Alternative Spring Break (ASB) is an exciting opportunity for you to participate in a week-long, hands-on service learning experience! You might choose to join a team that is teaching children at the Hope of a Child Orphanage in the Dominican Republic, providing medical clinics to under-serviced communities in Costa Rica, or helping to support programs for at-risk populations in our own community of London, Ontario... it's completely up to you!
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Hello ASB friends and family! We´ve arrived in Urubamba much earlier than anticipated, thanks to an early connecting flight. This means we didn't end up spending the night in Lima, so we are looking forward to exploring a bit more at the end of our trip.
We hardly slept at all since leaving Canada, and altitude sickness is setting in for some of us at 18000 ft above sea level, which means that we are confused about what day and time it is. But our hostel has a pet llama, so all is well!
More updates and hopefully some pictures to follow in the next few days. Love from Peru MaySB!
After a week spent in one of Canada's coldest cities, the ASB Winnipeg team has returned home from our experience with warm memories of kindness, gratitude and humanity. As the Staff Leader, my experience was twofold as I observed many seemingly introspective students on my team open up, challenge themselves, form close bonds, and emerge as leaders who have made a difference in the community.
Like many of Winnipeg's less fortunate, the ASB Winnipeg team made the Siloam Mission our home; more than just a place to eat, sleep, and get out of the cold, but also to connect with our fellow Canadians. There is something quite humbling about falling asleep on the floor in your sleeping bag each night knowing that, just floors below you, there are people who are simply grateful for a safe, warm place to spend the night. At a basic level, the experience heightened my awareness of the daily comforts I often take for granted. On another level, I experienced anger and frustration at the inequality - even moments of utter guilt. I came to realize just how big of an issue homelessness was during our first meal service. I could barely keep up with the sheer volume of people, nor could I believe that we served over 500 bowls of soup.
More than just an emergency shelter and soup-kitchen, the Siloam Mission provides Winnipeg's less fortunate with something very important; a sense of community. As someone who has been part of the Western University community for many years, I know that many of us can relate to the collective experience of our campus. It traces back to that very human need to feel that we are part of something greater. Like Western's very own community in London, I was taken aback by the level of compassion and support at the Siloam Mission in Winnipeg's north end. The staff and volunteers we met were so attentive to the changing needs of the community. More than anything, I discovered the true meaning of service-learning; to learn how you can help those in need simply by asking. In order to truly engage in service-learning means being open and aware. As our team learned from our hosts at Siloam, that meant using our head, our heart, and our hands.
My ASB experience in Winnipeg made me acutely aware of the struggles with poverty, homelessness and food insecurity experienced daily by those in our Canadian backyard. Through all that our team did - whether it was bussing tables, sorting donations, giving piggy-back rides to kids, even washing walls - we did so with the intent to provide dignity and respect to all.
A heartfelt thanks to the ASB Winnipeg team for being such amazing ambassadors for the Western community. I think we all have fond memories of rides in the industrial elevator, spontaneous dancing, thoughtful reflections, bartering in the streets, delicious maple taffy, and kumbaya moments. A special thanks to JJ and Lynele at Siloam for welcoming us to Winnipeg and for being our teachers.
One final blog from us: Team Nicaragua landed in Detroit late Sunday night and made their way to London very early Monday morning. All home safe and had an AMAZING trip!
Our last few days in Nicaragua flew by so quickly! Here are a few highlights:
- We said goodbye to the wonderful children at the Learning Centre and the English Camps. This was very sad!
- We climbed the Pena de la Cruz mountain, which was simply gorgeous. Some of our participants played guitar with locals on the top of the mountain.
- We visited a coffee plantation, where we had lunch, took a tour of the area and learned how the coffee was made. We also had an opportunity to buy some organic coffee.
- We visited some local women who are well known for making black clay pottery. Many of our participants purchased clay mugs, vases, or other souvenirs!
- We did our final group reflection which involved a "Warm and Fuzzy" activity that left many of us feeling happy, inspired, and close as a team.
- Our last night in Nicaragua was at a hotel (instead of our usual home base at Outreach 360), since we had to catch our flight from Managua the next day. At our hotel, we all woke up at 6am to watch Canada win the Men's Olympic Hockey Game against Sweden! We also enjoyed an hour by the hotel's pool before we went to the airport.
We learned so much on this trip... Especially about ourselves. To learn more, come to the ASB Showcase!
So here we are, on the other side of our amazing experience in the Dominican Republic. I can't begin to describe just how inspiring and humbling this week has been for me and the team.
Before I get into how the week affected each team member personally, here are some highlights of the trip:
- arriving in the DR (26 degrees!)
- the first morning of teaching in Multi Uso
- culture talks throughout the week
- dance class
- trip to the Dhajabon
- visiting El Marro beach
- many games of mafia...
There were many, many more memorable moments (all captured on film on our respective Facebook accounts, from which we took a much needed break for the course of the week). For me, one of the best parts of the trip was our nightly reflections. After becoming such great friends during our activities during the day, I felt as though we became even closer when we laid bare our inner thoughts, emotions, and insights about our mutual experience. It was incredible to live 26 lives all at once, to experience such a connected version of the trip. My personal thanks to everyone who was willing to share!
Despite some sickness throughout the week, everyone seemed to have had an amazing time, including the students with whom we were working. To sum up the experience, here is what everyone had to say:
Kathleen was amazed by the patience the students showed at the Spanish literacy station. They were teaching her while she tried to teach them. This really stuck with her!
Cassandra's favourite moment was the look in the students' eyes every time they got something right. The happiness they showed was undeniable.
Jaitra remembers teaching the students vocabulary, and being taken aback when the students asked how to write, "I love you" in English, and was blown away when the students wrote that they loved all of us.
Priya was struck by one student in particular who is 18 years old and in grade 8. She was amazed at her dedication to education, even at the student's older age. The student's ambition is clearly not limited by her age!
Katelyn observed one student clutching onto Khang's finger all week. She was stunned at this immediate connection, and at the universal nature of the desire for education.
Piera found it very rewarding to see the students' pride when they finished their own artwork (which was beautiful!).
Claire was told she has a great teaching voice, which definitely came in handy this week! As much as she enjoyed her experience, she was missing everyone at home.
Alex, AKA Dad, was taken aback by the huge aspirations the students had. Upon being asked what they wanted to do with their lives, an 11-year old girl responded with, "Civil engineer". Others said doctors, lawyers, or even sports star.
Morgan was amazed at how quickly our team became so close so quickly. She was also impressed by how quickly the students were learning the material we were teaching them!
Anita was impressed by the fact that the students already knew much more than she expected. She was impressed more by the fact that they were so willing and interested to learn more.
Khang noted that growth happened every single day. He found himself more and more interested each day, and found the students to feel the same.
Yvonne wanted to send a shout out to two of her students, Rosa Maria and Soledad!
Tenna, when asked to describe the experience, said the only word that even came close to being appropriate is, "speechless".
Ria said that she feels very touched, and that the people and community here are stunningly beautiful.
Omar reminds us all of the power of love, and shared the following quotation, "I'm confident that the seeds of our investment shall bear fruit for all."
Natasha remarked that she had a lot of fun, and was overjoyed to notice the students having a great time, too!
Cyan was feeling the love from the students, and was very happy to see them all laughing and enjoying their time with us.
Avery, too, was taken aback by the physical beauty of Monte Cristi. Special note to the salt flats and the town itself! Not to mention the very welcoming and friendly nature of the people here!
Catherine loved how Monte Cristi is very "center-focused". She found this aspect of the town to be rather beautiful.
Alberto has a cute video of a 1-year old dancing that he can't wait to share once he has a chance! Looking forward to seeing that!
Marg felt like she was making a difference. Very important!
Amber was touched by the fact that the students were so willing to help one another when one of them didn't understand something, or couldn't quite pronounce something. She noted that the students were making good progress throughout the week!
Olivia was in awe at the level of enthusiasm and motivation of the studetns, and was impressed with how they voluntarily gave up their free morning or afternoon to come to our camp!
Vanessa noted that she had more to learn from the students than she could possibly teach them.
Sanga, AKA Mom, said that when he holds a soccer or basketball, everyone is his best friend; however, as soon as he doesn't have the ball anymore, no one notices him. It's ok Sanga, I notice you. In a not-as-creepy-as-that-sounded kind of way..
Now that our experience has come to an end, it's hard to believe that it's over. The week was absolutely incredible. We made some friendships that I'm sure will last a lifetime. I look very much forward to all that we will accomplish in the future, either together or independently.
Congratulations to each and every member of ASB Dominican 2014! You did it!
Jared Boland, Student Team Leader
Rigya Arya (London)
Tea Hadwen (London)
Thrmiga Sathiyamoorthy (Winnipeg)
Jessica Segal (Winnipeg)
Megan Smith-Uffen (New Orleans)
Pooja Patel (New Orleans)
Lori Denglers (New Orleans)
Florence Lourdes (New Orleans)
Jared Boland-Rhyno (Dominican)
Margaret Cooper (Dominican)
Alberto Alvarez (Dominican)
Baljiwan Uppal (Belize)
Melanie VandenBorre (Belize)
Sohail Makhdoom (Belize)
Olivia Petersons (Costa Rica)
Charlotte Sikatori (Costa Rica)
Julian Restivo (Costa Rica)
Claire Newman (Nicaragua)
Cassie Anton (Nicaragua)
Naomi Mishibinijima (Nicaragua)
Katie Pountney (Peru, Feb)
Marilyn Nash (Peru, Feb)
Julie Ella Dubeau (Peru, May)
Eve Court (Peru, May)
Bev Zupancic (Peru, May)