U is the option if you want to go away for university. It’s a program that fully prepares you in terms of the workload and background you need to fully succeed when you get to university. The classes are small and I find this extremely helpful because unlike CEGEP, I get to know my teachers well as most of LCC students are used too. It’s true that at university you won’t have a class size of six students (depending on the type of school you choose) but you will have a much stronger academic background and skills that prove to be a great advantage. I’ve sat through the most boring of English classes where I had to analyze sentence structure and write a 100-word paragraph where word choice was of the utmost importance. I’ve spent time writing different kinds of sentences (by this I mean the use of a comma or semi colon) and yes I thought this was completely irrelevant because a sentence is a sentence. However, when it came time to write my college essay–a very important part of your application–I found that my writing had changed. I did care about structure, and I made sure I had used a variety of sentences to make my writing even more proficient. The point is, you may not realize it until you have to apply it, but the skills (like sentence structure) will save you many headaches in the future.

Now if you’re thinking that you want to do a year of CEGEP and then leave the province that’s fine. But let me warn you that you will not get the support system that Pre-U has. You won’t have a college advisor making sure your application is perfect. You won’t have teachers with flexible office hours and you certainly won’t have a community of peers that are going through the exact same thing you are. Never in my life have I been so stressed. I have to study for my SATs, keep up my grades, and write six different essays on top of my sports. It’s a crazy balancing act but the best thing about it is that I have 26 other friends who know exactly what I’m going through. You also don’t have an assortment of candy available to you all day. What I’m saying is that if you know after a year that you want to go away you might as well do Pre-U because it will make your application experience that much easier.

Lastly, I’d like to offer some advice to all potential Pre-U students. If there is more than an 80% chance that you will be enrolling in the program next year, prepare for your SATs this year. My biggest mistake was waiting to do the majority of my SAT studying at the beginning of my Pre-U year and believe me, I regret it. I only have two chances to get the score I need, but if you write at the end of this year you have three or four chances. This also saves you a lot of stress because you are not dealing with it on top of the lengthy US application process. Also, time management is key. Use your spares, go grab some lunch and then head to the library. This will keep your workload more manageable. Lastly, just know that you will get into university no matter what. Don’t let the stress get the best of you, if something’s wrong talk to Mrs. Tulloch or Ms. Levy, that’s what they are there for. In Pre-U you have ample amounts of resources available to you; use them to your advantage. Nonetheless, whatever road you choose to take, make sure it’s the right one for you.–Samantha Elefant ’10 (Pre-U ’11)