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My Katimavik Experience

Mexico March Break Volunteer Leadership Trip 2005
I knew I wanted to go on a volunteer trip abroad after hearing an inspiring story by a group called Leaders Today in grade 10. I heard the compassionate story of Joe, a nineteen year old who had gone on a trip to Jamaica to volunteer at an orphanage and the experience made him turn his life around. Now i didn't need my life to turn around so I thought, but boy was i ignorant to all the suffering and indifference in our world living in our North American society. I wasn't sure what was wrong all I knew was that I had a passion for volunteering and maybe one day I would get a chance to volunteer in a developing country. Much to my amazement after months of searching a teacher from my old school had told my friend of a volunteer oppurtunity over March Break but I was never able to secure any details. On the internet in the winter of grade 12 I stumbled on a hit from google where I searched 'volunteer march break Mexico'from an organization called Leaders Today. This jogged my memory to the presentation I had seen two years earlier and made me uncontrolably excited. I suddenly started rapidly reading the 25 page document concerning safety issues, the itiniery, and the goal of this trip. I was so excited until I noticed that the deadline for the first payment was two days away.
I had to come up with a way to convince my parents to let me go, figure out the payments, and not get ahead of myself by first calling the organization and finding out if there were any spots left. To my great fortune there was and they were delighted at my enthusiasm to go and said that the forms and money had to be in within two weeks because they were holding me a spot. In less than three days I had secured a money order in U.S amounts paid with my student minimum wage job at Burger King, convinced my parents to let me go, and get all the necessary arrangements ready before my departure. I had to go for a physical, get a doctors note, get vaccines for Hepititus A, Meningitus, and typhoid, pay the rest of the money due and buy medical and travel insurance before being officially accepted. I was so happy when I got the call that I was able to go I cried, it's funny thinking about that moment now.
So with my bags packed,Nalgene water bottle at hand, Tiley hat ready to go I waited anxiously at the Ramada Hotel at the 401 and Wellington exit in London, On for the white van to pull up and claim me as their participant. It showed up on time and I said good-bye to my parents and embarked on a journey of a lifetime not knowing what to excpect. I met the group leaders Robin, 24 who had dropped everything at 22 and decided she needed a change in her life and bought a one way ticket to Kenya. She did have some things planned for when she got there, but she gave away all her material possesions, and went to live with the Masai people in a small village which is about two hours away from Nairobi (Kenya's capital city). She brought back with her: admiration for the people, and the love of sharing with others the path to reaching out to others. Scott teh other facilitator had been living a normal life being an accountant when someone gave him Mother Theresa's biography. After reading it he made a big decision to go volunteer with Mother Theresa's organization in India.It brought back a wealth of knowledge, compassion, and a willingness to help youth on the path of reaching out to others. These two people are amazing and taught me a lot about giving, sharing,and empowerment. The participants that welcomed me in the van were amazing individuals whose personality, generosity, and passion for helping others made me speachless. But as per usual I can always carry a converstaion so I quickly snapped into ice breaker mode and talk to them on a personal level. Their names were Lauren, Chiara, and Peter. They each were unique but shared the same ideals as me in wanting to help people, but so beyond me in awareness and strength. The four day roadtrip down to Arizona where we stayed on a ranch that was donated to the organization was great, learning things I never knew,listening to music i had never heard, and ideas sharing ideas we all had. When we got to Arizona we picked up the other three participants who were from Ohio, and Maryland, Natalie, Sam and Heather. The whole group bonded quickly and could talk on very personal levels.
The beginning activites were tools to get us to see why we had come, and the big question "What are we ready for? My initial reaction to this was well obviously to volunteer and learn things. After minutes of contemplating with myself and others we came up with a list. The things we were ready for included to gain knowledge about Mexican culture and its people, to understand myself more by being in a place where I had nothing else to be, to realize that I can make a difference in this world, to find direction in my life guided by helping others, to be changed and start really analysing issues from an open mind more specifically. We made statements in our journals, journals that we had put together the previous night with cereal boxes,recycled paper,and material about what we personally were ready for.We thought about how to do this and talked about keeping an open mind and trying new things.
Crossing the border on foot was a interesting experience because of the great music, the peoples weary looks, and the asummptions by others that we were tourists looking to buy souvenirs for cheap. Our destination today was a drug rehab centre called C.R.R.E.D.A. When I told people back home before I left that I was doing this, they asked why and I wasn't totally sure about the purpose but I knew there would be an important reason; so I would smile and go for the ride. When I got into the room I was very nervous and found out there wasn't a translator available for everyone like the leaders had been told there would be. Lucky for us we studied a bit of Spanish and prepared questions to ask, though to our delight the people in CREEDA spoke a bit of English so we both got by. The expeience was cool, being able to have no preconceived thoughts about these peoples lives we came in not to help but to listen. The people we talked to told their stories and spoke freely to us more than I think we could have talked in Canada, or the States. These people had been put or asked to be placed here for treatment and willingly stay to get better. Their stories differ but each of them has something important to share.They made known to us that the fact that we were taking the time to come to see them made them feel important, especially since most get disowned from their families, and it made them evaluate the positives in their life and the joy they have at getting better.Here is a picture of the narrow room about forty of us were in talking about our life experiences. The next day we had a cool oppurtunity to help the building process of a house that would be used for people helping on the border with border issues. Our job was to make concrete by hand using shovels and treck it over in a wheelbarrow so they could fill the wall with it to form the foundation of the roof. The group is called Frontera de Cristo and they help with a variety of border issues and rely on volunteer groups and individuals to build the houses.

Then we went to stay with our families and this picture below shows mine. My family was so welcoming and caring. they made me feel at home and were so happy that the group was there volunteering. Their house was great because it was built entirly by the father and older son. The father had shared his past working experiences with me and had shared that he had worked in Mexico city in 'factories' where he was paid a very low wage and he couldn't support him self little on a family one day so he decided to move near the border which is common for a lot of Mexicans we learned who leave their southern provinces and hoem lands to come work in maquiladoras on the border in the Free trade Zone agreed on by the North American Free Trade Agreement.

We went to an orphanage and played with the kids and learned about the amount of kids left orphaned, their ages, and their needs.

We also learned about the deaths on border and the issues facing the people in Mexico who desperately try to cross into the United States. We had a vigil for the ones who had died which takes place every Tuesday at 5 on the main road on the U.S side leading into Mexico.
This is a picture of migrants who are 100 feet away from crossing the border and have been walking for two days.We learn from them the struggles of keeping jobs in the places they live and their dreams of a better life in the country North of them.

This is the one of the poorest areas in Agua Preita, where people are living in what are known as squatter settlements close to the location of the now closed maquiladoras.
My Mexico volunteer experience was amazing and it made me rethink everyday things I do, wear, see, belive and think. It has made we want to open my life to one of social awarness, justice, and helping others in whatever way I can.

Save Darfur

As I watched Hotel Rwanda I thought to myself how could the world allow this to happen after World War II;to have the knowledge that such attrocities against humans namely the highest form,genocide are still taking place is astonishing. Genocide is defined as the systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, political, racial, or ethnic group of people that took place in Rwanda in 1994 unknown to most people until it was over and over one million people were killed. At the end of the movie there is a minute blurb telling people to help in Sudan because it's happening again.

I was shocked to learn that the same thing was taking place in Darfur, Sudan and I didn't know about it or hear anything about it in the mass media previously. I started doing research about it for a project at school and found out that indeed a genocide was going on presently and there was some aid interfering and supporting refugees there but not significant amount.

The civil war in Sudan goes back to the ongoing war between the Northern Sudanese and the Southern Sudanese that are being enslaved. Due to the clash of both groups, the Northern being of Arab decent, and the Southern being of African non-Arab tribal farmers ethnicity the Northerners have oppresed them for some twenty years. As the on going crisis of this was ceased in 2002 by a ceasefire amd peace talks that were started in 2003 were broken by two militia groups attacking the government because they feel that Arab-dominated government is not meetign their needs and has left them in an economic depression. The conflict was re-instated when a group of government-backed militia named the Janjaweed, of Arab decent were assisted in their ground attacks by an aerial bombardment by the goverment troops against the non-Arab, African tribal groups. The Janjaweed have a heavy upper hand and have progressed to systemically killing, raping the women, burning the livestick,burning the land, and have started full-blown ethnic cleansing.
The Sudanese government is denyign any claims that there is a genocide going on in their country.The United Nations has stated that this is the worst humanitarian crisis facing the world today.

The systemic ethnic cleansing is said to be rooted in the struggle over power of the resources, mainly oil held in the Western region. The United States has threatened oil sanctions againt Sudan, but Pakistan, India, and China have voted against this step and have even voted against a United Nations inquiry into whether there is genocide going on.

I strongly feel that there should be more emphasis paid on this humanitarian crisis in mass media. In doing this more people would be aware of what is going on and that would likely incur public empathy for the cause and more support about doing something to stop it. I know there are a lot of organizations that are helping out in the area but with your help as citizens we can pressure the government to committ more aid and send in a United Nations Peacemaking group to stop these haness acts. To get invovled and for more information consult Save Darfur

Why More People Should Be Concerned With World Issues

On May fifth and sixth of this year Oakridge Secondary School, Westminster Secondary School, and Beal Secondary School held a Model United Nations.The mock assembly was held at the Marconi Club for Thames Valley District Schools. The assembly is set up with two representatives for each country in the real United Nations and follows the same protocol and procedures. Each pair of students must acurately represent their countries beliefs and position on the resolutions that are put forth by the Plenery Committee of the General Assembly.

This years Model U.N. opened with a debate by Oakridge Staff Advisor Mr.Mark Flumerfelt and Mr.Mike Deeb a staff advisor from Clarke Road Secondary School who both have grave authority on The West Bank Wall. The resolutions that were debated on were the rights of homosexuals to marry, the threat of Near Earth Objects, and an emergency resolution about China's occupation of Taiwan.

From the debate on the rights of homosexuals to marry, the main points that were illustarted were that as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 2 states that ,"Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration without distiction of any kind" and that article 16 states that "Men and Women of full age , without any limitation due to race, nationality, or religion, have the right to marry. But unfortuanatley the resolution did not pass as a whole due to the second resolution that threatened removal from being an active member in the United Nations if no progress was made by 2008. On the threat of Near Earth Objects the main points presented were that we shouldn't be focusing on this issue now because it is not an immediate threat compared to the 8,000 people that die in Africa every day from Aids, and starvation.The oppositions point of view is that if we don't do something now about these possible threats our Earth will not be able to sustain life anymore and there won't be any future generations that need protection from other humanitarian causes.

The issues that were brought up as resolutions affect everyone who lives on the Earth, and should be understood by all. By going to the Model U.N. you learn about the different positions of each country, and the issues facing the world at large. Everyone has a role to play in World issues whether you are debating someone in a class of yours about an issue, or volunteering overseas.

Being invovled in World Issues will challenge you to look beyond your country to our ever-globalizing world. It will allow you to be a better citizen and a more compassionate citizen.It will allow you to educate yourself on how to lessen your ecological impact on the world negatively and only leave a postitive impact.

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