Programs to engage participants and instigate sustainable change: SIA Programs 2013

This summer, SIA witnessed determined volunteers, who brought their skills, passion and care to the SIA program in Peru and Ecuador. Our volunteers engaged with the community and with the development of our volunteers, our leaders, and the progress of SIA Peru, we have received an increase in support from individual community members. We have more people who are involved in the SIA program in Peru, Ecuador and in Canada. This year we will build on the success, by developing sustainable programs, which continue to use the initiative of the community members and of our talented North American volunteers.

During the summer, 90 volunteers and their leaders were allowed to contribute their skills to our international projects. The volunteers helped with infrastructure, health, education, social projects and many more. The volunteers were empowered by the experience, whether it was leading a community needs assessment, helping to design a bathroom, speaking with the women from the community or developing a youth day program.

On September 4th, we launched the 2013 SIA program schedule. This year’s programs will include the continuation of the youth programming in Pacifico de Villa. We will develop English programs that help improve the speaking skills of students in public schools and in the communities, both Pacifico de Villa and Monte Sinai. SIA will also continue to improve the access to health within Lima, through the Pacifico de Villa health promoters and in Guayaquil, through the support of the Mariana de Jesus Foundation’s Jose Obrero Clinic. In Peru, SIA is looking to improve the access to clean water in Pacifico de Villa.

During the summer, our volunteers shared with us their desire to be even better prepared for SIA programs, as they felt that they could have contributed even more to the program! This year we would like to help each of our participants feel prepared to contribute to the program, prior to and during their program.

The current, future, and past SIA participants are all invited to become involved with the SIA program prior to traveling to South America. Participants will be able to meet with their program leaders, other participants and with South American staff members, to help prepare for their experience, to allow them to better contribute their knowledge and skills during the program.

The programs rely on well prepared volunteers, who are willing to contribute their skills, whether it be skills learned through a university, or as a result of skills learned through job experience.

With many wonderful opportunities available, we invite all interested volunteers to connect with us and to determine the ways in which they can become part of this solidarity experience.

Let us know how you want to become involved!

Ecuador Begins

Sometimes greatness is born, sometimes it is searched out, and sometimes it is thrust upon you.

Sometimes a person is born busy, sometimes busyness is searched out, and sometimes busyness is thrust upon you.

The 2012 trip to Ecuador seems to be playing out the tune to both songs. Our team arrived in Guayaquil, Ecuador on May 17th, 2012 and we were immediately immersed into a new culture, lifestyle, and adventure. We were privileged enough to have the opportunity on the first day to tour each of our placements that we will be associating with while we are volunteering. First, we toured Comunicar- a school where students with exceptionalities specific to Autism Spectrum Disorder attend daily to learn how to become independent. Our team´s reaction was pleasing. Many of our participants are interested in working hands on with these students to assist with classroom management, teaching, and expanding their own personal understanding of special needs individuals. Next, we took the bus to San Felipe De Neri in Monte Sinai- and getting there proved to be a challenge in itself. The torrential rains that Ecuador experiences in ¨winter¨ have caused many potholes and large puddles on the roads, resulting in a rather exciting and bumpy escapade. When we arrived (without getting stuck, yay!), we were thrust right into the school playing with the children, overcoming language barriers, and most importantly running an oral hygiene clinic. We taught the students a catchy theme song about how to brush their teeth and then separated into small groups to ensure each child was specifically taught exactly how to brush their teeth to keep them clean. At this point our morning was over. Before we left the community we met with some of the members to see the shelter that was built last year and we had a chance to see what we would be working on this year for the construction project. In the community, there was no electricity or running water, homes were made mainly of bamboo and any odds and ends that could be found. The people already have shown their sense of belonging- each so loving and close to their neighbours. I know we are looking forward to being submersed into the community, to get to know each member, and to work hard to ensure we make a difference for them. After we were introduced and welcomed into one member´s home, we were on our way to a meeting with the Honourary Canadian Consult, Basil Haylock. Basil is a Canadian citizen who has lived and been working in Ecuador for 44 years. He was named the Honourary Consult last year and his purpose is to ensure the comfort and safety of Canadians who live and travel in Ecuador. Listening to Basil was a very interesting and beneficial experience. He was enthusiastic and loves Ecuador, and was so pleased that we were in the country to volunteer and serve in any way possible.

Overall, after the meeting the majority of us were tired from the heat and rush of the day, but could not let that slow us down, as we had to hurry back to our retreat house to ensure that the medical campaign would be prepared for the next day!

Today, we drove to Monte Sinai to the parish of “La Transfiguration” to assist with a free medical campaign that is put on by Mariana de Jesus? We each were given a category to teach on such as: Nutrition, hygiene, oral hygiene, and morals and values. As the clinic was progressing, the medical students were providing physical checks, oral checks, and observing the members of the community, while we were busy teaching the people how important it is to eat well, keep food preserved properly, always sanitize, and to remember values and respect.

Our day ended early and we were treated to a beautiful, scenic view of Guayaquil in the district of Bella Vista (Beautiful View).

Overall, the first two days have not only been nonstop motion, they have been nonstop learning. Seeing a family of four riding on one motorcycle, the homes on stilts to try and ensure they avoid flooding, the roads littered with garbage, the homes so close together, the people all hard at work trying to provide for their families… it makes you think that in all of this busyness, we need to pause and wonder.

A new point of view.

Katie and Heather

Kaitlyn and the kids from the San Felipe de Neri school practice brushing their teeth. Monte Sinai, Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Heather completes an art activity with the kids while the children wait to be seen by the doctors. Medical Campaign held by Mariana de Jesus. Monte Sinai, Guayaquil, Ecuador

On The Way Home – A New Perspective

We remember arriving at Lima airport only a short 14 days ago, and now we are only a couple hours away from Canada. Before departing for this trip, we weren’t quite sure what to expect, but we were very excited to begin our 2 week adventure. We were able to spend a day in the community where they welcomed us with traditional meals, song and dance, and graciously welcomed us into their homes. Here we were able to see how they live their everyday lives. We are now more appreciative of what we have back at home and realize that having a strong community of friends and family is more important than the materialistic things that surround us in our everyday lives. This trip has truly been life changing for all of us in a number of different ways. A lot of us were able to work in areas we want to pursue in our careers as a result many of us concluded that we are on the right career path and are now more motivated to work towards these goals. Being able to interact with the community and children on a more personal level made this trip special. Usually when you go to another country you don’t get to know the people of that area the way we were able to on this trip.

By going on this trip we were each able to apply our own knowledge and skills within the placements we volunteered in. For the students who want to peruse the career of being a teacher, they were able to use what they have learned in courses and apply it in the classroom and the daycare. This helped them gain confidence in the classroom, and give them opportunities to create fun lesson plans for the students to learn English. And as for construction, we were able to get right in there with the community members, and help them make the cement and move the rocks. At home you wouldn’t be able to just pick up a shovel and start digging a hole to build another classroom. It was very rewarding to see the final product of the wall at the end of the week and knowing that our own hands helped build something that is so important to them.

We know and understand that coming home will have its difficulties, by having to adjust to a new schedule and having to explain our emotions and our experiences knowing that it will be hard to fully understand on the same emotional, physical and mental level that we have gone through these past two weeks. Overall this trip experience has been rewarding, educational, life changing and it will stay in our memories forever.

Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone

One of SIA´s most appealing aspects is to be given the opportunity to learn and teach. Through various placements, of our choosing, participants work amongst community members, students and each other to develop an understanding of the community. Our goal is to instill a lasting impression of hope and dignity within Lima. SIA works to ensure the shantytown of Pacifico de Villa, grows to become self sufficient and sustainable. With our contributions of working in construction, daycare, primary and intermediate schools as well as a special needs school we work to fulfill these goals.

As the week continues, most of us have chosen to work in each placement available. We cannot help but make comparisons between our world and theirs. During the first construction project each individual was given a task to complete: Janine cut iron rods into 1 foot long pieces while Jess and Mansi were instructed to bend the rods into even squares, while the rest of the group, Angus, Tom, Donald, Ryan and Michelle, were responsible for the physical labour of digging holes and moving rocks to the back of the school. The finished project for the end of the week would be to complete a foundation wall for the daycare to create a new room for the school in Pacifico de Villa.

Once we got into the momentum of our jobs we looked up the hill to see a house engulfed in flames. With survival instinct taking over, SIA members joined in with the community to extinguish the terrifying flames. Pacifico de Villa members banned together giving all they had in order to put out the fire and prevent it from spreading. Water is both rare and expensive for this community. Witnessing such a selfless act and giving the little that they have was astounding. This, for some SIA members, was the first concrete proof of solidarity we have seen. Some members described the situation as working together on a common goal, no matter their own circumstances. This is one of many situations we have seen that has reminded us to have a greater appreciation for everything, big and small, in our own lifestyles.

While working in the school settings, members became aware of their own abilities to communicate with the students despite the obvious language barrier. Members became more confident and comfortable in those roles even though most have never taught before. Almost every member as dove into the unknown and tried an activity they have never previously experienced. Some people were hesitant about children, some about teaching, and some generally with being in an underdeveloped country. But through trying and with the support of the SIA members and leaders we have overcome these challenges, no one has failed because the only true failure is not trying.

Stay tuned for more from SIA and our amazing journey,


Heather and Janine

An Introduction to May Peru 2012

Hola from Peru! We are the May Peru trip leaders Jess and Holly.  We have had an incredible first few days and are excited to have started placements.  We have had the wonderful opportunity of being able to watch the participants experience new relationships, new opportunities, and immerse themselves in the Peruvian culture.  This week we are working on the construction of a daycare in Pacifico de Villa, as well as assisting at Laura Alva Saldana; a school for children with exceptionalities, and teaching English to children at Juan Pablo and Cristo Rey schools.  I (Jess) have been working at Laura Alva Saldana with four participants, where I would assist them with communicating with the teachers and students.  While I (Holly) have been working at Juan Pablo and Cristo Rey, assisting participants as they teach children English at the primary and secondary level.  We would like to turn it over to a few of our participants, as they will be sharing some of their experiences this week.  We encourage you to follow along with us on our amazing journey.

In solidarity,

Jess and Holly