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

A Moving Inaugural Event at the RSIC

2017_2018_RSIC2017_SA_0052017_2018_RSIC2017_SA_006On the first morning of the Round Square Conference, we headed to the Cape Town International Convention Centre to take part in the Opening Ceremonies. Our delegation, along with many others from around the world, was very excited for the inauguration of the conference.

Once everyone had been seated, a group of three musicians came on stage with some odd-looking instruments. Using only her actions and no words, the leader of the group instructed us to reach under our seat where we were all surprised to find a tube with a wooden stick. The audience then began copying the musicians’ rhythms and joined them in a couple of neat patterns. My favourite part was when we were instructed to each play a different beat depending on where we were sitting in the auditorium. Every section’s tube produced a different sound and we united with our separate rhythms to create a beautiful song. It was lots of fun and a great way to get us excited for the rest of the ceremony.

Another part of the ceremony that I really enjoyed was the presentation of the flags. One by one, every school was called and a student walked across the stage holding their flag. I thought this was very interesting since every school had something that was unique and different. Some of the uniforms were particular to the region they were from, while others had different emblems and flags that didn’t at all resemble the others. It was also a special moment when the name Lower Canada College was said out loud and our flag was proudly walked across the stage.

The rest of the ceremony was filled with different cultural performances by the host schools, award presentations and a couple speeches, but none was as memorable as His Majesty King Constantine’s speech. The current president and one of the earliest members of the organization, King Constantine attended the ceremony and we were fortunate enough to hear him speak. However, when he started speaking about Round Square, he began to choke up and shed a few tears. This was a truly touching moment for everyone in the audience and it was at this moment that I realized the full extent of Round Square’s influence and the power that it possesses to bring together people from all four corners of the world who share the same values.

Overall, I felt very lucky to have been in that auditorium for the Opening Ceremonies and I think that it was a phenomenal way to kick off the festivities. – Andrew Fata ’19

Student Exchange: Discovery in Johannesburg

Constitution Hill 2I have been in Johannesburg for a little over a month and this exchange is going by so fast! I wish I could stay longer but sadly I only have two weeks left. I have experienced so many new things and discovered the history of their beautiful country.

In the past month, I was lucky enough to go on two community service days. We visited two different schools and they were both amazing experiences. The first school we visited was one for refugee children. These children have gone through so much in their lifetimes but they are all happy and so interested. The second school was for children with learning disabilities. This school surprised me because there are only three classes. It was so nice to meet all the kids.

I visited Constitution Hill and the Apartheid Museum and learned about the history of the Apartheid government and their oppression of coloured people that ended only in 1994.

We went to Cape Town for the weekend and I got to visit so many different places such as Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years), Two Oceans Aquarium, the Cape Wheel, V&A Waterfront, Table Mountain, Camps Bay Beach and a market with local vendors. I met a man who was put in Robben Island Prison as a political prisoner for standing up to the Apartheid government. I heard his story of the horrible treatment of prisoners and the way that they were forced to live. I was surprised to learn that many former political prisoners still live on the island! Cape Town is a beautiful and historic city and I would love to go back someday.

Saints is very different from LCC in many ways. With their extra-curricular activities, people often finish school around 10 pm even though classes end at 2:40 pm. Their sports are also different. I have tried new sports such as netball and diving. They are both fun and popular here. Also, some sports that are popular in Montreal, such as ice hockey and basketball, are not popular here. Lastly, their campus is huge compared to LCC, with a labyrinth of boarding houses, a chapel, two field hockey turf fields, a dam, three pools, tennis courts, netball courts, seven separate schools, as well as countless sports fields.

I have gotten used to the girls-only school but it is very different from LCC. Even though the boys and girls are on the same campus, they are very separate and boys and girls rarely see each other. I think that coed is a nicer way to go to school.

My host family has been so nice and welcoming and has worked hard to make sure that I enjoy my time here. I will be sad to leave all my new friends who have made me feel like South Africa is my home. I will miss South Africa and I hope that I can come back one day.– Natasha Ryan ’19, Exchange Student at St Stithians Girls’ College

Student Exchange: City of Gold

Ash Wednesday_ Saints Girls 2017I arrived in South Africa two weeks ago to attend St Stithians Girls’ College. So far it has been an amazing experience. Johannesburg has many nicknames such as Joburg, Jozi and the City of Gold. It is referred to as the City of Gold because of all the gold mining that has left the city with gold sand.

After about 21 hours of travelling (including one 15-hour flight), I arrived in South Africa to meet my host family. I met my exchange, Edith, her parents and her three siblings who are 10, 5 and 4. Everyone here is very welcoming and it is completely normal to greet a person you have never met before with a hug (which took some getting used to).

Living in South Africa is very different from living in Canada. All middle-upper class families live behind walls topped with fences of barbed wire, electric wire or both. The less fortunate people live in places called townships where people build houses from any scrap material they can find and they all live in extremely close proximity, often fitting millions of people into tiny plots of land. The main townships of Johannesburg are Soweto, Cosmo, Diepsluit and Alex.

Many languages are spoken here, the primary ones being English, Afrikaans, Sotho and Zulu. I have learnt a lot of new South African words such as “eina” being the word they use instead of ouch when they are in pain or “woza” meaning come here.

School here is very different from LCC. Everyone brings their own lunches, we are allowed our phones in class and we have to attend chapel weekly because it is a religious (Methodist) school. I am taking grade 10 classes but I am finding that a lot of what they are learning is similar to what we are learning at LCC in grade 9. Also, to pass a test you need 33% meaning that it is very hard to fail a test.

School pride is very important at Saints. On Thursday I watched the inter-house aquatics tournament. The four houses: Trewen, Cambourne, Stratton and Kenwyn competed in diving, water polo and swim racing. Everyone got dressed in their house colours and cheered on their houses with organized cheers called war cries that are accompanied by drums.

I have had the experience of visiting a game reserve in rural South Africa. Nature here is referred to as the bush. I got to see many animals such as lions, giraffes, ostriches, cheetahs, impalas, hyenas and wildebeests. We were able to get very close to these animals and it was amazing to be able to see them in such close proximity.

So far, South Africa has been a great experience and I am glad that I chose to go on exchange and visit this amazing country. – Natasha Ryan ’19, Exchange Student at St Stithians Girls’ College

Student Exchange: Athletics Galore

Simon_ShepherdI’ve been at Stanford Lake College for a week and a half and overall my experience has been great.

Our daily routine consists of an early 6:45 am breakfast, then five hours of classes. After that, we go to our extra curricular activities or athletics on the big field. While our extra curriculars are more or less the same as LCC, the athletics are a bit different. Among South African sports such as cricket, rugby and field hockey, they also focus a lot on track and field. Since I’ve been here, I’ve competed in and won the school’s long jump competition, and made the team. I also made top three in the high jump competition.

The actual curriculum and materials taught are similar to LCC, however the school is less technology-oriented. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it opens me up to new teaching styles.

I’ve really been enjoying my time here so far! – Simon Sheppard ’19, Exchange Student at Stanford Lake College