Aventures à Cape Town

October 23, 2014 | Rachael, SVS, South Africa, Cape Town Refugee Center

Depuis un mois, je suis à Cape Town. Depuis le moment où je suis arrivée, je suis continuellement surprise par la grande beauté et la riche culture de Cape Town. J’ai déjà fait beaucoup de choses. Je suis montée voir la ville du haut de « Table Mountain »,. J’ai nagé dans l’océan Atlantique et Indien. J’ai visité Robben Island. J’ai vu des baleines, des pingouins et des requins. Je suis descendue en rappel une falaise de plus de 100 mètres. J’ai visité de nombreux musées. J’ai mangé un bria traditionnel (BBQ sud-africain) et j’ai célébré Eid avec une famille locale. Il y a beaucoup de choses à explorer. Je ne pense pas que j’ai même le temps de voir tout ce que je veux dans ces trois mois !

Cape Town est très multiculturelle. Chaque jour, pendant mon trajet en autobus et en train pour me rendre au travail, j’entends au moins huit différentes langues. J’aime beaucoup voir la diversité au sein de Cape Town. Ça fait seulement 20 années que l’apartheid aboli. Alors, les traces de l’apartheid sont toujours très évidentes, les lois sont changés, mais la mentalité de beaucoup des gens est encore xénophobe et raciste. Il y a quatre groupes de race principales : noir, blanc, ‘colored’ (une mixte de blanc et noir) et indien. Au Canada nous nous identifions selon l’appartenance ethnique et sur l’héritage de nos ancêtres, mais ici j’étais surprise de voir que les personnes s’identifient pûrement par la couleur de leur peau et par leur nationalité d’Afrique du Sud. La ville de Cape Town est divisée en beaucoup de banlieues et townships, chacune avec une race majoritaire. Moi je vis dans un quartier appelé Gardens. C’est une section de la ville majoritairement blanche, riche et près du centre-ville. Au commencement, j’étais surprise d’apprendre que seulement 10% de la population de Cape Town est blanche puisque je vois en majorité des personnes à peau blanche dans mon quartier. Mais maintenant j’ai eu la chance de voir beaucoup plus de la ville de Cape Town pour visiter des où habitent une large population de noirs et d’autres ou habitent les personnes ‘colored’. J’étais très étonnée d’apprendre qu’il y a encore des endroits à ce jour où les noirs sont chassés et ne sont pas les bienvenues.

C’est difficile pour moi de voir le racisme dans la vie quotidienne comme une chose normale. Ca me rend mal à l’aise même d’écrire ce blog en faisant référence à des personnes en fonction de la couleur de leur peau. Je suis moitié blanche et moitié indienne, de plus je suis étrangère alors je n’ai pas vécu trop de racisme envers moi directement. Néanmoins, c’est évident que les gens me voient pour la couleur de ma peau, c’est une mentalité très différente que celle au Canada, honnêtement je ne la comprends pas encore.

Jusqu’à maintenant, mon stage est une excellente expérience, il me permet de voir la réalité des refugiés en profondeur et me donne un goût du service social que je ne pouvais pas trouver dans un stage au Canada. Je travaille au CTRC (Cape Town Refugee Center), dans le domaine de provision de service. Dans ce programme on essaie de répondre aux besoins immédiats des familles et des individus, mais aussi de créer des liens de confiance avec eux pour enfin les aider à se développer et s’intégrer dans la société sud-africaine. À travers le service où je travaille, CTRC peut donner des billets pour acheter de la nourriture, contribuer à payer le loyer, donner des paquets d’hygiène pour des mères, des enfants ou des hommes, donner des matelas et aussi payer les frais scolaires des enfants. Il y a aussi des subventions à chaque mois pour aider certains groupes, comme les personnes âgées, les personnes ayant une maladie chronique, des jeunes vulnérables et des jeunes non accompagnés.

Je crois que CTRC donne à leurs stagiaires des rôles importantes. Ces rôles qui me font parfois sentir que je suis déjà travailleuse sociale. Pour les deux premières semaines, j’ai simplement observé les travailleuses sociales et j’ai participé dans plusieurs séances de formation pour prendre connaissance de tous les processus et les méthodes de travail du CTRC. Après ces deux semaines j’ai reçu mes propres clients et j’ai commencé à faire les évaluations toute seule. D’un côté, je sens que je n’ai pas l’expérience requise pour les tâches, mais de l’autre côté c’est exactement le type d’inconfort et de défi que je cherchais à vivre pendant mon stage. Je rencontre les clients quand ils viennent au bureau pour faire une évaluation de leur vulnérabilité et aussi pour évaluer leurs raisons de fuir leur pays d’origine pour s’assurer qu’ils ont une demande de réfugié reconnu par les Nations Unies. De là, je décide si le ou la client(e) rencontre les critères pour recevoir de l’assistance. Oui, il y a beaucoup de pression, mais les travailleuses sociales de CRTC sont toujours là pour m’aider, je ne me sens jamais seule. Chaque jour j’ai la chance à faire la connaissance des individus et d’écouter leurs histoires. Ce sont des histoires horribles de guerre, de meurtre, de viol, de perte et d’incertitude face au futur mais les réfugiés sont très forts et résilients. Même si leur passé et leur situation présente est très difficile, ils ont toujours la force de se lever le matin et chercher des solutions pour eux-mêmes.

En somme, je suis plus que satisfaite de mon expérience jusqu’à maintenant. J’ai fait beaucoup de nouveaux amis parmi les autres stagiaires, avec les filles sud-africaines avec qui je vis au YWCA et avec des familles locales. J’ai hâte d’explorer encore plus la ville de Cape Town et d’apprendre plus sur le travail social en Afrique de Sud de CTRC. C’est sûr que mon stage est une excellente expérience d’apprentissage et que la ville de Cape Town m’offre des aventures sans cesse, je me sens très chanceuse d’être ici.

Happy Diwali!

October 23, 2014 | Ryan, PAP, CWY, India, Swami Sivananda Memorial Institute

Being in India during the month of October has been nothing short of amazing! The whole month has been festival, after festival, after festival. These past few days we have been celebrating Diwali, the festival of lights. All of New Delhi is finely decorated with bright lights hanging along all the major streets and from many of the homes. I spent a couple evenings walking along the mesmerising scenes, soaking in all of the beauty that this festival has to offer. Each day leading up to Diwali it seemed as though more lights were being added to the ever-glowing city. My workplace was also decorated with candles and Rangoli, a ravishing art-form made using coloured powder designs on the floor, meant to bring good luck.

For the eve of Diwali, I was very fortunate to have my director invite me to her home for a celebration. We were all dressed in our finest clothes, in typical festive spirit. We had a nice evening where we lit candles on the balcony, indulges in excellent cuisine, and enjoyed each other’s company. We also gazed at some of the preliminary fireworks that beautifully lit up the night’s sky.

As Diwali is a national holiday here in India, I didn’t have to work today. Instead waking at my usual hour, I enjoyed a nice long sleep and then headed to Paharganj, an area in Central Delhi, to meet up with a group of my new friends. We spent the afternoon walking along the decorated bazaar, drinking amazing chai, and indulging in fabulous sweets. As the sun set and the evening was upon us, we headed to my friend’s house where I was able to be a part of a special puja, or ceremony, to celebrate the religious aspect of Diwali. A priest had come to my friend’s home where we sat on the floor in a candle-lit room to take part in the ritual. The sound of the mantras and the burning incense filled the room, leaving me with nothing but sheer joy to be a part of such a special ceremony. I feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity being surrounded my such amazing people.

Following the puja, we ate a traditional meal with sweets for desert, and then headed to the rooftop for the festivities to begin. Out came a massive collection of fireworks and firecrackers… my eyes just lit up with excitement! I felt like I was a kid again. By this time, the sky was in a constant state of brightness… firework, after firework, after firework. Having the chance to light some myself was truly invigorating! Boom! Crack! Pow! The only thing left in the end was a big puff a smoke forming into the clouds and the everlasting impression that this day has given me. Never have I felt such joy seeing the bright colours soaring in front of my eyes. Diwali has truly been an amazing experience that I will cherish forever and ever.

October 17th, 2014

October 20, 2014 | Kyle, DVM, AFS, Ghana, HRAC

As of today I have been in Ghana for six weeks, although it feels like it has been two. When I first arrived here, it seemed like I would be here forever, and now I am worried it might now have enough time left to do everything I want. Ghana is a really cool country, very different from Canada but at the same time very similar. The first difference I had to get used to was accepting the fact that random people on the street are genuinely interested in talking to you and learning about your country. Everywhere I go, people will say hi to me, and just start talking to me. Back in Canada, if strangers start trying to talk to me on the street I find it a little weird, and I found it a bit weird here in Ghana at first. But you learn that people are just genuinely very social and interested in making friends.

While there are lots of other differences between my home country and my host country, what is more interesting are the similarities. For example, the global diffusion of popular culture is astonishing. For example, one of the first questions I was asked was if I was a fan of Glee. While I actually really hate Glee, nonetheless it was interesting to see how influential Western media is around the world. North American pop music is also very popular here, and often it is played on the radio along with locally produced reggae and Twi hiphop music.

Ghana itself is a beautiful country, especially when you travel outside of Accra. I travelled to Kakum National Park, which had a really cool rainforest canopy walkway that gave you amazing views of one of the biggest tracts of intact rainforest left in Ghana. Also, the beaches. It seems like the entire coastline of Ghana is one long uninterrupted beach. Coming from landlocked Ottawa, it is hard to express how much I love being able to go to the beach on weekends, after work, and even on work days when the power is out. The country is currently experiencing some trouble generating electricity due to low water levels at their main hydroelectric dam. And while this is frustrating at times (try going to sleep in the heat here with no fan) it also means that work closes at 12:00 if the power has not come back on. Me and the other interns have started bringing our bathing suits everyday just in case, so we can spend the afternoon at the beach.

As much as I enjoy Ghana and the people in it, the highlight of the experience has definitely been working at the HRAC. I had exceedlingly low expectations of what I would be doing as an intern. I would have been happy as long as my job was something more than fetching coffee for other more senior staff. However, it has far exceeded anything I had hoped for. First of all, I am actually given useful projects to do, and they are interesting and engaging. Furthermore, I am given a lot of autonomy, and my suggestions for projects are listened to and taken seriously. Papers I write are actually used and distributed. I was super happy when I saw a paper I wrote was distributed at a meeting with various NGOs and government officials. Better yet, I actually saw them reading it. What is great is that you feel as though the work you are doing is actually making a difference, and benefiting the organization. I really enjoy the work that I am doing and I feel as though it has been a great experience so far.

In fact, the only negative thing I have to say about it is that if you are a coffee drinker like myself, it is really hard to find real coffee and when you do it is ridiculously expensive. Nescafe is the only coffee-like substance readily available, and I think most people will agree with me when I say that Nescafe is awful.

Anyways, the fact that Nescafe is the one thing I have found to complain about should speak for itself. I’m having a great time.

Adjusting to India

October 10, 2014 | Travis, DVM, CWY, India, SPID

Having been in India for a month now I am starting to feel very comfortable here. At first it was a whirlwind; everything was new, and unfamiliar. From the moment we stepped off the plane it was hotter than I had imagined, and smelled and looked different than I had imagined. For the first few days, weeks even, the city seemed so big and busy I thought I would never get used to it. Since then another intern, Olivia, and I have moved into a Paying Guesthouse, and have gotten to know some of the other girls who live there. I have been going to the office everyday and am getting to know my co-workers, and what was once scary and new is now becoming routine.

It helped when we first arrived that I felt I had such a strong support system. Between the other interns who travelled to India, the kind people at UOttawa, CWY, and iVolunteer, and my supervisor and co-workers at SPID, I have felt nothing but safe and supported.  Not everyone at work speaks English, but it doesn’t matter because they are all very kind and try to be helpful despite any language barrier. They like to teach me about India, it’s culture, holidays, history, current events, and so on, and they also like to learn about Canada and what my life is like there.

So far at SPID I have been working on editing their NGO profile as well as creating a brochure for the organization outlining all of their projects, their approach, and their objectives. It has been a good way to learn about the organization and the work they do. Currently, I am starting research for a report on human and workers rights in regards to drainage and sanitary workers. This includes looking at the national and international laws and provisions that are in place to protect workers from harmful or dangerous working conditions. It is fascinating to have the opportunity to learn about India and it’s development issues from a first hand perspective. This is a chance to see development projects in practice, work with a local organization, and learn from the experienced people around me about culturally sensitive development.

Some of the best days at work are the days I get to go out into the community. SPID hosts many events, reaching out to the surrounding communities and trying to motivate people to become involved in their own development. Community empowerment and participation are highly valued at this organization.  In the last month I have had the opportunity to go to a health camp (an outreach event hosted to expand the reach of SPID’s health programs) and a street play (put on by girls from SPID’s Gender Resource Centre to promote the SMART vocational training program.)

Outside of work, I am enjoying getting to know the girls I live with at the PG. They are mostly students or young professionals just starting their careers. As I get to know them I am learning about their lives, families, and hopes for the future. A couple of them are trying to teach me some Hindi (but I am not very good) and they have agreed to teach me how to make Indian food!

Adjusting to life in India has been a slow process. It has not always been easy or comfortable, but finally, I feel like things are starting to fall into place. I know that this is a once in a lifetime experience, and an opportunity that not everyone gets. In only one month I have learned so much about India and my host organization- I cannot wait to see what the next two months will bring!

Settling in

October 7, 2014 | Olivia, DVM, CWY, India

Whenever I am travelling to a new place, I am always worried that the region I am in will be so different from home that I won’t be able to handle it, or that it will be so similar that I will be disappointed. India has proved to be neither. Throughout my first few weeks here, I have been pleasantly surprised by what is new and interesting to me here, while still comforted by reminders of home (like the fast food restaurants that allow us a break from the spicy food every once in a while). I have seen this internship as another stage in my development as an international worker, and was determined that this semester would be the one where I went international. I am glad to be doing it through the Faculty of Social Sciences and CWY as they have helped to smooth the departure and integration process. I feel that I have been well prepared for my internship, and I am less likely to be fazed when met with challenges.

When the India interns first arrived in Delhi, we were given a few days at the hotel to adjust and see some of the sights in the city. This allowed us to adjust to the country without being completely overwhelmed by jet lag, culture shock, and other problems. After a few days we split up and each went to their own placement. I stayed in Delhi, along with two other students, and began my placement at the Society for Participatory Integrated Development (SPID).

So far, my impression is that Delhi is a good place for interns that do not have a lot of experience travelling abroad and are looking to take steps towards international work, as I am. There are some challenges in adapting to any country. In the case of Delhi it might be to the heat, the spicy food, the stares, locating what you wish to purchase, purchasing goods at the non-tourist price, and obeying the incomprehensible rules of the road. Fortunately, as you spend more and more time here, you begin to figure it out and gain more independence, and then you can have a truly rewarding experience.

I have really enjoyed getting to know my colleagues at SPID, of which several are able to speak English and will communicate with us (me and my fellow Canadian) in our native language, while still teaching us some Hindi. We have also enjoyed meeting some of the girls living in the other rooms at our accommodations and others that engage with us in our daily lives, such as our daily rickshaw driver and the girl that cleans our room. Communication is not always easy, but with the limited Hindi that we have been learning and with the English that our new acquaintances have under their belts, and with many hand gestures, we can generally get by.

At SPID, we have been working on writing and editing content for promotional materials, the website, and other projects. There are two offices that we have been working out of, the Gender Resource Centre (GRC) and, more regularly, the Vocational Training Centre, SMART. We are able to work independently, checking in with our supervisor to ensure that we are on the right track and to gain more information or direction as needed. We were able to observe a Health Camp here in Delhi last week, which was probably the highlight of my work at SPID, and though we did not feel that we helped in ways we wished we could, it was nice to see how SPID interacts with the community it serves. We may also have a chance to visit the office in Agra, which would be exciting for us. Our supervisor has been very attentive in ensuring that we are comfortable and happy both in our placement at SPID and at our accommodations. It is a comfort to know that there are people looking out for us, and I hope that I will be able to return the favour with the best quality of work possible.

I am very glad that I have this opportunity to work internationally and to experience more of the culture on the weekends and evenings, as well as through conversations with our colleagues. Being one who is fascinated by other country’s cultures, national history, architecture, and other aspects of daily life, I have thoroughly enjoyed the experiences, celebrations, and excursions of which I have had the opportunity to take part. India is a beautiful and fascinating country, and I am thoroughly enjoying my time here.

Premier mois à La Paz

October 7, 2014 | Olivier, EIL, Uniterra, Bolivie, FundacionMaya

Cela fait un peu moins d’un mois que je suis arrivé à La Paz pour effectuer mon stage avec le CECI, et disons que la transition c’est bien déroulé. En effet, ayant voyagé en majorité en Europe et autres pays occidentaux, j’ai dû prendre le temps d’adapter au contexte bolivien. Les différences se sont pas si grandes que ça, mais il reste quand même que l’organisation des transports en commun est plus chaotique que n’importe quels pays que j’ai visité.

De plus il faut ajouter le facteur altitude qui n’est pas négligeable. Mais maintenant les choses commencent à prendre. Au départ, je n’avais pas vraiment d’idées sur comment mon travail allait se développer, mais au fur et à mesure que le temps le projet qui allait m’être assigné s’est dessiné peu à peu. Maintenant nous (moi, des membres du Ceci et d’un organisme bolivien) sommes sur le point de lancer une campagne de crowdfunding. Le concept m’était inconnu avant d’arriver ici, mais il semblerait que ce soit une bonne manière de lever des fonds pour toutes sortes de choses. Les fonds récoltés iront pour la FundacionMaya (lien ci-dessous) qui travaille dans le but de développer l’entrepreneurship en Bolivie. L’argent sera utilité pour leur concours Innova Bolivia qui s’adresse aux jeunes entrepreneurs et étudiants. Le but est d’offrir des bourses et des possibilités de contacts avec les entreprises nationales. C’est vraiment une excellente occasion pour bâtir des liens et des réseaux entre les universitaires et le milieu entrepreneurial. Au départ je devais travailler avec la Red OEPAIC (une association d’artisans), mais le CECI m’a finalement placé avec la FundacionMaya. Mais dans le domaine humanitaire j’ai pris qu’il faut toujours rester ouvert et flexible et voir les projets présentés comme de nouvelles occasions avec un potentiel à développer. Je crois que ce changement aura peut-être été bénéfique pour moi. Pas que j’aurais été moins utile avec la Red, mais la Fundacion travaille avec les milieux universitaires et les jeunes, de cette manière la transition est peut-être plus facile. C’est une excellente occasion pour entrer en contact avec des étudiants comme moi. De cette façon, il m’est possible de mieux connaître les enjeux importants pour leur génération et ainsi enrichir mes connaissances générales.

De plus, c’est une bonne occasion de développer mon réseau de contact. Maintenant il reste à voir comme la campagne va se dérouler et combien nous allons amasser. Il faut dire que comme je n’ai jamais vraiment participé à ce genre de campagne, je suis dans un brouillard relativement épais je me demande si je vais arriver à bon port. Mais bon je crois que cela fait partir du processus d’apprentissage. J’ai hâte de voir si les gens vont répondre à l’appelle que je vais leur lancer. À certains moments, dans le contexte canadien ce genre de campagne pourrait être vu comme un événement charitable, mais ici il s’agit de développer des projets pour une économie durable dans un des pays qui a le vent dans les voiles en Amérique du Sud. Je ne sais pas si les gens prendront cette possibilité pour découvrir les projets et les gens de la Bolivie. Dans un contexte de mondialisation comme le nôtre, je crois que tous peuvent profiter d’un projet comme celui-ci. Pour l’instant, je dois me concentrer sur la campagne et non sur les résultats, ne dit-on pas qu’on doit apprendre à marcher avant de courir, sinon c’est adieux veaux vaches cochons. On reconnecte plus tard.

Olivier Nazon

Étudiant en 4ème année

Refugee Camps, Dust, and Jacaranda Trees

October 6, 2014 | Ashley, DVM, WUSC, Malawi

My name is Ashley Ramier and I am currently working in Malawi as a Program and Academic Assistant for the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) Malawi. This is an international internship through the University of Ottawa, where I am currently completing my Masters in Globalization and International Development, specializing in gender studies. The internship with WUSC Malawi is a three month placement; however, I will remain in Malawi for an additional three months to complete research for my Master’s thesis.

The environment in Lilongwe, Malawi is one of beautiful Jacaranda trees, dessert landscapes, and sloping mountains. Malawi is currently in the dry and dusty season, meaning that there has not been any rain since the end of April and will not be any rain until the end of November. Therefore, this season is also known as the hungry season. For me, personally, this season correlates to water shortages and dust. Lilongwe is very dusty, as is the refugee camp. While working in Dzaleka, I am often hit by large dust gusts because of the wind and lack of rain.

I live in the capital of Malawi, Lilongwe, with a British-Irish couple in a beautiful house with a great big garden. At home, we have been experiencing intermittent power outages, which is not unexpected. However, we are also experiencing water shortages. To deal with the water shortages, we have an interesting water bottle system set up to ensure that there is always potable water, water for dishes and cooking, and water for cleaning. It takes a lot of coordination and pre-planning to ensure that we have enough water to stay hydrated. Of course, my experience with water shortages is nothing compared to the Malawians who are confronted with water and food shortages every day. Especially, considering that the price of water has gone up significantly in the past month.

I work primarily in the Dzaleka refugee camp, which is home to over 20,000 refugees primarily from Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda. The refugee camp used to be a high security prison in the 1980s and Dzaleka literally means ‘where life ends’, which is how some refugees view their life in the refugee camp. However, those refugees who have been accepted into WUSC’s Student Refugee Program (SRP) are filled with hope, determination, and excitement. What’s the SRP? Canada has an agreement with the Government of Malawi in which approximately 20 refugees from Dzaleka are resettled in Canada as they attend a Canadian university. I am working with this year’s cohort of SRP students supporting English and French language classes and providing information about life in Canada. In addition, I am also working with the Academic Leadership Program (ALP). The purpose of the ALP is to empower girls to pursue their education and remain in school. In this role, I am conducting leadership sessions on topics ranging from conflict resolution and effective communication to gender issues and sexual and reproductive health. I am also working with community mobilizers to do outreach within the refugee camp for girls who have dropped out of school or whose family does not want them to continue their education.

This is not my first international internship, during my undergraduate degree I travelled to Cape Town, South Africa through the same program to intern at the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children. One of the greatest challenges that I’ve been experiencing in Malawi is attempting to avoid comparing my previous internship experience with my current. Although this is proving very difficult, I am constantly having to remind myself that they are vastly different countries, with different socio-economic statuses, and significantly different people. This helps me overcome some of the expectations which I held prior to landing in Malawi.

Wish me luck in the rest of my adventure!

Zikomo!

Ashley

Day 30 – A Month of Discovery

October 6, 2014 | Jennifer, DVM, CWY, India, Seva Mandir

Approximately 30 days have elapsed since I departed my little Canadian cotton ball world. Feelings of anxiety, fear, uncertainty and excitement were simultaneously bouncing away and feeding off my mind. Nowadays, my state of mind has entirely altered. This month has been a month of discovery. Having previously lived abroad, I had this unfortunate pre-notion of expectations and belief system on what I could encounter while living in India. Well, I can confirm that this country is unquestionably, one exceptionally beautiful and unique nation. Key words: one of a kind. Riots of noise, textures, smells and colours have all greatly “assaulted” my senses yet in an extraordinary way. I go to bed every night, listing my new discoveries of the day.

From New Delhi to Udaipur (my internship’s location), I have learned to surf the wave, as one simply cannot resist the way or the strength of the wave sometimes. Accordingly, my first couple weeks in Udaipur I plunged myself right into the wave and today I can now say the “honeymoon” stage is definitely out the window. Nevertheless, I believe I have the best of both worlds. In relation to New Delhi, Udaipur could be considered a remote small city although being an intern at Seva mandir has enabled me over the course of a couple weeks, to witness rural regions and during fieldwork work with children from a multitude of remote villages. My main project is to evaluate a pilot science program implemented in NFEs (Non-Formal Education) schools across remote villages. In spite of not feeling as helpful as one may feel, I understand the long-term goal and the principle of education is simply vital. The children have a heart of gold and the greatest desire to learn and I am so glad to be able to assist with this endeavor. It is all about the learning and it is important to remember that this is a three-month journey.

After a month, I am pleased to say that I feel challenged yet stable, more organized (to a certain extent), and glad to be here.  From learning Hindi to bargaining bananas at the market, it takes time to start feeling comfortable. Yet, it is important to realize that other cultural norms are to be accepted right away and embraced the way they are. To illustrate, there is no such thing as too much honking or a “wrong way” while driving; where there is a way there is a will.  You may eat two dinners per night and have a few tea breaks and that’s the way the cookie crumbles.  Never say no to Indian food, enjoy it, it’s delightful! I have learned that India, more specifically, the small beautiful “city of lakes” of Udaipur (which I am so fortunate to call my home away from home for three months), is simply imperfectly perfect in its own way. The fresh air, the crisp green vegetation and mountainous scenery, the generosity of people and the smiley children are things that are already so attached to my mind, heart and soul.  I am completely mesmerized by this city and I am so excited to pursue this adventure.

Power, Privilege and Colonialism

October 3, 2014 | Anne-Marie, ECH, Gender at Work, Afrique du Sud

It has already been a month since I first set foot on the South African soil. Unlike some of my fellow interns visiting other countries, I don’t feel like I have experienced a huge cultural shock. South Africa is a very diverse country and it might not be the same everywhere, but talking from a Cape Town perspective, I can say that things appear quite the same than in Canada but feel different.

Both countries have a violent colonial past that still has considerable impacts on society in present day and both countries now seem to try to repair past wrongs through apologies, commemorations and Truth and Reconciliation Commissions to name a few. Nonetheless, a big difference between South Africa and Canada  is that here, questions about racism, discrimination and Apartheid are openly discussed on (practically) a day-to-day basis, at least when I’m around. So far, without having to ask much about it, people have seemed to be more than happy to share with me their experience, stories about how the system used to function and what they were taught growing up. Even people of my generation, the ”born free” (born   after the end of Apartheid in 1994), seem very aware of the heritage left from this deeply traumatic past, should they be ”Africans”, “Coloured” or “White”. A former political prisoner that guided us through Robben Island Prison even told us that he considered it was his duty to share what has been done, so that it can never happen again.

This made me think a lot about my own heritage, as a settler Canadian. The mainstream (non-Indigenous) society doesn’t seem to talk about its troubled past and present as much. In many instances my experience showed me that a lot of people are not even aware that there is something to talk about apart from Francophone/Anglophone animosities. My history classes taught me about settler-Indigenous relations (conflictual or peaceful) as a thing from a distant past. Never (or in a very brief manner) in my academic career have I ever been told about Indian Residential Schools (even if the last one closed its doors as recently as 1996!!) or about the living cultures and ongoing struggles of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

Because people here talk about those realities of power and privilege, my experience in South Africa has allowed me so far to be more conscious of my privileged position in both my host country and the country that I call home. I believe I still have more reflection to do on what I represent, as a woman that happened to be born from a (mostly) European-Settler background, and on how this affects my representation of others. But I think this calls for another blog entry! I am really looking forward to the next 2 months to deepen my reflection and take in all that South Africa and Cape Town have to offer me :)

Dumela de Botswana

October 3, 2014 | Stéphanie, DVM, Uniterra, Botswana, Stepping Stones

Dumela (Bonjour en Setswana),

Il y a déjà un mois que je me suis assise dans un avion pour me rendre à l’autre bout du monde. Mon expérience ici au Botswana est très unique et me fait grandir tous les jours.

Lors de ma première semaine au pays, j’ai vécu dans la capitale de Gaborone. J’étais étonnée de mon accessibilité aux ressources qui m’étaient familières au Canada. Je me sentais presque ignorante d’avoir cru que la culture serait très différente et que les citoyens africains ne connaitraient pas les modernités nord-américaines, telles Suits, ma série de télé préférée, ou l’application Instagram. C’était tout le contraire! Il y a même un magasin Body Shop au centre d’achat! Je me suis donc vite sentie chez moi. J’ai bien aimé demeurer avec une famille d’accueil, faire la cuisson avec ma mère d’accueil et apprendre à connaitre leur fille, elle aussi étudiante universitaire. Puisque mon orientation n’était que d’une semaine, j’ai dû dire au revoir à ma famille, avec qui j’avais créé des liens, et à ce confort qui m’habitait.

Une fois arrivée à ma destination, le village de Mochudi, ce fut tout un ajustement. Bien que j’ai seulement eu à faire 30 minutes de route pour m’y rendre, l’environnement est complètement différent. En plus de vivre avec des stagiaires comme moi, dans un village qui n’est pas modernisé comme la capitale, j’ai eu de la difficulté à comprendre le rôle que j’allais jouer au sein de l’ONG local, Stepping Stones International (SSI). Cela m’a pris beaucoup de temps à comprendre le fonctionnement des divers programmes et le rôle de chacun. Étant parmi les quelques personnes étrangères du village, et n’étant pas encore à l’aise avec mon environnement, ce fut très difficile de me déplacer de façon indépendante. Avec le temps, je m’intègre de plus en plus à ce nouveau monde.

Stepping Stones International (SSI) est un organisme qui a été créé par une dame américaine et une dame de la communauté locale. Chaque jour, nous accueillons des jeunes vulnérables, de 12 à 20 ans, à notre centre. Il y a plusieurs programmes mis en place, dont un programme de leadership, de tutorat et de littératie, d’habiletés de vie, de prévention du VIH, d’appui psychosocial, et j’en passe. L’impact que ce centre a sur les jeunes de la communauté est évident tous les jours et je suis très fière de pouvoir travailler pour cet organisme.

Mon expérience ici à Mochudi m’offre régulièrement des occasions d’apprentissage au sujet du monde, de moi-même et de l’impact de l’éducation informelle. J’apprends, de façon pratique, des choses que je ne pourrais jamais apprendre dans un livre. J’ai hâte de continuer cette aventure et de rapporter tous mes acquis avec moi au Canada.

Ho siame,

Stéphanie