Wednesday, December 30, 2009

First dinner at the Abbey.

By Michelle Newlands - written February 19, 2009

“If you need anything, ask and we will do everything possible to get it for you... we love you all even though before today we did not know you.”

These were the words that that Sister Alejandra used to greet us at our first diner in the Abbey.

Before we had even arrived, I remember Garry referring to the monastery, not as an abbey or a hostel, not as the place we will be staying, but as our home. After being on the grounds for no more than six hours, I could already understand why he chose this word. And after 15 hours of typical international travel, we're finally here.

Our group of 13 left Loyalist College Wednesday night at 10:00 p.m. and began our journey to Mexico. After a two hour bus ride to Toronto, six hour boarding wait, flight and switch over in Charlotte to Mexico City, another three hour flight plus an hour and a half bus ride, we were finally able to unload and begin our stay.

When entering the abbey through the iron-gate that led us to our home for the next two weeks, we noticed the brown grass, evidence of the dry season. Looking around the property, the Abbey itself is so amazing, the people, the property and the atmosphere are nothing short of beautiful. There are green plants and colourful flowers scattered throughout the grounds, our rooms are clean and comfortable, and monuments reflect the sisters’ love for God in numerous forms of art.

We were given about an hour to settle into our rooms. I unpacked my clothes into the closet they provided, put my toothbrush and cleansing supplies in the bathroom and set my photos along my window sill. Gary, professor and founder of Quest, and Lauraine, our translator and Mexican based facilitator, sat with us outside our rooms and discussed safety issues, including dehydration, contact information and harmful insects- like scorpions - as well as our different responsibilities. We have three different committees we are divided into: health and safety, steering, and reflection. I chose reflection with three other students. Andy was feeling a little ill so he did not join us today.

Next was dinner time.

The Sisters prepare our meals during our stay but they do not eat with us. The rest of our group sits at a long table in a dinner hall that has been pre-set with plates, beautifully hand-made water vases, and napkins with Canadian flags. I was hungry, but not going to lie- I was nervous. However, for this meal nervousness wasn’t necessary. Everything they gave us was grown on the property or made from scratch and tasted delicious. Once we had eaten, Sister Alejandra spoke to the group on behalf of the Abbey and the other Sisters. This was by far the most magical moment thus far.

She spoke of how pleased she and the other Sisters were to have us and told us if we needed anything at all, not to be afraid to ask and they would do everything possible to help us. She told us how she loved each of us, even though before today she hadn’t known us – and we believed her.

The sincerity in her words and the gratitude in her eyes radiated a positive vibe. Everyone in the room believed in her words. She is a beautiful lady with a beautiful soul and I understand why Gary chose for us to come here.

“You go where the love is,” he said.

Religious or not, the Abbey is a place of safety and acceptance. The energy is positive, the people are lovely and the opportunities are appreciated.

It’s amazing.

Related Links: Ideals

Blog's back in action!!!!

Hi Friends!!!

I hope you've all been enjoying your holidays and my apologies for the extreme delay in updated content, I understand how heart-broken you all must be.

Since the latest blogs, my interests in international development have continued and my involvement has grown. In addition to my travels with non-profit organization Quest Internacional in February of 2009, I now sit on the Program Advisory Committee for the International Support Worker program coming to Loyalist College and plan on taking the program in the fall of 2010. I will also be traveling to Mexico again this February for 5 weeks to continue my education and broaden my experiences dealing with international and economic development, fair trade, human rights and other topics of similar value.

In order to raise funds for the organizations we visit during our stay in Mexico as well as to help cover costs of travel on our behalf, we are throwing a fundraiser event in Cobourg at the Orange Hall January 9th. This is a social event where people can meet, mix and mingle, look at photos and journal entries from previous trips, play games, win prizes, learn a little about the Mexican culture and have some fun. The goal of the night is for everyone to have a good time and leave with a few new friends and for us to raise a little money while doing so :) !!

In spirit of the event, I will be posting daily blogs from last February's trip to Cuernavaca, Mexico. These blogs talk about different daily activities, people we met, challenges we faced and my personal experiences and reflections. If you're interested have a read and leave some comments!! Ask questions and challenge the things being discussed.

During my 5 weeks in Mexico this February I will be posting blogs with photos and videos and I hope to get people involved in my experience. I want to teach people about what I'm learning every day and help answer their questions and teach them about a different culture and the people in it. Through these blog postings I hope that people of similar interests will interact with me on a personal and professional level and help in making this one of the most valuable and educational experiences of my life this far.

Thanks for the read, stay tuned and hopefully see you January 9th at the Orange Hall for our Mexican Fiesta!!! :):)

*Michelle & -Think G l o c a l -

Friday, June 5, 2009

Keep Checking In!!

Over the past week members of our E. Journalism program have been creating Flash projects to deliver our content in newer, cooler more creative ways. 

Monday will feature the finished product so please, keep coming back!

Explore the new site page and remember to leave feedback! Comments, disappointments, things you like, things that worked, things you never want to see again.

All criticism is positive criticism!


- Think G L O C A L -

Thursday, June 4, 2009

New program to Loyalist College

-Think G l o c a l - reporter Michelle Newlands gives us an inside 
look at Loyalist College's newest program.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Founder of Quest Internacional

Warren is a professor of Developmental Service Worker at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario.
He is also the founder of non-profit organization Quest Internacional that has taken more than 800 students to Cuernavaca, Mexico since 2003 to learn about international development and social justice issues
Warren is the creator of the International Support Worker program and designed the curriculum for the ISW program based on meetings with professionals in international development as well as his personal experience in the field.

Highlights of Warren's Experience

The International Support Worker program will be new to Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario in September of 2010.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What's your Quest?

Quest Internacional is a non-profit organization based out of Belleville, Ontario.


Every year students of Loyalist College and members of the Belleville community travel to Cuernavaca, Mexico to learn about economic and international development, human rights and social justice issues. 

Quest Internacional, February 2009.

                Cuernavaca Mexico. 


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Letter from the Editor

Dear Devoted Readers,

Over the past week we have met with people involved in international development from different standpoints to discuss issues and elements involved and get an understanding of how they work.

Different issues include international development, education, NGO’s, charities, mission work and government involvement. We also met with members of local NGOs and charitable organizations in the Belleville community to learn about local and international involvement from their perspective.

All of this information will be available to you within the next week using multiple forms of media as well as multimedia.

Keep checking the site for up-dates!

Think -G lo c a l -

Friday, May 22, 2009

International Support Worker program new to Loyalist College

A glimpse at the ISW program

A program outline has gone to the Ministry of Colleges and Universities to seek approval of a new International Support Worker program that is to begin in September of 2010.

The ISW program is a one year post graduate course where students will have classes in travel safety, dispute resolution, impact of global economy, developmental issues, industry, clean water, education, health, human security and conversational Spanish.

Cudmore says the post graduate program is “unique in the province and maybe even unique in the country.”

Gary Warren, founder of non-profit organization Quest International and Loyalist College professor, has been working in co-operation with numerous local and international NGO’s to create an appropriate program outline for this course. 

Warren has been involved with NGO’s and international development for over 40 years and spent four years living in Mexico while working in the field. With Warren’s work experience and association with local and international NGO’s, he became aware of the gap in the skill set of people working in the field.

The course curriculum was designed based on meetings with people around the province and in Mexico to ensure ISW students gain an appropriate level of learning outcomes at a post graduate level. 

The program is based on experiential learning and students will spend 3 to 4 weeks of the second semester in Chiapas, Mexico as well as participate in a 3 week internship. 

“From an educational standpoint, we would be using Mexico as our lab,” Cudmore says. “It’s a program that would be very applicable in the subcontinent of development work anywhere, in India, in Africa... work in our own backyard and in remote areas of our own country.”

Every year participants of Quest Internacional travel to Cuernavaca and Chiapas, Mexico with Warren as an educational experience to learn about social justice issues and community development. Warren says the ISW program will be largely based on the same values and will have the same learning experiences as Quest.

Cudmore says the academic management team has given the approval for the standards of the post graduate ISW program. Next the program will have to receive full approval from the validation service and numerous levels of funding.

Warren says because there is international travel involved, it will be a more expensive then most post-graduate programs. Cudmore says he is enthusiastic and confident the ISW program will exceed the standards and will receive all levels of necessary funding for it to proceed. 

Break down of expenses for ISW program

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My thoughts are with you.

Today’s thoughts are reserved for 8 year-old Tori Stafford, members of her family and the Woodstock community.

The actions of Michael Thomas C.S. Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic will neither be forgotten nor looked upon lightly.

Although we cannot change what has been done, let us pray that justice will be served and Tori will be frightened no more.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mission valuable?

Religious organizations send members of their church to work on projects abroad, on what they call mission trips, but what is the purpose of their missions?

The controversial issue with mission trips is although their intentions may be positive, their efforts may not always leave a positive effect on the communities involved. When churches take part in mission trips yes, they are contributing to our global community, yes they are helping people, yes they are donating their money and time, but they also have a hidden agenda; to convert.

The main purpose of a mission trip is to spread the word of God. People travel the world doing good deeds in the name of God trying to gain followers and supporters. But do these people not already have their own beliefs and religions?

North Americans show up, act like do-gooders in the name of God and get people to convert their entire faith, simply because the white people say so? It seems a little like bribery. You believe in our God, and we will give you food.

Many people may not have looked at the work of mission trips from this perspective before, because the people involved are good people with good intentions. They believe they are doing good work but at what cost?

In some countries faith, religion and God are the foundations in which entire cultures have been based. To take that away from them is insulting. And although foreigners may realize this, it is a lot easier to take the food and change your faith then to send your children to bed hungry.

Also, when people come in and start trying to convert people to new faiths there will still be those who choose not to follow. Now, the community is divided based on faith and religious belief. The conversion of half the community has created a separation between them and created conflict.

Who has this right?

Another point that must be raised; often people working on the projects do not have the necessary level of experience and skill to make their efforts worthwhile and their dollars could have been spent more wisely. It costs thousands of dollars to send people on mission trips and conduct these projects, but do they really know what they are doing?

How many people know how to properly build a school? And who asked if the people in that small village in Guatemala if they wanted one anyways? Perhaps all they wanted was for us to help buy them animals so they can start a farm in order to survive. The thousands of dollars spent in air fare alone could have done this for them.

The problem is, 9 times out of 10, the people involved don’t have enough experience and are sometimes distracted by the real purpose of their mission, which is to convert.

In light of the big picture, their efforts may be pure but sometimes their efforts can turn out quite sour.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What’s your charity of choice?

When dealing with non-profit organizations there is always a risk your money doesn’t make it to the correct destination, so who should be held accountable?
Many people argue it is the government’s responsibility to strengthen the requirements for non-profit and charitable organizations. Others say it is the responsibility of individuals to guarantee the organization they are can be held accountable.
Gary Warren, founder of Quest Internacional, says the only way to guarantee the legitimacy of an organization is for people to be well informed about the organization and the people involved before making any contributions.
Warren has been involved in international development and numerous non-profit organizations for over 20 years, and says it is easy for organizations to mislead the public and money can easily go missing.
“All I needed to give [the government] was a piece of paper with a signature of the accountant who checked them,” he says. “ That was it, not even a record of where the money went, only a signature of the accountant who checked the books.”
This can be problematic. Imagine the accountant of a corrupt organization is a personal friend of the members involved, how difficult would it be to slip them a bill and get them to sign the books? Off to the government they go, no problems and the money is gone into the pockets of the wrong people.
Warren says it is not difficult for people to found non-profit organizations and says he has seen many go sour, which is why he founded his own.
“It is important to find organizations you trust, with a cause you support,” he says. Once you have done so, stick with them. When dealing with NGO’s and charities, it is far to simple to mislead the public and it can be common for money to go missing, depending on the organization.
As for the government’s role, demanding they strengthen policies for NGO’s and charities may seem like an obvious decision, but then who is going to make sure people are properly following these new standards? It is like a business, or personal taxes, the government has protocols people are suppose to follow, and they have people trying to catch those who don’t, but how many people a year still cheat on their taxes?
Warren says this is not the solution. If people are going to steal, they are going to continue stealing even if the government makes it harder.
The people who would suffer are those who are running legitimate and accurate organizations. People would have to spend more time keeping books and doing office work and would have less time to spend in the field working on their cause.
Also, if we ask the government to monitor different NGO’s and charities, how far do we allow them to interfere? Do we give them the right to appoint which countries we work in and which projects we do?
Although corrupt organizations do exist out there does not mean they all fall in this category. Regardless of the structure, finding an organization that you trust is the only way to guarantee legitimacy. Know the board members, volunteer, get involved.

Friday, May 15, 2009

48 hours to end a decades-old war?

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has vowed to end the civil war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam within 48 hours, but can a decades-old war ever really be put to rest?

The military was still battling Friday to gain complete control of the country's coastline, a slice of which is still occupied by the LTTE. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has also sent his chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, to help bring the conflict to a peaceful conclusion.

However, UN spokesman Gordon Weiss says there are still 50,000 to 100,000 civilians remaining inside the combat zone and their safety must still be secured. And although there is only a small slice of coastline still occupied by the TTLE, who can guarantee their defeat?

There are no journalists or media representatives allowed near the war zone, and so, the only news of the situation is being delivered through government and military voices.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama told The Associated Press that Sri Lankan soldiers were probably fighting their final battle against the remaining rebel fighters and reports indicate relatives of top rebel leaders are starting to flee the war zone.

“Probably” fighting their final battle? They ‘probably’ thought that’s what they were doing ten, twenty years ago.

With LTTE members and supports fleeing their legend lives on and the opportunity of a similar uproar in the future seems very achievable. LTTE leaders have told the media their defeat will not come so easily. They have said if there demands are not achieved, they will continue to fight.

So how can we say when it’s really over?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

We have a facebook account!

Think Glocal has gone facebook and we would like all of you to become our friends! Facebook will allow us to stay connected and update our followers on new posts, events, discussion boards, photos and more. Share the links with your other friends and spread the word.

Think Glocal Facebook Page

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sympathy is not what they're after

“…Public sympathy was likely to fade after many of the protesters waved the red Tamil Tiger flag.”
-Bev Oda, Minister of International Co-operation, Sun Media

As protesters waved red Tamil Tiger flags in the air, their message was misconstrued.
Their efforts were not to radiate what Bev Oda calls sympathy but to generate action. They were demanding the Canadian Government intervene and help put an end to the war.
The people of Tamil are at a point of desperation. For decades the people have been at conflict with the government and innocent civilians have been murdered in a war that is beyond their control.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are extremists who claim to fight against genocide, oppression, and state terrorism pursued by the Sinhala-dominated Sri Lankan government. Although this group fights for liberation and independence of the people, their methods are violent, and thus have been declared a terrorist organization in 32 countries.
Although the Tiger flag was raised, million’s of Tamils stay neutral and choose not to support this organization nor the government. They support the people and what they were asking for was not sympathy. Sympathy is a feeling of pity or sorrow for those suffering, pity is insulting. Sympathy will not put a country at peace nor will it generate positive change. Sympathy is a feeling not an action. It can come with the day and be forgotten by night.
What the Tamil protestors want is something permanent and tangible. They want help. Sympathy is not what anyone is after- it is productivity.
Perhaps their protesting measures were extreme but so is the situation. Their country has been in turmoil and devastation for over a quarter of a century and at last they refuse to be silenced.

Desperation drives protests

The recent Tamil protests in Toronto have caused quite an uproar and flood of attention, both positive and negative, but are there methods effective?
When more than 2,000 Tamil demonstrators began taking over Toronto's Gardiner Expressway and protesting on University Ave., they were asking for one thing: support.
Their goal was not to win the hearts of politicians or spread joy throughout the streets of Toronto. Tamil protesters acknowledged the public anger they caused by their protests and the blockage of Toronto's Gardiner Expressway but said their actions won political results for their community.
They remained boisterous but peaceful, as they asked to be acknowledged and for the government to notice their cries for help and intervene in the decades-long civil war in Sri Lanka.
Ghormy Theva, spokesman for the Coalition to Stop The War In Sri Lanka, said protesters are becoming “desperate” over the situation in Sri Lanka. About 200,000 Tamils live in the Greater Toronto area, and it is home to the largest Tamil community outside Sri Lanka. Every day these people must read and watch the news about their people being killed. More than 70,000 lives have been taken in what one commenter calls the ignorance of the world.
If this was happening to our people and yet the government did nothing, would we demand support?
A student at York University said she didn’t understand how Canada can’t see the importance of this cause. Protestor Genit Jeyakanthan, says Canada has taken leadership roles in situations like this before and they need to do it now. “They need to take action.”
These protests may have angered politicians and thousands of Torontonians, but the event received national coverage and informed people across Ontario the war in Sri Lanka and its severity. Their actions may not have been the best way to grab positive attention from the city, but it allowed for their voices to be heard, which is a start in the right direction.

Related Links:
Tamils pledge to stay put

Monday, May 11, 2009

Media is in a temporary crisis.

Traditional forms of journalism are changing and technology is shaping it’s future. Every day we see more headlines about the death of the newspaper, which may be true, but nowhere do we see the death of journalism.
This is because news is becoming easily accessible and consumed online. However, information found on the web must be absorbed with caution. Content floods the World Wide Web, and with blogging and the amount of citizen journalism being produced, you must pay attention to the accountability and credibility of the author and the site.
With the increases in citizen journalism, the works of trained journalists are being diminished and journalistic values aren’t as important. As long as the word is out there, it’s enough. Right? Wrong!
When people read something, they believe it’s true. Is it bias, is it balanced, is it accurate? These are important questions that must be asked before writing anything for publication, questions that citizen journalists and other writers who have not been properly trained may overlook.
This site takes journalism and mixes in appropriation of technology to best serve the public. We encourage engagement and interactivity. In the past, it was a privilege to access the news and only the rich read newspapers. With putting news online, everyone can have access to it 24/7. Online journalism used traditional values with updated technology to best serve you, the public. We are going to use the web to connect and exchange information. Instead of simply sharing opinions, we will share knowledge. This site encourages active communication. Our goal is to strengthen voices, share experiences and contribute to the education of those around us by using traditional values with updated technology.

Related Links:
J-schools more vital than ever

Friday, May 8, 2009

The purpose of this publication is to inform its viewers about world issues. The main content will feature NGO’s and profiles on the different people involved. It will include stories on different organizations -what they are doing, why it is important and what they hope to achieve- as well as articles on the issues themselves. It will include links to different non-profit organizations and will be an efficient way for people to tune in and learn more about our world, the people in it and the issues they face.

 The overall achievements of this publication are to educate people about important global issues and introduce them to interesting people in our world. My site will express the three principles of e-journalism, educate, engage, empower, through educating people on different things taking place in our world. I will educate them about different cultures, people and ways of life. I will educate them on different opportunities that are available and out there.  I will engage them by inviting them to comment and make requests of what they would like to see/read and learn about. I will invite them to engage through online discussion boards. People will be able to ask questions and get responses, people can introduce their ideas and receive feedback. It will be an online location where people can visit to gain knowledge and get feedback from people around the world with the same common interests. By making this information readily available and by giving people the opportunity to connect with one another about issues they are passionate about, we are empowering them to get involved.  We are empowering them to think about people and issues on a higher level. We are empowering them to ask questions, investigate opportunities, create experience and contribute to events.