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 Australia: An Unforgettable Experience

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After spending a great time with my exchange Lachlan’s family in Queensland, I had the chance to start school at Carey Grammar. Although I was a little anxious as I didn’t know what to expect, I was quite excited to finally meet the students and attend classes in a foreign country.

On the first morning of school, I was welcomed by the school’s exchange coordinator and introduced to four other exchange students from New York. We received our school and gym uniforms, which was very much like ours other than the colours, as well as a laptop and a schedule. We were now well equipped to start our first days at Carey Grammar.

One of the first things that I noticed upon arriving at the school was how big the school was. The “Kew” Campus, as the students called it, took up a whole city block and had numerous buildings to accommodate the 2,000 students. The Middle School Area, which holds students from grades 7, 8 and 9, was comprised mainly of a main hall and two outdoor areas with classrooms around the borders. At first, I was a little intimidated by its large size, but after a few days and a lot of help from Lachlan and the other year 9 students, I became more comfortable around the campus and found my way to all my classes.

What I also found interesting at Carey is that their curriculum is quite different than the one at LCC. My schedule and even those of my classmates in Melbourne had less time slots dedicated for core classes, which allowed students to participate in more electives and other classes, which I thought was interesting. I was given some unique courses such as an introduction to coding, an economics class and a unit on CSI and forensic science. I thought that these classes were all awesome and engaging. My personal favorite was the economics class because the teacher, Mr. Warmbrunn, would give very informative lectures and we started a neat project where we pretended to buy stocks to see how well they would do.

The core courses at Carey were like ours in that they taught English, Math, Science and History. The only major difference was the language course that everyone had to take. The students had the choice between French, Chinese, German and Indonesian. This course was taken as a second language and for most of the students, they had started in Grade 7. We also had, once a week, a class called C-Change, where we would discuss how to develop personal qualities that are important to our well-being and how well we interact with others. This class would finish with a chapel session. With all of these different features in the school, Carey was definitely a great place to attend.

As part of the exchange experience, Lachlan and I, together with the other exchanges and their partners, went to Healesville Sanctuary, which was home to many indigenous Australian animals, including koalas, kangaroos and even platypus. It was remarkable that we could get so close to the animals without them even moving. We even saw some of the world’s most dangerous snakes, which I was happy to see through the glass! My favorite animal was the dingo. The animal is only found in Australia and is half-dog, half-wolf. We caught them right before their morning walk and we took pictures right next to them. It is a beautiful animal and was unlike anything I had ever seen.

With all their great athletic facilities, I was really looking forward to playing a sport at the school. At Carey, everyone has to participate in a sport and since Lachlan plays field hockey, I would try out this sport. I didn’t know anything about the sport and figured it would be similar to ice hockey, a sport that I really enjoy playing, but it was completely different. Everything from the field and the number of players to the sticks and balls were different. The game actually bears a closer resemblance to soccer. Although it took some time to get used to, I had lots of fun playing the sport and was even able to play in 3 games, which was an amazing experience. I was also very surprised to learn that field hockey is one of the largest sports in the world and is played almost everywhere, especially in Europe, Asia and Australia.

Speaking of sports, I also had the opportunity to watch an Australian Rules Football game with Lachlan and his family at the MCG. The game was so entertaining and although I didn’t quite understand the rules, the atmosphere in the stands was incredible. Both teams had a passionate fan base that weren’t afraid to share their sometimes-colourful opinions. The game itself was very fast-paced and finished with a very high point total. This sport seems to combine the best of many different sports that are more common in North America, like rugby, handball and soccer. It was loads of fun!

Spending five weeks in Australia was an incredible experience for me that I will never forget. Although it was difficult to leave my family, I was able to visit Australia and discover its incredible natural life and culture. I also had the chance to take part in some unique classes and meet some really nice people at Carey which was lots of fun, even if it is my summer break. I also believe the exchange has helped me become more mature and responsible as a person. Finally, and most of all, I met a really great friend in my exchange Lachlan and I hope that we will stay in touch and see each other soon. – Andrew Fata ’19 Exchange Student at Carey Baptist Grammar School

Student Exchange: The Colours of India

Photo5Imagine this, a display of fluorescent colours, laid on the smooth marble floor, to create fanciful patterns, such as bright fuchsia lotus flowers with forest green backdrops, or candles that burn purple flames, much like in a child’s dream. These picturesque creations are a renowned form of Indian artwork, known as rangoli. They are most often seen during festivals such as Diwali, the festival of luminous decorations, which commemorates the return of Lord Rama, as well as the triumph of light over darkness and during Holi, the festival of colours.

India is a diverse nation, which has multiple states that spread amongst its vast territory, and each state has its own customs and traditions including food which varies greatly within the country. If you visit the city of Bangalore, in the southern region of Karnataka, you will discover a white spongy, circular white cake made from rice, called idli, along with tasty coconut chutney. In the northern state of Punjab your mouth will water at the smell of fried parathas, filled with green peas and potatoes. Finally, In the state of Madhya Pradesh, your taste buds will be delighted to try bhutee ka kees, a corn based dish, served with chick peas.

When I’m not trying these delectable repasts, you will find me dancing in the Daly College dance studio. I have tried the Punjabi dance style, which incorporates sporadic jumping motions, as well as impeccable coordination. There is also a contemporary dance which requires gracefulness and balance. Finally, my favourite dance originates from Rajasthan, however, this one was too arduous for me to try, given the pots that must be placed on your head!

Though every state has minor cultural differences, each part of the country celebrates a month long tradition, celebrating the return of the god Shiva. People walk for days to temples to worship this god, transporting holy water in little pots hanging from each side of their body. Driving down the road, you witness a sea of saffron orange, with fanciful decorations as they pursue their quest to the temple. I take in the moment, not letting time evade me, and observe the wonder which lies in front of me. – Jane Robeck ’19 (Student Exchange, Daly College, Indore India)

Round Square Regional Conference: Learning to Be My Best Self

RS_ArgentinaThe Round Square Regional Conference of the America’s at Belgrano Day School sadly came to an end on April 25, 2017 – too fast for everyone participating in the conference.

Round Square is something that I have always had an interest in. Its philosophy of uniting six diverse IDEALS (International, Democracy, Environmentalism, Adventure, Leadership, Service) into one way of life is unique and definitely something that I wanted to be a part of.

I found out about this conference in Argentina a year ago. I remember having a good feeling about it and instantly wanting to go. After talking to students who had just came back from the conference in LA, I knew that it was something for me. The experiences they had and the lessons they learnt about being well-rounded powerful leaders were ones that I too wanted to embrace. Never did I think that my decision to go would have had such a positive impact on me.

Argentina, even though it is troubled in certain political, economic and social sectors, has a special and unique thing about it that is quite hard to find – a positive environment/atmosphere. From the moment I entered the doors of Belgrano Day School, not once was I subjected to negative energy. Everyone and everything gave off positive energy, fuelling everyone’s happiness throughout the week. Friendships were started with a laugh, hardships were overcome with a hug and tears came purely from laughing too hard. This helped change the conference from being great to being amazing.

During the conference, the delegates had the opportunity to embrace whatever was thrown their way due to the positive and supportive environment of the conference. From the workshops and Ben Walden’s amazing speech to Techo and the Photo Safari Day, these experiences brought us together and taught us about leadership, service and responsibility. They showed us the importance of teamwork and dedication. Techo was truly an eye-opening experience. In the short time we spent there, my barazza and I pooled our efforts to create the base of the house we were constructing. The family it was going to was one that consisted of three lovely ladies – a mother and her two daughters. At the end of the day, even though we were all physically drained, I will never forget the smile on those two little girls’ faces as they ran across the elevated floor. It made every second and every bit of sweat worth it. Their happiness was all we needed to come together and create something life changing for those humble and nice people we got to volunteer for.

My experience went above and beyond the lessons learnt about the IDEALS. I have to admit that this trip was the first one I was experiencing alone. At first, I was slightly scared because I was travelling to South America, a continent so far from home, a place I never thought of visiting. On the day of the opening ceremony, Mr. Page, the former headmaster of Belgrano Day School, made everyone feel welcome by beginning his speech accompanied by four teddy bears. The four teddy bears represented a hug for anyone who was homesick. I thought I would be one of those people needing a teddy to hug. Instead, the opposite happened. In Argentina, I never felt more at home. It’s culture and way of life is very similar to my own as I am part Italian. Right from the beginning, starting with my amazing host family, the Alonsos, I was welcomed with a hug and a huge smile. They were truly one of a kind. They share strong family values and traditions like my own family and the respect they have for each other and others is an example. I felt like I was with my family in Italy and in Montreal. My host family, with their loveable personalities, made my stay in Argentina even more memorable.

If I had to choose the most memorable part of my trip I would choose the wonderful people I met. Over the course of six days, I made friendships that I will keep for life. Whether they were delegates or student leaders, 15 or 17 years old, I connected with all of them. Many friendships started in interesting ways; some were started right in my barazza, with friendly competition when playing field hockey, with playful teasing, and with rock-paper-scissors in the middle of a food court. They made you feel welcome and when you were with them you felt positive. I realized the importance of surrounding oneself with positive people, the importance of having a positive attitude and the effects of positive energy in everyday life. It taught me a lot about myself and who I want to surround myself with. In such a short time we came together and formed a tight bond which I will never forget.

A big thank you goes to all the dedicated and passionate student leaders and organizers of this conference. The memories created are owed to them. With their outgoing, cheerful and friendly personalities, it made the conference successful. Their enthusiasm and smile was contagious and made this experience worth remembering.

This Round Square Conference in Argentina will be remembered forever. It has taught me the importance of service, leadership and leading by example. Most of all, it gave me insight on how to be my best self.

Thank you LCC and Ms. Shadley for this amazing opportunity! – MariaLuisa Vigano ’18