A Successful Fundraiser!

Monday, January 31, 2011

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I am so thankful to everyone who made it out to my fundraiser on saturday!! It was such a blessing. I couldn't believe the generosity and support of the people in my community. All together we raised almost a third of my program fee, $1500!!


I was shocked. I appreciate everyone who was able to give or who just showed up. Your contributions will be put in to good use through CCS to allow me to reach out to the people in Moshi.


You have made a difference.

90 Days and Counting...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

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Only another 90 days and 11, 344 kilometers until I arrive in Tanzania...

As you can probably tell by the date on this blog post, I started writing three months before I was set to leave for Tanzania. I wanted to dedicate a few posts to my preparations leading up to my trip, give you the full picture so to speak. So here are a couple of posts to keep you occupied until I am able to write to you guys again!!

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Before I go any further there is one thing I'd like to say. To all my friends and family that take the time to follow me on this journey, I want to send you all of my love for the support you have given me, and will continue to give me as my trip draws near. Your confidence in my dream has made this possible. Whether you offered your kind words of encouragement, are helping me with my fundraiser, listened when I needed to talk, gave financial support, or provided me with advice, it is very much appreciated. I am so blessed to have such a wonderful family, friends and community. Thank you.

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I should probably start this blog by explaining myself a little bit. Why do I feel that volunteering abroad is so important in my life, what led me towards Tanzania, and why did I choose CCS to make this goal of mine a reality...

I was in my first year of university when volunteering abroad first struck a chord with me. It was the international fair on campus and there were several booths dedicated to volunteering overseas. I talked to some of the representatives and got my initial taste of volunteering fever. They drew me in with phrases like 'you can make a positive difference' and 'we need your help'. They spoke about having the experience of a lifetime while helping others. It got me thinking about the possibilities... At the time I was still trying to figure out where I fit in and what I wanted to accomplish with my life, so these words easily grabbed my attention. After that, international volunteering was something that always sat at the back of my mind, making itself known every now and then as the years flew by...

As university rolled along I decided to focus my studies on politics. I found it interesting to learn about how countries interact with one another, how they rise and fall, and how they can help or harm each other. Through man's actions, countries can rise above or tumble into tyranny and dictatorship. I loved learning about other cultures and customs and the histories that shape a country and its people.

This interest pointed me in the direction of international affairs. Although UNB does not host a vibrant international affairs department, I was able to take several courses pertaining to international politics. I now knew that this was the area of focus for me. This was what grabbed my interest and wouldn't let me go. Not that I ever had a definitive discovery moment, lets be honest, that only happens in the movies. For me, it was something I fell into naturally over time. I was intrigued and it fit nicely with my values, personality and beliefs.

This became especially apparent while writing my thesis in my fourth year. I knew going in that I wanted to research Africa. I found the study of human rights and dictatorships particularly interesting and I knew that Africa would have a lot of information to offer in that department. Through talking to my thesis advisor, I discovered the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FYI it borders Tanzania).

This beautifully broken nation has seen the world's deadliest conflict since WWII. It is where approximatly 5-6 million people have died since fighting broke out in 1998. It is where millions of civilians were massacred during the Belgian colonial rule and Mobutu Sese Seko's leadership. This is a place that has never fully experienced peace, where genocide is not a foreign concept. And yet so few of us are aware of the Congo's struggles...I had never heard of the atrocities in the Congo before my research began. However, once I had a hold of the basic facts, my mind started to wonder. How can such atrocities manifest without grabbing the world's attention? How does so much discord and corruption exist in one place? Where does the hate come from? How can a country overcome a genocide of this magnitude? I wanted to understand the circumstances behind the Congo's predicament.

The research I undertook to answer my questions consumed much of my time that year. As I learnt the causes and effects of the Congo's failed state, I wanted to also learn how the cycle of repression and underdevelopment could be broken. I know that this could not be done without much hard work, conviction and determination, without the appropriate amount of resources and time needed to rebuild a nation. And even then there may never be a full recovery from the horrors of war.

...I could go on about this for pages but instead (so you all don't fall asleep on me :)) I will just say that this study finally led me to my passion for human rights and development.

But I am far from knowing all the details of development and recovery... I am just a person that seeks to understand and hopes for change. These are simply my observations taken from readings but I have yet to experience change and development on the ground... I hope to get my first glimpse of development practices in Tanzania. I may not know the requirments or the hardships behind what it takes to rebuild a nation... but I do know that where we can help we should and when we have the chance to learn we should take it.

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Still with me here? :)

Coming out of my study on the DRC, Africa had found its way in to my heart. I was drawn to its diversity, resilience, devastation, hope, beauty, and despair. It is such a different place then any I have known or seen. It has so many realities that we here in Canada can't fully understand...I know I don't.

It is very much like deciding that I wanted to study international affairs, Africa did not come to me in one moment but it grew on me. It fit naturally in to my path. I don't really know how else to explain it. I did not choose to be fascinated by it, I just am. Despite never having visited the continent and still knowing very little, I feel a pull in its direction.

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Throughout the rest of my schooling, writing my thesis, and in the two years since my bachelors degree, volunteering abroad has been in the back of my mind. And the more I learnt and experienced the more I realized the significance of international volunteering. How it recognizes the diversity, as well as the similarities, present in our world and celebrates them. How it is important to give back what you have recieved and see the world for all that it is and all it can be. To exchange knowledge, respect different cultures, and step outside yourself for a moment. If more people had this opportunity we might have the chance to shape our world and make it a better, more peaceful and accepting place for those that come after us...
This held more significance for me after learning about the DRC...I may never see those atrocities in person but it gave me at least a small sense of how badly some people in this world suffer. These people could be me...yet I have been very fortunate to grow up in Canada and lead a life of privilege.

For me, volunteering had become something I knew I wanted. Not only because of what I had learnt but also because I wanted to broaden my views, meet new people from different places, and have fun and learn while offering my services in a positive way... Yet, it never felt like the right time, plus the finances always discouraged me to reach for it. Finally, I realized that if I just kept talking about it, it would be ten years down the road and I would have lost my chance. Seize the day as they say...

Besides the importance of giving back, volunteering is also something I want to undertake for career purposes. I want to test the waters before jumping in to the human rights field. The time I have taken off between my degrees seemed like the best time to make my move. So at the end of the summer, after all the wedding hoopla calmed down (my sisters not mine :)), I found the time to think. And I jumped...without giving myself the time to over analyze or second guess. I did not want to give myself room to say 'no' any longer.

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And why CCS? Well I had visited the sites of numerous volunteer programs, thought about it for years, but never discovered an organization that instantly grabbed my attention. Until I visited the CCS website. There emphasize on development and sustainability, the importance of working with and respecting the opinions of the people in the communities, and promoting the need to learn about other cultures struck me. They also encourage volunteers to take what they learn and educate others at home so that we can all have a better understanding of the world. The layout of the website made it clear what they stood for and what they were working to achieve. I found myself on board with them very quickly. Ever since, they have been supporting me in my journey to Africa. They have sent me volunteer handbooks, which I am in the process of reading through, and called me several times to welcome me to their program and offer advice. They have been hands on and are not at all neglectful of their volunteers. I have a feeling I am really going to enjoy my time with them. :)

Where did Tanzania fit in to this? Tanzania became my country of choice once deciding to volunteer with CCS. I looked at the Tanzanian program (it was between Tanazania or Ghana, which are their two African programs) and read about its politics and natural beauty and knew I was ready to make my decision. To be working at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro for two months??? Do you even need to ask me twice...

So there it is folks, my road to Tanzania. Looking back and writing this down makes me realize that in the last 6 years a lot of my decisions and opportunities have led me to where I am today and where I will be going in April. Its nice to realize that life has it's direction even if you can't immediately see it. :)

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Many volunteers choose to blog as a way to stay in touch while they are overseas. I also thought it was the best option for me to keep everyone informed and let you know that I am safe and sound. But I also think this is a great way to generate discussion and a better understanding of the world around us. Since you can not be with me in Tanzania, I hope that you can learn along with me through my writing and observations :)


“Real adventure - self-determined, self-motivated, often risky - forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind - and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.”


– Mark Jenkins