Saturday, 8 September 2012


Tonight I will be going to the airport to travel to a country I have only ever read about. I am overwhelmed with a thousand different emotions at the moment - the flip flop between excited, scared and miserably sad being the most predominant.

Saying goodbye is never easy.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Monday, 9 July 2012

To the Jane's of the World

Tonight was one of the first nights I stopped to really think about moving to Malawi. I've been so busy recently with school and events that I really haven't given myself time to stop and really take in the fact that I am moving to Malawi in less than two months. As I thought about saying those heavy goodbyes at the airport, waiting for my flight to board, a few tears welled up in my eyes. However, after receiving lots of comforting words, and warm hugs from my boyfriend Tim, I began to feel a bit better about the reality I will soon face. 

I've mentioned before that there are times when I, like anyone, lose sight of the true meaning of why I am here and why I do what I do. Tonight after imagining the plane landing and facing an entirely new world I had another one of those moments of slight hesitation. And then I came home to my comfy bed and watched a video reminding myself again.

The young girl that Jacqueline Novogratz speaks about, Jane, is just one of the many stories I have heard that bring me back to the big picture. The fact that this girl only ever wanted to be a doctor, and to have a husband who would love her, is now HIV positive after years of being subjected to prostitution when her husband left her for another suddenly puts my fears into perspective. She is still a strong woman who loves her family and feels blessed to have what she has today. She is truly inspiring. 

The description of her living conditions and her life story told by Jacqueline just further highlights the inequality that is so prevalent across the globe today. She talks about the definition of poverty, which got me thinking about all of those lectures I've had on the term "poverty." Many times we tend to use the $1/day reference point, however, when Jane was making up to $4/day she was no longer considered to be living in extreme poverty. The reality is that Jane is still very poor, too poor even at the time to remove herself and her family from her current unsanitary, unsafe living situation. It's an interesting concept to think that we can judge a persons level of poverty simply based on the amount of money they make each day. There are far too many variables that factor into the equation to give this approach a holistic understanding of each individual's situation. 

It's sad that at times I have to hear these stories to really remind myself of the bigger picture, that I want to help empower and enable women like Jane to live the life they've always dreamed of. And as much as I'd like to help, it is really her courage and strength that empowers me.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Voluntourism: Helping or Hurting?

Voluntourism has recently become a pretty hot topic in the world of development. In the last decade this phenomenon of combining travel and volunteering has increased largely in popularity. It has even gone so far as to create its own new form of vocabulary! “Ethical holiday, voluntourist, travel philanthropy” all encompass this same idea of traveling to a developing country, for a short-term vacation with some participation in a project. This is an opportunity for an individual, or group, to make the most of their vacation or time off by ‘doing good’, or ‘making a difference’.
The big question being asked today is, is voluntourism hurting or helping? These trips typically range from ten days, to three weeks in duration, however shorter and longer trips are available. The term voluntourism, however, tends to exclude any trip exceeding 4 weeks in length. While on these trips volunteers might partake in activities such as building homes, schools, working in orphanages and with underprivileged youth, or distributing food and or supplies.
Organizations that are facilitating these experiences are growing by the masses. Some that are well known include, Hero Holiday, Habitat for Humanity International, International Student Volunteers, Hands up Holiday, Volunteers Without Borders, and the list goes on and on! Ten day trips with these organizations typically run around $2000 to $4000, this coming straight from the volunteer to pay for resort accommodations, all inclusive food and excursions in the evening.
Voluntourism typically attracts individuals in high school, college or university. However this is not to say it is limited to the younger crowd, in fact several middle aged and retirees also embark on these trips. It provides people with the opportunity to travel, and to see a different part of the world. A great deal of people walk away from the experience saying things like “it was life changing” or “I found myself.”
So, what else makes these voluntourism vacations a good idea? Well, firstly they are perfect for people with busy schedules. A quick two weeks in the sun and you get to walk away with a rewarding feeling like you put your two weeks of vacation to good use. This experience can also transpire into further interest in development work, and inspiring friends, family and coworkers to look into how they can get involved. Speaking to others, hearing their stories, and having that intimate person -to-person experience can make an intense impact on the voluntourists. Not to mention that international experience is very attractive to employers and schools, what a great way to set yourself apart from the millions of applications received each year.
Now lets get down to the reality of the situation. Although the trip might be valued by the voluntourist, we have to analyze whom the trips are designed to benefit. Realistically the majority of these volunteers do not possess certain skills that would be abundantly beneficial to the local communities. Therefore to cater to the masses, these trips are more often than not designed around physical labour, and therefore for the volunteer. The voluntourists are unqualified to do any other development work. There is also a gap in training the recipients. Often when new infrastructure comes into a small community they are not familiar with, it is rejected or goes unused. There must be continuity between the delivery and the reception.
The length of these trips is one of the biggest areas of debate. Because they are so short, the goals of these trips are very short sighted. Most volunteers want to see the end product of their efforts and therefore the projects are short term. This leads to the fear that the infrastructure may not be maintained, or will go unused. How much impact can you really have in ten days?
Another issue with voluntourism is that people are so attracted to vacations where they can also lay on the beach, or be in the sun that the purpose of the trip is lost. Canada has a great deal of development issues that are in dire need of attention. Unfortunately problems away from home seem more appealing than those close to home.
Furthermore, orphanages are an often-visited destination of these trips. The issue with visiting orphans, spending time with them, and building relationships is the fact that these are not sustainable relationships. When the voluntourist leaves, these children are abandoned all over again. There can be serious psychological repercussions on these children if volunteers are constantly coming in and out of their lives. Again this begs the question, who are these trips really for?
This explanation is not to say that there aren’t genuine experiences or successful, meaningful projects, however, the arguments above are reasons to question who these voluntourism trips are really benefitting. What do you think?


The wonderful birthday celebration of our beautiful nation was also accompanied by the spectacular celebration of Pride weekend in Toronto! What a magical weekend. The celebration of pride for my country grows stronger and stronger as we continue to move closer to a more unified, loving nation. The beauty of the Pride parade and demonstration can be seen for miles with the many gorgeous colours and people filling the streets, coming together as one to embrace the rights and justices they so truly deserve.
The first Pride march was held July of 1972, Toronto following suit in the year of 1981. This year’s 32nd annual parade was the gathering of individuals from all communities coming out to express their creativity, energy and talents. The weekend was filled with activities and a very dynamic lineup on several stages around the city. Year after year this demonstration continues to WOW the world. The impressiveness of Pride only intends to grow and create more awareness, as Toronto Ontario will be the first North American city ever to host World Pride! 2014 will mark this amazing event, and I can’t wait!
Unfortunately, with the celebration of both Canada day, as well as Pride falling on the same weekend this year, I was unable to attend both. I had an amazing weekend in our nations capital, Ottawa Ontario, bringing in the big birthday with friends, and crowds filled of red and white. What an amazing experience it is to stand amongst thousands of individuals, all standing in unity. This was an act of pride for the many reasons we are blessed to be Canadian.

Go Local!

Last week my classmates and I traveled on a field trip to a local farm just outside Waterloo. The lovely, friendly owner, Theresa gave us a wonderful tour of her small, but pretty amazing farm. She explained the history of her farm, her educational background, and more exciting facts regarding her blooming crop. We went down to the small field where she grows her tomatoes, asparagus, and so much more. It was there that Theresa put the group of us to good use. After about half an hour of getting down in the dirt in the siring hot sun, it was clear this was no easy task, especially without the help of thirty energetic students. We then moved inside to her preparation room, where we discussed more interesting aspects of the life of a farmer and the Community Supported Agriculture program, or CSA.
What is CSA?
CSA is a way for small-scale local farmers to sell their fresh, in season, and in some cases certified organic produce to local consumers who want to reduce their carbon footprint, eat healthy, and support local producers. Consumers can purchase shares, and this will provide them with a box of fresh, in season vegetables each week. At Theresa’s organic certified local farm, Garden Party, she offers shares all year round so that you have the opportunity to eat ethically each season! An added bonus to picking up your food from the farm is the variety of other organic food Theresa keeps on stock including cheese, milk, eggs etc. This is a great way to get all of your organic staples in a one-stop shop!
So why buy local?
There are so many reasons to go local! In this day in age it is becoming increasingly important to know where your food is coming from, where and how it was prepared, and what you are putting in your body! Buying local provides you with all of the answers large supermarkets and manufactures cannot. So why buy local?
1.     Freshness and taste!
2.     Support for rural communities!
3.     Confidence in your food!
4.     A healthier environment!
So will you look into a more ethically food source for those fresh veggies this summer? There are a variety of options! I encourage you to do your research and please feel free to comment below!


First off, I’d just like to extend an apology to all of my friends and family about the constant harassment to come out and take part in the INDEVOURS Ultimate Frisbee FUNdraiser Tournament. But in reality, I’m not, because the day was a huge success, and I couldn’t have done it without all of the support you all showed us on this ‘indevour.’

So! The tournament was an incredibly long process, and, lets be real, I was way in over my head when I boldly volunteered, “I’ll organize the tournament!” There were several unexpected hoops in which we needed to jump. And organizing an event on campus isn’t as simple as I had originally predicted. The first step was to pick a date, which we did, twice. It was slightly ambitious of my team to give ourselves only a couple of weeks to prepare and organize everything after returning from the winter term break. After facing the reality of the intricacy of the event we decided we would need an extra week, and therefore the day of the tournament was set. June 2nd! How exciting! The day was going to be wonderful, and sunny, and magnificent!

After filling out many forms, having meetings with incredibly helpful people, faxing the Waterloo Health Department our event food forms, and booking Campus Response Team, we were looking pretty good! Now our only issue was… who will play? After days at the registration booth in the SLC, handing out fliers, putting up posters and reposting status updates on Facebook, I was not feeling very confident. One week out we only had one team registered, and a whole lot of maybes.

Being the incredibly keen individuals that we are, INDEVOURS hosted our own class late one evening due to our scheduled class being cancelled. Feeling tired, overwhelmed and slightly defeated, I expressed my concerns with my classmates. I’m not sure if they all love me a lot, or they just say the sheer brokenness in my soul, but these wonderful individuals set off from that meeting determined. 

Finally! Teams started to sign up, and I no longer had to stare at the ceiling all night stressing so hard I thought my heart was going to stop, and my brain was going to explode. This might be a slight dramatization.

The gloomy, rainy Saturday morning finally rolled in, and with it come the fearless athletes! The morning went flawlessly. ONE of the many beautiful things about my classmates is that they have amazing initiative. Everyone knew exactly what they were supposed to be doing, and if they finished that task, they moved on to the next. I could not have been more grateful in that moment for the people I have been blessed with to share this amazing experience with.

The day continued with a total of eight teams playing four games each, which made up a thrilling 32 games! A warm BBQ with quite the spread including hamburgers, veggie burgers, hot dogs, chips, and refreshments, was blazing all day long. Prizes were handed out, and the winners were determined. Although the day was gloomy, Mother Nature was merciful enough to hold out the rain until the very end of the day. And at last, the day came to an end, and I could breathe again.

The Ultimate Frisbee FUNdraiser event would have been nonexistent without the amazing hard work and dedication of my fellow INDEVOURS. Each and every single one of them was my hero on that Saturday.