Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Voting is a privilege

As elections approach, it is critical to remember the impact of community voice and the strength of a vote, even on a municipal level.

People around the world rally, campaign and fight for the right to vote. To have a voice that is recognized within their government. They are fighting for the right to contribute to the decision making process of their country.

In places like Canada and the United States, the right to vote is devalued and taken advantage of. People don’t take this opportunity to practice their rights, as members of a democratic society, to ask for answers and demand change from their municipal, provincial and national leaders.

In developing countries the right to vote can be a cause of death. It is a privileged to have a voice that is recognized within a political structure and be given the right to demand change.

Practice your rights of freedom. Use your voice, demand your rights, strengthen your community and vote.


Change happens in small steps, one community at a time.

Related Sites:

Vote! It's your Agenda An online information tool for election information in the Belleville, Quinte Area.

A good use of social media!

Have something to say to your mayoral canditates?

Belleville running NDP candidate Jodie Jenkins announced he would be using YouTube to engage voters for the upcoming provincial election, reports The Shield.

This is a great example of using social media to strengthen community voice and encourage participation.

Get involved, ask questions, get answers, get results.

Young voters to ask questions via YouTube

For an example of what to expect: YouTube Debates

Monday, October 4, 2010

“The Women United.”

What do they want? Freedom. When do they want it? Now.

On September 30th women around the world gathered together in solidarity to stand up, speak out, demand dignity and march the streets to take back the night.

Take back the night is an international awareness campaign that has been taking place around the globe for over 30 years. Locally, this event has been running for over 18 years and more than 75 women, children (and male supporters) met in market square downtown Belleville to rally in support of the fight to end violence against women.

Elise Hineman of the Sexual Assault Centre for Quinte and District says the purpose of the march is to bring awareness to these issues and for women to gain the confidence to stand together in solidarity and take back their rights.

“Sometimes women are forced to hide in fear and tonight we are taking back our rights… we are marching together to end violence against women.”

The rally included music by local musicians, presentations on the history of the event and a special word from author and poet Karen Dack who is a survivor of abuse and sexual assault.

Dack read her poem called “It's time” where she speaks of living in fear as a victim of assault and of the time she gained the strength and support to recover.

“Why should I be ashamed of what happened to me?” Dack says. “I didn’t choose it and I was lucky to have the support I did to recover from it.”

Dack shares her experience as a victim of sexual assault and has written numerous books to provide other women with the strength to stand up for their rights.

Every day women around the world are forced to walk the streets in fear and are in a constant state of vulnerability because of their gender. Each year hundred of women are victims to sexual, physical and mental assault. In 2004, one hundred and ninety eight women were victims of homicide within Canada alone.

Mary Jane Breault, a past chair of the Sexual Assault Centre for Quinte and District, participated in the awareness campaign and says the purpose of these marches is to remind people that abuse exists and is still out there. Creating awareness is the first step to prevention and walking together in unity and in support of these victims is an opportunity to take back what was lost and make sure it is put to an end.

Numerous local organizations including Three Oaks, Women Foundation, and the Sexual Assault Centre for Quinte and District were all essential partners in the awareness campaign and fight to end violence against women. Many of these members have been involved for numerous years and together with the community, are making the streets safer for all women.



Photo Credit: Liam Kavanagh-Bradette

Monday, September 20, 2010

Global Harmony Gift Show

Friends, fans and extended family, we've got something else for you!

Arthur Frederick Community Builders is hosting a Global Harmony Gift Show this Saturday, September 25th at market square in downtown Belleville. The event will include different local non-profit organizations involved in international development and will show case quality goods from around the world.

Items available for purchase range from arts, crafts, jewellery, baked goods and snacks to fair trade coffee, Mexican silver and you can even get your face painted. Organizations you can expect to see, including members of the hosting organization Arthur Frederick Community Builders, are Quinte Grannies for Africa, Sleeping Children Around the World, Calcutta Rescue, Zatoun, members of the International Support Worker program from Loyalist College and more.

Not only is this a great opportunity to get outside, make some interesting purchases and have fun, it's an opportunity to meet the faces behind these organizations and connect with the people who are making true the notion of a Global Community.


So, if you're interested in international development, looking to get involved with your local community or wanting to learn about local and global non-profit organizations and innitiatives think glocal, and check it out!

See you there :) !!


Photo Credit: Member of Arthur Frederick Community Builders Paul Poirier, middle, smiles with new friends made in Mexico. AFCB is an independent not-for-profit volunteer organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for indigenous people in North, Central and South America.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Has expanded to new territory

As fall quickly approaches we at -Think Glocal- are excited for some new changes! We believe with change comes growth and when opportunity knocks you answer. In the light of this, we are also committing ourselves to a new one year program at Loyalist College in International Support Work.

We would like very much to make this a learning and growth opportunity for all of our readers, friends, fans and supporters and ask you join of us this journey. We will be regularly posting updates, news, articles, related information, photos, events, ideas and magical thoughts over the next year and welcome and encourage feedback and involvement from all interested.

For more information on the program check out International Support Worker program or click here.

Friday, July 30, 2010

What's going on ?!



BASEBALL TOURNAMENT!
SUNDAY, AUGUST 1st, 2010
GRAFTON Diamonds, Highway 2.
...COST is $150 per team
REGISTRATION starts 9:00am

_______________________


Hey every buddy - grab your glove, your beer and all your friends and head out to Grafton for a fun day of baseball !

This tourney is only as competitive as you want it to be, everyone is welcome whether you play all the time, every now and then or never before in your life!

Registration will start at 9:00am and all players must be ready to start the tournament at 9:30am at the Grafton Ball Diamonds on Highway 2.

Cost of early bird registration is $100 a team or day of event $150 a team; please try to field your own team or let us know in advance and we'll organize smaller groups or individuals together.

Captains please let me know who you are in advance !

Creative team names and uniforms are encouraged! Go wild and have fun with it!

The games will be 3 pitch with a minimum of four girls per team (if not the batting list will go male, female, etc. rotating the ladies in wherever necessary).

Please bring your own glove, bats if possible, refreshments and positive attitude and see you all there!

This event is brought to you by Think GLOCAL, a non-profit media distribution outlet focused on non-profit organizations, community involvement and global awareness ---- in support of Quest Internacional, a non-profit organization based out of Belleville, Ontario that works to educate youth and promote international human rights and inclusiveness.

Human Rights Docfest, huge success!

A huge CONGRATULATION goes out to all involved in last weekends Human Rights Docfest, hosted by University of Toronto's Journalist for Human Rights School Chapter. The festival was a great success with sold out seats and amazing panels from guest speakers, jhr staff and documentary directors.

Congratulations to Karen Cho, first place winner and director of the documentary "Seeking Refuge." Cho did a phenomenal job portraying the relentless efforts and struggles of 5 refugees in Canada. To read a full summary of the documentary click here.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friends of - Think G L O C A L - wake up the streets of Leogane, Haiti with a little bit of dance and a lot of soul

Members of Hands on Disaster Response, and personal friends of - Think G L O C A L -take a break from their strenuous volunteer work helping rebuild communities in Haiti, to do a little dance and make some magic in the streets of Leogane.

Way to go folks, we salute you !


Photo journalist and friend of - Think G L O C A L - Gage Love, is featured in the video above dancing on the streets of Haiti. Love, in the yellow Brazil jersey, graduated from Loyalist College in 2009 and has spent the last three months working in Haiti as a member of Hands on Disaster Response. To read about Love's adventures check our his personal blog at LoveinHaiti

For more information on Hands on Disaster Response check out their website at www.hodr.org

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Journalists for Human Rights invites you to Human Rights Docfest 2010

The University of Toronto's Chapter for Journalists for Human Rights (jhr) presents a national documentary film festival

The festival serves to highlight human rights abuses around the world and here at home on July 23, 24, and 25, 2010 at the National Film Board of Canada's Toronto Mediateque @ 150 John Street, Toronto.

Early bird tickets are available from June 21 to July 9, 2010 at a price of $10 for 2 tickets, or $15 for the full 3-day festival pass. Regular ticket prices are $10 for 1 ticket, and $7 for students/seniors and will be available from July 9th onward until the festival starts.


Pick-up locations for tickets can be found at:


* UTSU (University of Toronto Student Union), 12 Hart House Circle, across from Hart House
* NFB Mediateque Toronto, 150 John Street (at Richmond St. W, Osgoode Subway Stn)

For ticket purchases and information, contact:

Kirsty Hong, HR Docfest Promotions Coordinator:
kirsty.hong@utoronto.ca, 647-883-9727

Michelle Newlands, -Think G L O C A L -
michellenewlands@hotmail.com
289.251.3122


For further information on HR Docfest:

Sophie Langlois, HR Docfest Director: sophie.langlois@utoronto.ca;
416-797-9444


Please visit www.hrdocfest.com for ticket details

Sunday, June 27, 2010

G20 brings out the best in all -

until chaos hits the streets

- Think G l o c a l - staff report from the streets of Toronto's protests

What started out as a peaceful rally and march by activists, unions, non-profit organizations, student groups, community churches, international advocacy groups, international media and families of all ages, turned into disappointment for many.

Early in the day of Saturday, June 26th, over 10, 000 people gather at Queens Park and around the City of Toronto in the rain, to speak out about corporate control and issues related to the G8/G20 meetings, style, agenda and illegitimacy.

Thousands of people marched the street chanting, singing, and dancing, waving their flags, clapping their hands, drumming, playing instruments and shouting out against injustices.

For some blocks the protest remained peaceful, positive, non-violent and inspirational for many areas. Streets were lined intensely with armed police as people marched from Queens Park to Spadina Street, while other protests pushed further south.

Police tasks forced the march to a halt at the corner of Queen and Spadina and acts of vandalism, disrespect and uncivil behavior slowly began throughout the streets of Toronto.

For many hours of the march many protesters remained respectful and police monitored the streets with intimidation but little to no force in specific areas. Protesters attempted to move south to the fence line, declaring they would stop at the official boundaries. At times police and protesters were face- to-face but kept it at a heated standstill with neither side using forced actions of violence.

As the march continued the atmosphere shifted and protesters of specific activist groups began setting off flares and vandalizing public and corporate property in a destructive, harmful and unhumble fashion.

As many as six police cars were set on fire and the windows of stores lining the streets of Queen, Younge, University and many other in Toronto were smashed. American Apparel’s window smashed; possessions dismantled and covered in feces with others experienced similar things.

Protesters, individuals and media walked the streets of Toronto gathering in groups for demonstrations. Police suited in riot gear and kept things at a standstill. At times inappropriate force of violence, wrongfully accusations and threatening of innocent protesters and media also took place around the city.

As the chaos and mayhem continued into the night, what started as a peaceful march transformed into a disgrace to the streets and people of Toronto.

Shame.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A word from the REAL world leaders - scrap the summits!

Massey Hall, Toronto - Over 2,000 people joined together in the name of democracy last night at Massey Hall against what the Council of Canadians is calling ‘the war on working people.’

Unlike the gatherings of our nation’s presidential leaders at the G8/G20, the Shout out for Global Justice, put on by the Council of Canadians, was open to the public. People were invited to hear some of the world’s true leaders speak up and speak out on global issues. People of all races, genders, ages and classes filled Massey Hall and listened to guest speakers on issues of environmental deficits, social justice deficits, first nations and democratic deficits, media deficits and water as a human right deficit.

The shout out was in opposition of the G8/G20 traditions agenda, and ‘closed doors’ approach, with activist and President of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada Dave Coles stating we do not accept their agenda, a campaign lead by using fear.

Speakers included Clayton Thomas-Muller, an aboriginal activist and tar sands campaigner with the Indigenous Environmental Network, Dr. Vandana Shiva, founder of environmental justice organization Navadanya, Amy Goodman, host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, John Hilary, Executive Director of War on Want, RAW – Raging Asian Women- a diverse collective of East and South-East Asian female drummers promoting social justice while making music, Leo Gerard, the International President of the United Steelworkers, Pablo Solon, Bolivian ambassador to the United Nations, Naomi Klein, award winning journalist and author of bestsellers, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism and No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies and Maude Barlow, National Chairperson for the Council of Canadians.

As these influential leaders spoke to the crowd of over 2,000, the people cheered and booed corporations in disgust. They rose to their feet and shook their heads, as these leaders spoke out against corporations and called them out on the cruelty, oppression and exploitation of their decisions, the crowd would rise to their feet shouting SHAME.

As the presentations came to an end, thousands of active civilians gathered outside Massey Hall to march the streets of Toronto towards the protest Tent City being held in Allan Gardens.

Today activists and civilians of all ages will be meeting in Queens Park to join hands in the march of “People First” in the name of democracy.

“There shall be no peace without justice and no justice without peace.”

Friday, June 18, 2010

Shout Out for Global Justice

- Join THINK G L O C A L on June 25th at Massey Hall in Toronto -

‘Shout Out for Global Justice’ on June 25 will feature an evening of entertainment and high profile global social justice leaders. The event will bring people together from throughout Toronto, across Canada, and around the world to demand climate, water, trade and social justice, as a counterpoint to the closed-door nature of the G8 and G20 Summits.


The Council to challenge the G20 agenda in Toronto

The Council of Canadians says the G20 is promoting a 'business as usual' agenda rather than what is needed, namely trade, climate and water justice. The Council will be on the ground in Toronto this June to challenge the G20.


Join Event on Facebook

See Event Page

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Refilms

Hey everyone - stumbled across an awesome Video Production company called REfilms. They are located in Toronto and strive to make videos that made a difference.... check them out!

"REfilms is a production company that is committed to the creation of film and video work that provides a source of social commentary. Whether the production highlights the efforts of a social entrepreneur or reveals an injustice, or celebrates the triumph of the human spirit or a truth of the human condition, we want our videos to promote dialogue and inspire action"
"Creating engaging and inspirational productions that feature stories, ideas and individuals that have social significance. We strive to make videos that make a difference."

Shout out for Global Justice

The Council of Canadians is announcing plans for a large pubic forum in Toronto at the end of the G8 Summit in Huntsville and on the eve of the G20 Summit in Toronto. ‘Shout Out for Global Justice’ on June 25 will feature an evening of entertainment and high profile global social justice leaders. The event will bring people together from throughout Toronto, across Canada, and around the world to demand climate, water, trade and social justice, as a counterpoint to the closed-door nature of the G8 and G20 Summits.

Attend the event!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Statement from Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and Liberal MPs on the Second Anniversary of the Residential Schools Apology

OTTAWA – Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff made the following statement on the second anniversary of the residential schools apology made in the House of Commons:

“Two years ago today, history was made as Parliamentarians stood in the House of Commons and officially apologized for the historical wrongs that took place at residential schools across Canada. We in the Liberal Party are proud of the new chapter we have opened on healing and reconciliation in Canada.

“Despite this step forward, the current government still refuses to endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, even though they made a promise in the Speech from the Throne to Aboriginal Canadians to recognize the rights of the world’s 370 million indigenous peoples.

“The Liberal Party stands firm in its commitment to endorsing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and in the belief that only when all Aboriginal peoples – whether First Nations, Métis or Inuit – can live and raise their families in healthy, safe communities and can fully share in the opportunities and dreams of their fellow Canadians, that Canada will have achieved justice and reconciliation among our people.”


Read Full

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Amazing opportunity with Habitat for Humanity

Looking to get involved in your community this summer? We've found the perfect opportunity!

Habitat for Humanity is looking for 25 volunteers on site each day to help provide more suitable living conditions for a family in need, right here in Cobourg!

So roll up your sleeves, grab some friends, think glocal and get involved!

Read the article to find out more and find out how you can help.


Habitat build set for Cobourg - Lots of elbow grease needed for ambitious project

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Summer action - here we come !

Hello friends and dedicated readers;

First, I must send my apologies for the leave of absence in my posts. After returning from Mexico for 5 weeks with a partnering NGO Quest Internacional, I took some 'personal time' to focus on what the next portion of our journey would be.

Since returning I have spent some time putting together some videos of our quest in Mexico which I'm now ready to share with you! My hopes are you will like what you see and want to become involved. If not, at least you got to learn a little bit more about us folks at - Think G L O C A L - and Quest Internacional.

Since a lot of the information, blogs, videos, etc. we have shared with you have shown issues taking place abroad, we have decided to dedicate this summer to focusing on the issues that are present both locally and internationally, but are physically occurring in our own backyards. These issues include indigenous rights, human rights, social justice, gender equality and environmental movements.

Although it is important to know these issues are occurring all over the globe, we must recognize what is right here in front of us. We must also acknowledge we don't always have to travel to neighbouring countries to create change.

Let's see how we can help here.


In the meantime, please take a moment to become more involved with - Think G L O C A L - by joining and subscribing to our social media outlets:
(Copy and paste web addresses into new internet page)

Our youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/MissMichelleyN

Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=83015840418&ref=ts

Twitter Account http://twitter.com/mnewlands


Thanks a bunch - and keep an eye out for our videos or check them out on our youtube channel!

-Think G L O C A L - & Mn. <3

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Have you graduated and want to expand your career options outside of Canada?

Want to make a difference in the world, but are not sure how to go about it? Want to learn to travel ‘off the beaten path’, but do it safely?

Loyalist College is planning a one year, post-graduate certificate program starting this fall as an International Support Worker (ISW). The goal of the program is to prepare skilled and knowledgeable staff and volunteers to work in international development organizations anywhere in the world.

Canada has played a unique role in international development, and although there are a few university programs teaching about economic or political theories of development, there are few opportunities to learn how to travel safely, and the practical options for development.

The range of skills needed in developing countries is limitless. Therefore, students with any Diploma, or Degree will be eligible for admission. A Nursing grad might assist in public health in a clinic; a Business grad might contribute to developing Fair Trade; a Media grad might help with ‘telling the story’; a DSW grad might help with literacy or support services in another country; etc. The program is limited to 20 students.

This limit is mostly for safety reasons because the students will spend four weeks in Southern Mexico exploring development options and talking directly to people who live in dire socio-economic and political situations. We have to be safe about this.
Students will also be expected to do a month-long individualized internship where they will blend their previous training with their new skills to support people in another country.

You can view some videos on Youtube:

Introduction: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSfu-HodN8c

expenses of program: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNeJNQyEZlQ&feature=related

sample of exploring development: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5FQQtQi4Ho

Any questions, please contact Gary Warren at gwarren@loyalistc.on.ca


Gary Warren
Coordinator, ISW Program
Loyalist College

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Final reflection and thoughts of Quest 2010

**** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** ****

“I’ve learned more about my country in the last two weeks being here in Mexico than I have living my whole life in Canada.” – Holly Hoekstra, DSW Student

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“It’s easy to turn the chancel at home about a commercial on poverty but to see it first hand is a completely new experience.” – Mia Howes, DSW Student

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“I had few expectations for the Quest Trip but not all of them were met. I did have a great time during my two weeks stay and I am still processing all that I did and saw. Side note - The Mexicans are crazy drivers! … and I loved the restaurant Mananitas!” Charity Peeling, Nursing Student

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“Change begins with each and every one of us. This emotional roller coaster that we have all been on has been an eye opener and life changing experience for me. Thanks to Quest, Gary, Niel and Sarah for it all. My favourite memory would have been meeting the Lopex family, not because it was the happiest but because it was the most ‘real’ for me as far as seeing the fight for survival.” Kyle Austin, DSW Student

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“If I were to bring anything back to Canada from going on this Quest it would have to be friendship. The friendships made with the people on this trip, sharing the journey with me and the friendships in the people we met. I am grateful to have been able to come to Mexico and am definitely a changed person. This experience was amazing! I recommend discovering the culture of Mexico to anyone.” Martie Cannon, Child and Youth Worker Student

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“Are lives are so much more than the sum of our experiences. I am so grateful for this opportunity. I love being given enlightenment and purpose that would never be attained in a classroom. I bring so much back with me that I will carry for life. I will miss you Mexico and the wonderful friendships I have made…….”All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle. “” Kirsten Hanson, Photo Journalism Student

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“Quest was a chance to experience a new country, culture and make friends. I loved everything I’ve learned and the new opportunities I’ve found to apply to my field. I’m not sure where I will go from here but I do know the things I’ve experienced and learned will be reflected.” Kaitlyn Cooper, Child and Youth Worker Student

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“I am not sure what my personal Quest was before I came, but I can say I finished the trip feeling emotionally, spiritually and intellectually fulfilled. It has been an honour to take steps in this journey alongside each person and I look forward to coordination Quest 2011.” Sarah Hopper, Child and Youth Worker Faculty

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“Quest is more than a trip, it’s an experience of a lifetime. The friendships you make last forever and the experiences you have are life changing. You can’t learn this is a classroom or on your own. It takes a group of people working together to make it happen and give you amazing memories to remember.” Ashley English, SSW Student

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“This experience has forever changed my life. I do not yet know what I will do with my new found knowledge and passion but am excited to begin my new Quest alongside the amazing people I’ve met and will never forget the experiences we have been through together, thick and thin. Overall this trip was amazing, difficult and beautiful!” Alex Kiru, SSW Student

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“Can’t believe it’s all over for another year. I’m still amazed at how much you can learn in just two weeks and the relationships you can strengthen and build. I’m excited to see what the new leg of my journey will bring. No matter what happens I know I’ll have people who support me every step of the way. Vivo.Rio.Amor*“ Caila Widdifield, DSW Student

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“I have never experienced a journey quite like this before. The experiences I have been privileged enough to go through have forever changed my life for the better. Not only did I learn about the culture of Mexico and the wealth of its people but I’ve learned so much about myself as well. I will carry these lessons with me for the rest of my life. I hope that I will be adequate able to teach these lessons to everyone at home so these lessons can influence them in even a small part as they did me.” Mikala Labelle, Accelerated SSW Student

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"On this trip I have had so many wonderful experiences and met so many great friends. A special moment for me was when the sisters (nuns) told me how pleased they were that I showed up for a lot of their mass' and prayer time. They game me a gift which I will hold close to my heart forever. I also feel this trip has changed me in a way that will make me a better father and a better man. Thank you all for the time we have shared." Andrew Wiggins, DSW Student

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Knowledge is power - Oblivion is bliss

Canadian soil has presented us with yet another challenge, describing our Quest.

People ask, ‘how was your trip?’ and it is a difficult question to answer. Was it a trip, yes in ways it was, was it a vacation, only from our normal 9-5’s and everyday lives. Yes there was sun and fun and good food but it was so much more than that. Every day was a challenge filled with tasks, learning experiences, growth and development. Things that for some is hard to believe.
When people ask, ‘what was your favourite part?’ I don’t know how to answer. Five weeks can be a long time, especially when every day is filled with adventure, excitement and new knowledge.

Reflecting on all the things we did and all the wonderful people we met, we could take hours discussing our experiences and what they meant to us and how they’ve affected our lives but truth is people don’t really want to listen. Perhaps because they don’t understand, maybe because they can’t relate and others just don’t care.

The last five weeks have impacted our lives greatly, and for some people, this is a difficult thing to understand. Or perhaps they don’t want to. This, we must respect.

There is not a day that will go by where my life won’t be affected by the things I’ve learned from this experience, but I’ve also learned that I cannot force people to believe in the things I believe in. I cannot force them to listen to me and I can’t beg them to support the things I support and care about the things I care about just because they are important to me.

As grateful as I am for everything I have learned I have come to realize the truth about our world is too much for some people and they would prefer to be oblivious. We all must decide, as individuals, where we want to stand, ‘knowledge is power and oblivion is bliss.’

I will share what I’ve learned and my experiences with those who will listen and I will do all I can to make information available to those who want to learn more.

I look forward to meeting more of the similar kinds of people I’ve been privileged to meet in Mexico. People who care less about fashion, mainstream television and what people are saying is ‘cool’ and more about what matters to me like human rights, social justice, the environment, education and access to clean water.

I’ve learned these things aren’t for everyone and by pressuring people to listen I am only pushing them further away. But I’ve also learned there are many people out there who do care and are willing to listen and work together.
I believe these are the individuals who will make a difference in the world. I believe everyone has the ability to care and the desire to help those in need.

One mind at a time I believe we can shift the focus.

I believe in positive change.

Blind Side.

Monday, March 22, 2010

On the plane ride to Canada the in-flight movie was Blind Side, directed by John Lee Hancock and based on the true story of NFL player Sean Tuohy. The film is about a young, disadvantaged black man growing up on the tough side of town who is given a second chance. He is taken in by a well to-do family, given a place to stay, a proper education and an opportunity to try his luck at football.

Many could say this film had little to do with our trip and in some ways I agree. But there was something about this film that seemed to tie everything together for me.

The similarities I saw between this Hollywood hit and what we’ve been experiencing and learning for the last five weeks was the power of people. This movie wasn’t only about football and what we were learning wasn’t only about poverty. Both were stories, stories about real people. They were stories of their struggles, their innocence and their silent hope for something more. These stories were about faith and having heart and keeping hope and not giving up. This story was about a person and a family reaching out to change a strangers life, not because they had to and not just because they wanted to but because it was the right thing to do.

People are born into unfortunate circumstances every day. Just because they don’t look like they’re going to be something special doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the chance to prove the universe wrong. Some of the best things come with rough edges and some of the most wonderful people come in unique shapes and sizes.

To me this movie was about thinking outside the box and not taking things for face value. It’s about going against the grain and is meant to remind people to lend a hand and help those who need it. Not because they have to or because they may get something in return, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Sometimes doing things for others may do more for you than it does the person you’re helping.

Try for courage, aim for honour.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Our last night in Mexico, looking at all the little lights and seeing the big picture

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Never in my life can I recall five weeks going by so quickly. It seems only yesterday the four of us girls met at 5:00am at the doors to the Toronto Pierson Airport to begin our journey. Within this short period of time we have grown as individuals, as a team and have learned so much about ourselves, each other and the world around us.

Sitting here on our last night, it’s interesting to look back and try to pick a favourite day, as each and every moment has been inspirational, irreplaceable and unforgettable. Staying with the nuns in Cuernavaca, meeting with street vendors, climbing mountains, meeting with independent community members, being invited to indigenous church ceremonies and special lunches, exploring the Centre of Human Rights, meeting with Canadian journalists, environmental activists, sociologists, liberation theologists, street children, videographers, English teachers, non-profit organizations and monkeys in the jungle.

I don’t know what I will talk about with my friends and family first; communicating with people in a language I can barely speak, listening to stories of harassment and abuse from men and the government, riding in the back of pick-up trucks, catching city buses, flagging down taxi’s, being dropped off at the wrong place, nice dinners, bad dinners, strong people, funny people, lonely people, swimming in a waterfall, hiking through ancient ruins, climbing massive pyramids, sea doing in the ocean, horseback riding on the beach and laughing up and down the streets of Mexico.

Each day was an adventure and each person I met has given me something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. As I look out the window of our apartment in Zihuatanejo at all the city lights, for what will be the last time, I think of how every light represents a household and a family, perhaps with more than 5 people for every light.

Looking at them scattered across the landscape they look like a collage of dimly lit candles, some strong, others fading and barely noticeable. I can’t help but wonder what it would look like if all those little lights were grouped together. If all of the people within them worked as one, how brightly that light would shine.

If every light represents at least one person and if we put all those lights and all those people together how strong they would all become and how brightly that light would shine. The cluster would become a ball and if it kept rolling it would grow and perhaps the world would be a better place.
Not only here in Mexico, but for people who live in all those little lights all around the world.

A girl named Lety

Friday, March 19th, 2010

About six years ago the Quest group met with a young Mexican woman named Lety. She could not read, write or speak English but was still said to be wise beyond her years. One of the staff members at Loyalist College was taken away with this girl’s talent and potential and offered to sponsor her to go to school.

When Gary spoke to Lety about this opportunity and asked her, “Where do you want to go to school?” He thought she would have picked somewhere nearby, Cuernavaca, Mexico City, but no Lety replied, “I want to go to Loyalist College, I want to come to Canada!”

To Gary’s surprise he relayed the message to the sponsor and without hesitation she agreed and soon after Lety was on a plane to Canada. Today we met with Lety’s father, walking up and down the beaches hands filled with homemade basked and bags of material to make jewellery. We sat and spoke with him for a while.

Thinking of his daughter I can only imagine the shock of this young woman as she flew into Pierson Airport, took the 401 to Belleville and pulled into the driveway of the house she would call home for the next six months. For us Northerners coming to Mexico is a shock, seeing the conditions people live in and the way of life down here is eye opening. Not because we didn’t know it was happening but more because we’d never seen it with our own eyes. For Lety, this young Mexican woman who could not read, write or speak English, she was actually learning about things for the very first time and seeing them for herself; a washing machine, a dishwasher, a flushing toilet, running water, a shower, a bath, linens for your bed, water fountains at the school. It was all so unknown to her, so foreign.

Gary told us a story about Lety and how one day she was walking down the hall and saw a water fountain.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“That’s a water fountain,” Gary explained. “You turn this and water comes out for you to drink.”

“Who do I pay?” Lety asked.

“Nobody, it’s free,” Gary said.

“Your president must be very wealthy and very kind to let you have drinking water for free,” Lety said.

Another story was when Lety was going to take her first shower. She was shown how to turn it on and when she did she started screaming.

“All the water is going to go into your kitchen! It’s all going through that hole in the floor to the kitchen!”

Lety had never seen indoor plumbing, or plumbing and running water of any kind. She didn’t understand how one household could have their own well and how the water wasn’t going to end up on the floor in the room below. These were things Lety was shown and taught.

Goes to show you some of the things we take for granted.

Here in Zihuatanejo

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

After an interesting four weeks our group has arrived in the city of Zihuatanejo. There’s a unique contrast here compared to the places we’ve stayed so far, Cuernavaca, San Cristobal de las Casas, The Lacondon Jungle and Palenque.

The apartment we’re renting is close to the Ocean and the majority of the people we see on our 5 minute walk down to the beach are white and speak English! The majority of others are upper class Mexicans on vacation or lower class Mexicans working the beaches selling jewellery and homemade baskets. All of the houses on our street are large and beautiful, fenced in with gates, barbed wire and barred windows.

The women who owns the place we are staying in, Joa, says we must be careful to always lock the doors and not leave anything of value in open view of the windows when we leave. As the majority of locals know this area is mainly for tourists it is a great target for thieves. Those who are not aware of their surroundings let their guard down.

Walking along the beach with my feet in the sand I sometime forget exactly where we are. Our last four weeks in Mexico have been spent in rather rough conditions, visiting families sharing a one bedroom house between seven people, have no toilets or running water, living in squatter settlements or in fear of harassment and abuse by the government. Looking around the only houses in view are big and beautiful with balconies and patios, gardens and pools and some even have two car garages. The others belong to hotel chains.

It is difficult to imagine we are even in the same country as the places we’ve been visiting until you head away from the beach and further into the city. Passing through the streets to pick up groceries and explore, the colour of people’s skin turns darker and the size of the houses get smaller with less detail and expensive design. The streets are more cluttered with garbage and Spanish again becomes the dominant language surrounding us.

It’s also interesting to see the shift within myself and other members of the group. At one time on this trip the sound of English and the colour of white was a comfort and something we would try to seek out. Now the sound of English and sight of white skin represents tourists. Not necessarily a bad thing, just something we aren’t necessarily accustoming to with the way we’ve been traveling and the places we’ve been going. We appreciate that type of travel more and definitely prefer it.

Again we travel

March 16th, 2010

Woke up early to enjoy one last breakfast in the jungle with our new Mexican friends from the state of Tabasco. The six of us sat together and talked like old friends until it was time to start packing. We exchanged email addresses and hopefully one day we will meet again. Then it was time to go.

At 9:00am we pulled our things once again over the limestone paths, packed the van and hit the road. It was another hot day and we were all thankful we would get a stop at Aqua Azul , a beautiful swimming spot with crystal blue waters, waterfalls and small rapids and currents, on our way to Palenque.

On the way we passed through three different check points. We were asked to step out of the van at two of them. Our driver spoke with one of the military men telling him where we were from and where we were headed, us three girls lined up alongside the road and Gary spoke with a different military man while yet another went through our things in the van. The man handled our things very gently and they assured us this was protocol to reduce trafficking of illegal drugs, alcohol, firearms, wild life and immigrants.

About 10-15 minutes later we were able to get back in our cars and drive away. We all noticed the manner in which they handled us and our belongings and compared it to the way they treated Mexicans or other dark skinned people. Often they will rampage through their belongings, ripping and tearing things apart. They will tell them to get out of the cars and sometimes force them to lay face down on the ground until they are finished. It is shameful and upsetting to think that the colour of your skin can dictate the amount of respect in which people of authority treat you with.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Today we took a trip through time.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I found myself sitting in a small motorized canoe-like boat heading to the ancient ruins of Yaxchilan in Chiapas, Mexico. Wind blowing in my hair we passed families fishing and cleaning their clothes in the rivers tide. I felt as though from where I was sitting I was in the middle of past, present and future.

With Mexico’s border to my left and Guatemala’s to my right, I thought about the lives that were lost right here in this river as refugee’s tried to swim or struggle from one border to the other in hopes of something more. One side of this river was the past representing struggle and shadow, the other the future representing light, hope and accomplishment.

Sitting between these two worlds separated by a body of water and guarded by soldiers with guns, I was sitting in a dugout fiberglass canoe in the present, looking at the imaginary line that determined the fates of so many people.
It’s difficult for me to believe that circumstances can be so different for families living on either sides of this river, the distance so close but their worlds so far apart. People risking their lives to get from one side to the other without knowing what the outcome might be. I felt blessed to be born in such a great country as Canada, where I am free to come and go as I please. I do not wake up in fear and am not at risk of being harmed by those who are supposed to protect me.

I looked again from one side of this river to the other; the people on both sides and me in the middle -- past, present and future -- we all really do live completely different lives.
* * * * *
Our boat ride came to an end and we jumped on shore and headed up the massive set of stairs to the mouth of the jungle where we would begin our hike through the ruins. To avoid the clutter of tourists we decided to do the hike backwards as it was one giant loop and we would still end up leaving from where we began.

As we headed through luscious greenery under the beaming hot sun we explored what would have been the city of ancient Mayans as far back as 600 A.D. Remains of their beautiful city that had been hidden for thousands of years underground were right in front of our eyes. we could see them and touch them and could only imagine the lives of the people who would have lived inside these ancient homes.

In relevance to other ruins in Palenque these were rather small but are said to still be some of the most fascinating. We saw old temples and places of worship with faded art carved into the walls and ceiling telling stories and writing history. We walked up the steps leading to the homes of royalty and walked through the jungle paths covering what were once streets of the city. We sat on a path and listened to the sounds of the surrounding animals, woodpeckers, squirrels, birds, and there it is: the howling monkeys! This sound was incredible!! Intimidating and strong we could hear them marking their territory to their unknown visitors, us.

As more tourists approached the sounds slowly died and we continued on our way. We ended our hike at what was meant to be the beginning or the entrance to the city where we used the flashing lights of our cameras to guide our way through to dead ends and pitch black passageways. With the flicker of our lights we could see bats, tons of bats hanging from the ceilings and bunched up in groups. We saw spiders the size of our hands and couldn’t help but let out a few girly shrieks here and there. We felt as though we were back in time, wandering through the corridors the ancient Mayan people had made to distort and confuse unwanted guests trying to enter their city. We sat and admired the architecture and brilliant detail that went into every inch of these ancient structures.

Again, yet another brilliant day.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Only in a Mexican Jungle ! _____________________

Friday, March 12, 2010

Long hikes and beautiful falls. Natural clay and minnows. Ancient ruins and new guests. Only in a Mexican Jungle.

When we arrived in the jungle I felt like I reconnected with nature, something that seems to be lost and forgotten living in North America. One of the first things I did when I arrived was removed all of my jewelery and put my watch away. During my stay here I was not going to keep track of time. The sun will tell me when to wake and my body will remind me when it’s time to sleep.

We woke with the roosters living close by and headed for breakfast. Soon after our friendly driver Olisio met us and introduced us to Victor, the young indigenous boy who would be taking us on our day hike through the jungle. We began the hike walking though a beautiful archway of wines with red flowers. We walked up hills, across rivers, over rocks with Victor explaining the names and purposes of certain plants along the way. We saw three different ruins that were built well over 2,000 years ago. Victor said they would have been homes to about 3 or 4 ancient families. Based on the location and construction, they appeared to have belonged to wealthy families within their time.

After the hike we came to one of the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen. Flowing crystal water with small queries surrounded by beautiful greenery with butterflies... and other little bugs... flying around. Victor bent down and grabbed a handful of natural clay and told us we could use it as a natural exfoliant. Next thing we knew we were all laughing and covered in mud, and he was right, smooth as a babies bum!

Victor, Lynne and I climbed up the waterfall and crawled through a cave until we reached the top. From there we could look down on the others swimming and resting in the sun, we took a few moments and just sat there taking it all in. This must be how it feels to be at the top of the world. To our left we noticed a small house with a man swinging in a hammock between two trees, the way one might have lived hundreds of years ago. Dressed in his traditional flowing, loose robes and living under what we might use as a boat shelter in the winter and living off the land, the little he had impressed me more than any mansion with a three door garage.

We returned home after a full day of hiking, swimming and exploring and took some time before dinner to rest. I napped in the hammock, Chrissy did some reading and writing and Lynne drew a picture of me swinging. Life here seems simple and peaceful, it’s something I believe everyone should experience in their lifetime.

I still can not believe I'm here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Into the Jungle

Thursday, March 11, 2010

This morning we said goodbye to San Cristobal and headed to our next destination; The Lacandon Jungle.

The road twisted and turned and went through beautiful valleys and hills. We passed through military zones beside Zapatista territory and stopped at a small restaurant and played with a child. Indigenous Mexican’s stood at the side of the road selling bananas, coconuts, traditional robes and more. We passed coffee cooperatives, people carrying stacks of wood on their backs up the road and spotted beautiful crystal clear rivers below.

The ride lasted seven hours and was a journey all of its own.

As we drove I thought back on our last days in San Cristobal. I thought about all the fantastic people we were blessed to meet, Paul and Diane Poirier from Arthur Frederick Community Builders, Nadia from Natate and The Tree House language school, the communications director and freelance videographer Sarah, Canadian journalist Dominique Jarry-Shore, Minerva the teacher of Medical Spanish or Diego from Frayba - Center of Human Rights, The American Priest Father Miquel, the dreamer from the steps Steve, Laurence the owner of our hotel or the nice man who was always smiling who served us breakfast.

All of these amazing people were brought together to share their life experiences and knowledge. All I could think about was how lucky we were to have met them and learn from them and how lucky the students of the new International Support Worker program will be to be able to meet these people or people like them next year on their Quest to Mexico.

Learning like this can become contagious.


Around 5:30 pm we arrived at our new home deep within the jungle. Our cabins were led by a limestone path and sat beside a river. Our house was made out of wooden planks strapped together, topped with a tin roof, two bunk beds with mosquito nets, no door and a wooden patio with a hammock. Shot gun!

The four of us sat and swung and talked about life and all its glory and misery as the sun slowly set and the day came to an end. Laying in bed we slowly fell asleep to the sound of flowing water and singing crickets.

I could get use to a place like this.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Canadian mining companies responsible for exploitation

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

“To be a defender of rights in Mexico is a great risk,” Center for Human Rights in San Cristobal de las Casas.

Loyalist students spent the morning visiting at Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas - Frayba, or the Center for Human Rights. This is a non-profit Civil Organization, independent of any government or political ideology or religious creed.

When we entered the school we were introduced to numerous of the staff and explained the different departments of the organizations and who covered which regions of Chiapas such as the highlands, the jungle Mayan rights, Guatemala boarder, etc. We discussed with one employee her responsibilities of immediate attention. When people come to the center looking for help her job is to sit with them, listen to their story and decide what’s the next step, whether it be directed to a certain department within the facilities or external support. The employee said a large example for this is violence against women and helping them find a shelter or alternative support system or victims of torture from within their community or by government or official figures of public authority.

Another huge topic we talked about was mining exploitation. We spent quick a lot of time discussing current mining issues taking place in Chiapas and the effects it is having on the communities and on the environment. There are over 90 mines in exploration and 60 in exploitation.

An even bigger shock and something I will never forget, is a CANADIAN mining company is responsible of such exploitation.

Blackfire Mining is a Canadian company based in Calgary and is responsible for environmental exploitation and are in a current battle over the assassination of an anti-mining activist named Mariano Abarca. To read more about this current, controversial and eye opening story please read Chiapas based journalist Dominique Jarry-Shore’s article at http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/3166

Many a days I find myself bragging over the fact that I am Canadian and not American, I find this even more true when I am travelling. To hear that a Canadian company is responsible of such corruption, violence and violations of human rights made my stomach turn, my jaw drop and my heart sink. I could not believe it, I was overwhelmed in disappointment. I was disappointed in my country, in my government and in myself. I had become ignorant to such important matters that I strong stand against and could not see the truth hiding behind the red maple leaf of our flag.

Not understanding Canadian companies, companies we unknowingly support, are responsible for such evil and corruption almost makes us as guilty as the people sitting in the chairs behind the desks making the decisions. As Canadian citizens it should be our duty to hold these corporations responsible for their actions and demand all work is ETHICAL ! We should not support companies who exploit land, pollute water, don’t support fair wages and devalue and hurt others.

If you are interested in learning more about on the subject and WHAT YOU CAN DO read this article on the new proposal coming to Toronto, Ontario this summer at http://www.dominionpaper.ca/g20

The companies who are exploiting the land are from our countries and so we are already involved, let’s work together to make these efforts in the right direction.

The Center of Human Rights was something phenomenal, I learned so much and support what they are doing. They say some times finding people who understand we must fight together is hard. But they are right. We must fight together. It starts with every individual.

Yep, this means you!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"This type of treatment is common

... in communities who want the right to freedom."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mexico is known as a country that has always been in a constant state of conflict. Conflict between the people, the state, the police, the military, the corporations, the foreigners and the indigenous people. The story is no different in the specific case of 30 indigenous families living in a small independent community in the southern state of Chiapas.

One thing people must understand is that Mexican’s are not only in conflict with people of other communities or religions but also that of their own people. When people within these communities or religions want to change something about the sequence of tradition within their communities or personal lives other members can grow angry.

An example of this is took place in the small community that Loyalist College students went to visit outside of San Cristobal de las Casas.

In 1992 an indigenous community was faced with conflict from their communal authority. The people wanted to drink and listen to music and make their own decisions. Leaders of the church disagreed with this and threatened to send the people to jail if this continued.

Between 1992 and 1993 houses were burned and members of this small movement were forced outside of the community in fear of abuse.

In 1994 the people of community contacted the municipal president and said, “We are defending ourselves, this is where we live, where our families are, our houses, our animals.”

For the next four years they lived in relative tranquility with no war fare or extensive violence or abuse.

In 1998 this community decided they wanted to construct a church in order to have somewhere to go to be closer to God. They saved up enough money and in 1999 they began to build.

On May 26, 1999 members of the community were working on the church when 45 armed men, including political figured, showed up in dump trucks and surrounded them.

“Who gave you permission to build?” They demanded.

“We gave ourselves permission,” they said. “This is where we live and this is what we want.”

The armed men began beating the people of the community - men, women and children.

The community got together shortly after the attack and decided they wanted to keep working. This was their land and this is what they wanted.

Rumours started spreading that more than 300 men were going to come to the village and at 6 am on May 29, 1999 men in masks showed up with arms surrounding everyone.

Families were hiding in their houses and the men destroyed the church and took all the materials. They took an elder of the community, grabbed him by the arms and legs and started swinging back and forth him and threw him. They hit the preacher with a weapon and he lost his eye. They beat everyone.

The armed men left and within days the leader of this now independent community under attack, was being charged with use of weapons and pistols and pepper spray.

“This is not true!” the man said. “My only weapon is the bible, my only weapon is the truth!”

He was sentenced to three years of probation.

The men told Loyalist students how this type of treatment is common in communities who want the right to freedom. They are being exposed and beaten.

For trying to be free the government would not let the children enter the school and in 2000 their electricity and water was shot off. These resources were being used as weapons against the community. They were forced to walk 2 km to a watering hole to get water and had to carry it the 2 km back. This water was not sanitary and once they brought it to the village it had to be boiled in order to drink. To this day this is their only source of water.

On January 26, 2003 two men of the neighbouring rival community disappeared and were never seen again. This community had so many enemies it could have been any community responsible for the disappearance, but these people blamed this particular independent community.

Wither or not these individuals ever truly went missing or if this was used as a reason for sabotage will never be known. The people of this independent community say in their cultures families of the dead mourn for 32 hours after their death. The families of these disappeared men never mourned, the very next day they entered the independent community and started shooting.

They killed the 18 year old brother of the leader of this community as well as shot his mother and other members of the community. When they released gun fire it was dark and in the process of violent warfare two policemen were killed.

Authorities grabbed seven members of the community, including a 14 year old boy, and blamed them with the death of these police men, even though no members of the community owned a weapon of any kind. Their only weapons were their bibles and the truth.

The leader of the community and his wife left their village for 3 years in hopes of limiting the violence and conflict within their independent community. They asked for help of members of the church and began demonstrations. The news became national and then international.

One of the prisoners went on a 34 day hunger strike living off water and honey and on the third demonstration over 16,000 indigenous Mexicans and supporters demonstrated in the streets of San Cristobal de las Casas. Their message was heard and after five years of injustice these seven people, wrongfully accused, were released.

Eighteen years after the conflicts began, this community remains independent and non-violent. They live together and protect their own. In ways they are similar to the internationally recognized Zapatista movement in the way they needed to stand up and march. They are all fighting for the same things, their freedoms and their rights.

Without this human rights movement the communities surrounding San Cristobal de las Casas would not exist. The majority of mountain communities exist because they were forced out of their communities and needed to start again. None of these people are asking for anything but to be left in peace and free to live as they want, to have the same rights as we do as Canadians.

Today the community remains poor and without running water. They still make the 2 km trip to and from the watering hole numerous times a day and have a collection of rain water for drinking.

They live this way not because they want to but because they have to. To protect their heritage and identity and to eliminate conflict they must be separate from those other communities. To raise free minded children and teach them about who they are and what the earth can give them and what they can give the earth and to give their children power to stand up for their rights and their freedom.

The community is a unit. They work together and make decisions together on what their community needs as a whole. No decisions are made without the contributions and opinions of all members.

This independent community has received Canadian support from different non-profit organizations with whom they have relationships with built on trust, to create better schools and will hopefully one day be able to have a water filtration system for clean drinking water. The community says they would be honoured and grateful for any help others are willing to give.

“If your hearts are ready to help us, our hearts are ready to receive.”

Sunday, March 7, 2010

- Binding Together -

Sunday, March 7, 2010

- It is difficult to understand religious conflict when you don't understand religion -

In a time and place I could never have imagined, surrounded by people I’ll forget I made sense of a thing called faith.

In the village of Corazon de Maria five Canadians, an American priest and a French translator joined the community for a service. We entered the small but stunning church, decorated in flowers, candles and pine needles and were invited to sit at the front of the service. We introduced ourselves to the community and thanked them for welcoming us and inviting us to share this day with them.

“I am here,” as they would say in their native tongue.

The service was beautiful and full of music and laughter and stories of liberating figures in time. They spoke of forgiveness, community and following a path of goodness. They read from their bible and did communion. At the end of the service they asked us to share how our hearts felt.

Gary Warren, founder of Quest Internacional, said that sometimes people from the north are outsiders trying to come in. Today we were all together as a community, on the inside, together.

I thanked them for sharing a piece of their faith and tradition with us. I told them how much we appreciated it and how we would keep this faith and their faces in our thoughts and our hearts as we continue our journey and will bring it home.

We were honoured with an invitation to a meal after the service. We were privileged to sit at the same table as the priest and organizing members of the church. We shared a delicious meal of chicken in broth with rice and tortilla’s. We sat as friends and discussed our different countries and communities that seemed worlds apart.

“Do you have poor people like we do here,” the Decan asked.

Perhaps we do, I thought. But our wealth is mainly materialistic and we aren’t rich like you are. You are rich in culture, tradition and faith, something I envy.

After the lunch we spent time with the community, played with the children, spoke with the women, took pictures and laughed. It was probably the best experience I’ve had so far on this year’s Quest.

We then sat with the priest and discussed many things including the base of religion, religious conflicts, liberation theology, women’s rights and roles within the religious community. We talked for over three hours and made sense of things I’ve only ever wondered.

The topics were broad, the conversation was deep and the meanings were real. Each individual in the room had an experience and something to share. We spoke of words like religion, faith, conformity, expression, guilt, judgement, liberation, dictation, experience, togetherness and relationships.

I could share with you what I discovered and what it meant to me or I can share with you some of the things that were said and you can discover it for yourself. -_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_

· “I felt it and I need to know what it meant.”

· Liberation – See with your eye and listen with your ears –read newspapers, talk with people

Think – process, debrief, reflect and analyze

Act –do it critically

· “Get the deposit --- fill the bank” --- your mind is empty and I will fill it as I choose; teacher to students, write this down, remember this, this is right, this is wrong.

· Don’t question authority ... question everything!

· “It is not supposed be sensational. It is suppose to be real, ordinary, it’s what people do.”

· -- To patronize –

· Missionaries, the idea of ‘let me save you’

· “A church should look like its face, like the face of those inside it” --- the priest says he must look like them, not them look like me, because one day I will leave and they will remain

· -- We learn together –

· “To accompany an idea.” --- to go with it

· To let them do it themselves

· “Absolutely scandalous”

· -- killing your neighbour –

· How do you know what you desire? Is it based on a model of what you want?

· “Desire leads to imitation”

· “Similarity leads to competition and rivalry”

· “Conflict comes from a desire to differentiate”

· “I spent a summer learning to kill people in the army and decided to go to the seminary”

· -- Community, argument, appeal –

· You have to feel it

· It is ignorant to history and insensitive to culture

· Indigenous theology /movement

· “Romancey of religion”

· Reconstruct cultural heritage

· -- Bringing people together without fear of prejudice or intimidation –

· “We know this from the part, but what about the future”

· “Dialogue is a key word”

· -- You don’t need to conform –

· -- CAN’T I BE IF I WANT TO BE? –

· “If the focus is right”

· Companion Soul – divine presence, someone accompanies you.

· -- Question oriented – answers will come later, if at all –

· Couching vs. Refereeing

· --Religion Vs. Faith, System and Structure vs. Relationships, Form vs. Content, Faith vs. Reason

· “Religion can bring out the worst in people”

· -- I want to save the world from obnoxious Christianity –

· Acceptance vs. Judgement

· “Express yourself to the universe”

· Zen – silence, stillness – clarity

· Healthy religion = search mode

· Quest, Questing and Questions

· Syncretism – one form mixing with others

· Religion = to bind together

· --they are wise – hold the mystery of contradiction –

· PARADOX

· The tension of exploration: Finding that which is true and devine

· “We are in a constant state of BECOMING”

· -A search for identity –

· “Humility = to be human, to be close to the earth, to be grounded, we come from the earth as dust and will leave as dust”

· Be a part of the whole, not apart from the whole

· “The ears pay attention to the worlds”

· “You can only spit into the wind for so long”

· Zapatistas 1994 –low intensity warfare

· --Vibration of energy –

· “human interaction in the purest form”

· Difference is acceptable... similarity is threatening

· -- Diversity is Biology as it is culture –

· Resemblance and similarity is threatening

· “Ethnographic”

· --I am Here –

· “The best way to help is to understand and to understand we must learn through experiences and dialogue with others”

· Politics of gain and pain are complex

A visit with the indigenous people of Monte Sion

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Today I was part of a world I had never seen and because of it mine will never be the same.

Exiled from their village for conversion of religion and forced to start a village from scratch the people of Monte Sion have gone a long way.

Where do I begin - beside an army base and a brothel, a community of no more than 300 indigenous Mexican’s live their lives the only way they know how. They’ve built homes from wood with tin roofs that leak, cook over open fires in their kitchen, eat two meals a day of beans and tortilla, can’t read or write, share a one room house with their families of over seven with chickens roaming free, have no running water, but still seem to smile and their children still sing.

We entered the property of one family and spoke with the mother, her name was Trini. We introduced ourselves and she welcomed us. The three of us Quest students came with three others, Paul from Arthur Frederick Community Builders, who has helped the community with water projects, a French women named Stephanie who lives in a village nearby with her husband and family and an older women named Diane who is god mother to one of the young boys in the village. We all sat together and listened to this indigenous families story.

Trini is married and has five children, her husband works in logging. The family lives on a small piece of land with three small buildings on it; one a kitchen, one a sleeping quarters and one an empty building of another family. When Trini and her family were exiled from their village and forced to flee, like the rest of the people in the community, her family could not afford the 1,500 pesos for the entire property and were forced to split with another family who had more money. Many families don’t have toilet and they bath twice a week in a homemade temescal or steam room and use cold collected water to rise and use the green contaminated water, which they use to drink from, to wash their clothes.

Trini was taught how to grow mushrooms and Diane said she is going to try and help her sell them to a new organic restaurant in the town. Her daughter lives in Cancun working as a house cleaner and receives only 2,000 pesos a month minus living conditions. That is equivalent to less than $200 Canadian a month to send back to her family, the daughter is only fourteen years old. This is considered a normal occurrence.

We sat and talked to this women for over an hour. Her story was real and her presence was genuine. She showed us the little she had and let us hold her new baby born in December.

Arthur Frederick Community Builder, also known as AFCB, started a project in this small village giving the town a water filtration system, school houses and a basketball court for the children. The green contaminated water used to be the only source of water for the village before the project was able to build something sustainable. Since then conflict within the community has transformed one of the water holding cells into a prisoner holding sell and often the children can’t attend school because they are needed to work.

We asked what Trini’s hopes and goals were for the next year, she said she would love to have a block house and to allow her children to continue their education and go to a nearby town and get a job.

“Here in the mountains it is difficult,” she said.

When we entered the property that was home to these people there were so many things going through my mind – we had just passed trucks filled with army men holding guns, massive walls lined with barbed wire and no more than 100 meters away was a community filled with children and there was a school built by members of AFCB with a brick wall around it to block the view of the brothel stationed for the army. The children were dirty and surprised to see white skinned people walking through their village. One young girl, Sillia, ran her fingers over my arm so gingerly, expecting it to feel like a foreign silk and perhaps to her it did.

I remembered when we first arrived and told Trini we were from Canada and Stephanie was from France.

“Canada and France, are they close?” she asked.

I forgot that these people were illiterate, had probably never seen a map of the world, or a washing machine or a shower. I couldn’t imagine what the world looked like from inside their eyes.

Today we learned a lot and it was a lot to process. We saw examples of community development, of religious conflict and exile, of international support and non-profit contributions. We learned about human rights and saw examples of community policing. It was a world we’d never seen before and one as much as we’d like to and as much as we try to, we may never completely understand. Sometimes it seems we must understand things in order to help, the more I learn and the more I grow the power may not always be in understanding it but in respecting it.

Today I was part of a world I had never seen and because of it mine will never be the same.