Hello SIA community,
SIA participants are impacted in a variety of different ways by the Solidarity in Action program. Yesterday, Katie and Heather shared with you the new perspective that they are gaining as a result of their experience with SIA. Today, Alex Carson, a Wilfrid Laurier University, Human Rights Major and a 2011 SIA participant and present SIA Ecuador participant, reflects on the impact that the SIA program has had on her understanding of development.
I first heard of SIA during my first year of university. I had always been interested in travelling but all the trips organized at my high school never captured my interest. My interest in Peru started when my high school ran a trip to live on a river boat for two weeks in the Amazon; we would be doing research. It sounded amazing but in the later stages of trip preparation it was cancelled because they couldn’t find enough teachers to agree to chaperone. Once I saw SIA was running a trip to Peru I was onboard to go. Before I had even attended an information session I knew it was going to be an amazing experience.
For the entire trip I was euphoric. I felt it was the most fun I had ever experienced. I was doing one of my favourite things to do, volunteering. I had a real purpose. The SIA August 2011 Peru group was the most amazing mixture of people. We had two professors, a middle aged married couple, participants in their mid twenties and students from both Laurier Waterloo and Brantford. We had quite a mix of backgrounds and interests but we were all strongly bonded by an interest to experience something new, learn and make as big of a difference in our short time as possible. When the trip finished I was ready to go home, two weeks had been a lot but once I got home I immediately missed my big SIA family I had grown used to. I missed the routine schedule that offered very different experiences each day. I knew I needed to attend another SIA trip.
It was hard to decide whether or not to attend Peru, which I loved, or brave the heat of Ecuador. I decided that to gain the best understanding of poverty and such I should go to Ecuador so I could see how poverty manifested itself in other places. So far Ecuador has been very similar to Peru in what poverty looks like. I now realize how much I was subconsciously thinking about the complexity of poverty and the development of countries. Being on an SIA trip for the second time allows me to see things and better understand the issue in a greater entirety.
SIA is an organization that may appear, on the surface, to be just about volunteerism and tourism but it does much more for the participants, almost subconsciously. It serves to give participants a greater understanding about how government, foreign companies, environment and the local attitudes can affect people in developing countries. Particularly the influence western and developed nations have on how developing countries choose to model their system of development. The issue with this is the model used for developed countries is no longer viable because the developing countries already have history and booming populations to mobilize. This new crop of developing countries do not have a clean slate like a lot of developed countries did. The exploitation of cheap labour that was used to build great super powers is no longer acceptable because of great protection of human rights. An entirely new model of development needs to arise.
The experiences and the many discussions I have had with fellow SIA participants have given me a better understanding of a world that I truly knew nothing of growing up in Canada. These trips have shown me what poverty looks like in the 21st century which is beneficial to my understanding of my human rights courses. SIA has also shown me not only the negative aspects of developing nations but also the amazing things developed nations stand to learn from them. Most prominently the tremendous sense of community which makes SIA participants feel welcomed, and that they belong to something amazing.
Alex Carson – SIA Ecuador 2012 participant