An update in photos: The community of Ascencion del Senor, Guayaquil Ecuador

A few thoughts from Pico Abel, following a visit to the community in Mount Sinai on Sunday February 24.

Pico is the SIA driver and an integral member of the SIA team in Ecuador. Pico describes the community’s desire to continue to improve.

“The community continues to make use of the centre, meeting on a weekly basis.”

“Having completed the first floor of the community centre, the community is raising money through raffles and bingo events to fund the construction of a second floor.”

“[The community feels] great appreciation for the work [of Solidarity in Action], expressing warm appreciation and affection for [all Canadians]”

L Shuttleworth


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!

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.


A look ahead to SIA’s summer in South America

Hello Everyone,

We are just about to begin our beginning our most active time of the year, as our first group of university students prepares to fly to Lima this coming Friday, May 4th.

I arrived in Lima, Peru on Sunday following a few days in Guayaquil, Ecuador. For the next four months we will be receiving more than 90 volunteers from the universities, high schools as well as a group of well meaning adults. During our time in Peru and Ecuador we will be interacting. Our first group of students is due to arrive to Peru on Friday May 4th. The group will include 20 university students and staff from Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of Guelph and other students from other universities and colleges.

Over the next few months you will be able to follow us as continue to improve the daycare in Pacifico de Villa, Lima. In Ecuador we will work alongside the Monte Sinai community, to help build a multi-purpose community hall. As well, stay up to date as we engage students and teachers in our English classes. These are just a few of the projects that we hope to complete this summer.

Stay up to date with our newsletter and check the blog regularly to hear about the personal experiences of our SIA staff, volunteers and with the people from the communities with whom we work. You will hear from our SIA staff, trip leaders, participants and members of the local communities.

We welcome your comments and suggestions as we look to continue to build the Solidarity in Action community.

We wish everyone a safe and successful summer and we look forward to receiving our SIA volunteers in Peru and Ecuador.

In Solidarity,

Larry Shuttleworth

The two newly completed classrooms of the Nino de Jesus daycare, Pacifico de Villa, Lima.
Larry listens as Florentino, the president of the Nino de Jesus daycare, and the other members of the executive discuss their ideas for the daycare. Lima, Peru
Javier Bazan and Larry joined the president of Pacifico de Villa, Luis Serna and other members of the executve to discuss the plans for the upcoming months and into the future.

“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