“A Volunteer Story: Jamie Prong”

I have always wanted to volunteer abroad, but there was always the question of how I could go about doing this. Then, I heard about Solidarity in Action (SIA) from a friend at school, and I decided to join SIA’s social justice trip to Peru in 2010. I’ll be honest and say that I really did not know what to expect, despite the very thorough briefings I received from my trip leaders. For the most part, I expected to teach Peruvian children, maybe help build stairs or fix up a school, and teach children how to brush their teeth. Little did I know that I would be jumping into the two weeks that would evidently change how I saw the world. Yes, I taught children English, I taught children how to brush their teeth, and I helped fix up a daycare, but what I got out of these experiences was so much more than the satisfaction of helping a community for a few days.

The gratitude expressed by the community members was overwhelming. People you don’t know – who don’t even speak the same language as you – hug you, and sometimes even cry, while they hold the first tooth brush they have ever owned. It’s humbling to see, and the emotions you feel in simple moments like these is astounding.

To return to South America with Solidarity in Action was the simplest choice I ever made. I knew that’s where I belonged. In the spring of 2011, I traveled to two countries: Peru and Ecuador. Though we were working with very different communities in either community, the same level of acceptance and sense of community was present in both.

It is these experiences that fueled my drive to truly understand what the term ‘solidarity’ means. I am still looking for an adequate definition, but each time I return to South America, the meaning becomes a little more clear and close to my heart.

– Jamie Prong, SIA Trip Leader (Peru 2012, Peru 2011, Ecuador 2011)

Jamie learning about the meaning of solidarity from the wonderful children of Monte Sinai, Guayaquil, Ecuador

“Cards for Kids! Holiday cards designed by the children of Cerrito Azul school”

Give cards with a cause this holiday season. These super festive cards feature the artwork of students at Cerrito Azul school in Lima, Peru. Buy a package of 10 unique cards for a donation of $15 and support the development of services and facilities at the school, which provides applied education for children and teenagers with exceptionalities.

To order your bundle of cards, please send an email to Calyn at calyn.pettit@gmail.com, or send a message to info@solidarityinaction.ca.

For more information about the school, visit http://www.centrocerritoazul.com.

Roberto's Christmas Card - Cerrito Azul (Roberto)
Christmas Card - Cerrito Azul
Christmas Card - Cerrito Azul (Eduardo)

“Students get crafty for a good cause”

Students at Pavillon de la Jeunesse Elementary School in Hamilton are raising money to support the construction of a daycare in the community of Pacifico de Villa, Lima, Peru. Nathalie Pageau is a Grade 5 teacher at the school, and traveled to Peru in August with Solidarity in Action (SIA). When Nathalie returned to the classroom in September, she was eager to share her experience with her students. After learning about Peru and the work Nathalie had done there, the children were eager to help, too. Ever since, they’ve been busy making friendship bracelets to raise money for the expansion of a daycare centre in the shantytown community, Pacifico de Villa. During the August SIA program, participants helped community members to build a retaining wall that will support the planned extension of one of the classroom areas. Solidarity in Action is working directly with the community to execute this and several other sustainability and development projects.

The students at Pavillon de la Jeunesse Elementary will be selling their handmade bracelets at the school’s upcoming Christmas festival. To request your own, send an email to Nathalie at onerisingstar@hotmail.com, or info@solidarityinaction.ca.

Students at the Pavillon de la Jeunesse Elementary School in Hamilton make bracelets to raise money for the Pacifico de Villa daycare.

A Career Night: The impact that volutneering and charitable work can have on your life.

The excited students started to file into the hall, the parents followed behind, sometimes they lead as the children try to keep pace. There was a nervous excitement in the room. It was Career Night at a local high school in Mississauga. The Applewood Heights Secondary School gym was packed, as industry professionals with their display boards lined the perimeter of the gym. All anxious to share their knowledge and experience with the high school students.

The Career Night event was arranged by Applewood Heights in an attempt to assist students with their career choices. It was a fantastic idea as high school students were able to engage with professionals from a variety of different disciplines, ranging from nursing to civil engineering, the Police force and seemingly everything in between. Solidarity in Action was invited. We were able to share our experiences working in a charity.

Our experience has shown us the role volunteering, or  getting involved in a charity can play an important role in a student’s life. High school students and university students find themselves in an increasingly competitive climate. They compete to enter university, college and the work force. Even once they have successfully graduated from university or college, their employers may still insist that have not accrued enough experience. Students need skills to set them apart from all the other applicants. The skills that one gains from becoming involved in many cases may not be possible in many other forums than a non-profit or a charity.

The student response was overwhelmingly positive.  Excited parents explained that their families were involved in charitable work. They reflected on the excellent developments that their children had undergone as a result of their involvement in charitable work. as students who were presently involved in charitable type work explained that through agreed that they too had built skills that they may not have been able to develop in setting such as a school. They were impressed with the satisfaction they gained.

We often hear about how satisfied people feel when they volunteer and give back. The benefits of volunteering often discuss the emotional response one receives. However, there is a growing interest in demonstrating the skills one can garner from volunteering in the community or internationally. During a recent debrief session for our 2011 volunteers, led by our partners at Wilfrid Laurier University, the focus was on how their experience in Peru or Ecuador helped make them more attractive employees.

Thank you to the Applewood staff and their effective assistants (motivated and talented high school students). It is wonderful to see high schools taking proactive to help their students prepare for their post-secondary experience.

As well, thank you to those who took the time to visit our booth. It was a pleasure for us to meet you. It is wonderful to see such motivated students!

Here are a list of skills we felt we have developed as a result of our work in South America and other charities and non-profits in Canada.

–          Adaptable

–          Develop a strong work ethic

–          Expand your network

–          Make new friends

–          Get on the job experience

This week take some time to reflect on the impact that volunteering, or getting involved a charity  has given to you.

What skills have you developed? How do you find time in your busy schedules to volunteer? Do you want to see your children becoming involved in charitable work? What can we do to help facilitate their experiences?

We look forward to hearing from you.

Have a great weekend!


A local example: How does it impact our international work?

Hi Everyone,

I must apologise for keeping you all in the lurk. I am sorry I have not been able to blog for the past few weeks. It has been a busy time as the applications for the 2012 SIA trips have been flowing in. Thank you to those who have stayed loyal followers of our blog. I hope to return a more regular schedule.
I decided this week that I would share something with all of you that has more of a local focus. However, although the example is a local concern, many issues of charity and assisting the impoverished are questions that we consider when developing our international projects. In fact, these are discussions that we enter into with our international partners. Such questions should we provide a more diverse program, or should we narrow in and focus on specific areas and communities. Is it better to provide a more wide ranging support and risk not engaging in the complexity of the issues, or provide a more concentrated approach that begins to resolve the more deep seated issues? How do the experiences that we have at home help as with our international work?

This post has been a few days in the making and it began in a usual way. Angus (SIA Board Member) and I were having a regular discussion. We spend many hours debating a variety of issues, from local Economic issues and education, to international development issues. This past week we were discussing a very interesting issue about a sector that becomes increasingly more prominent as we approach the Christmas season, food banks.
One food bank was struggling to maintain the necessary funds to support their customers. As I listened to Angus, I began to imagine how interesting it would be to hear some of the ideas of our attentive blog readers.

This community food program provides food and short term storage and meals for the community. For the past few years one of its supporters has been a local service club. Every year, the local service club provides a monetary donation to be used in capital projects, such as maintaining the facilities, and improving infrastructure, etc. However, this year the community program appealed to the service club to allow them to use the funds for the immediate purchase of food rather than towards capital projects. They indicated that they were struggling to maintain their budget for the coming year. The program, recently, had begun to provide a higher quality and thus more expensive food for the individuals they were feeding. As a result, they were no longer able to afford to assist as many people.

The members of the service club were not in agreement with on another. Some members more sympathetic to the cause argued that the community food program had the right idea of providing a higher quality of food. They felt that the food bank attendees would be better able to function if they we fed more nutritious food. Other members were against the idea. They were surprised that the food program was making a shift to a higher quality of food. They were concerned that as a result of this shift the fod bank was unable to assist the hundreds of people in the community who did not have food.
We have no intention to comment on how a food bank should operate, our work is focused on international issues. However, I thought it was a very appropriate subject to discuss. During the last few years that we have spent working in international community development, I find that we are constantly analysing our work and weighing up the pros and the cons of different development models. As are focus is on ensuring that we are able to assist in a way that will lead to sustainable development.

We are now hoping to hear what you think.

What do you think? Should the food program use their capital funds to cover for their increasing food costs? How sustainable is it to provide this high quality of food? Does it make more sense providing food for as many people as possible or is it a more sound practice to provide the best quality of food for a fewer number of people? Or any other thought you might have.

Please leave a comment and let us know what you think. You can also send me an email at l.shuttleworth@gmail.com.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Have a great weekend.