Placements in Pacifico De Villa

Today I attended the placements that were located in Pacifico De Villa. The placements that were offered to participants in the Pacifico De Villa were construction, teaching at the kindergarten called Pronoei and working with the Youth in Action after school English program. The placements all came with their own challenges but the participants were able to overcome most of them with a smile on their face. One of the challenges that Melissa Thompson had to overcome was that at her placement in Pronoei,”[she] was in the 3 years old class and [she] found that you really need to have patience because not only is their a language barrier but also they have very short attention spans.” In the construction placement it was amazing how quickly and efficiently the Peruvian men worked on the demolition of the washroom. Brad Hertog stated, “The amount of work that the Peruvians accomplished in such a short period of time was amazing and the fact that they accomplished it without the help of power tools is unbelievable.” It was a great first day of placements that was not challenges but it looked like participants learned a lot. The participants are currently eagerly preparing for their second day of placements.

Alex Carson

Teaching at Pronoie this morning.
Teaching at Pronoie this morning.
The students at Pronoei were marched out into the front foyer to sing the Peruvian National Anthem.
The students at Pronoei were marched out into the front foyer to sing the Peruvian National Anthem.
The participants are taking a quick break before going back to the demolition of the washroom.
The participants are taking a quick break. The area in the middle of them is where the washroom stood this morning.
During the after school program the children created Mother's Day cards.
During the after school program the children created Mother’s Day cards.

Understanding the complexities of poverty

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

Honourary Canadian Consul, Basil Haylock, addressed Alex Carson and her fellow SIA Ecuadorian participants. Guayaqul, Ecuador.
Alex and Jocelyn instruct the children from San Felip de Neri school on the importance of dental hygiene. Monte Sinai, Guayaquil, Ecuador.


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