Friday, May 13, 2016

I Found Myself in Zimbabwe

I know this title sounds deep.  Could it be possible that a volunteer trip to a third world country could actually make me a better person or to find myself?  Lots of people expect that very thing I think. Many come back changed in some way.  The jury is still out for me I think.  When I voiced my skepticism about this exact fact before I left, someone mentioned to me that maybe because I live my life fairly well already, there just wasn't that much to change.  I can hope I guess.  

I have almost always liked my name.  One of the reasons is that no one else has it.  There were never three Mavises in any class I ever took.  Unlike those ever popular Kathys.  I shared a class with three Kathys when I was in Grade 8.  And we were a small school.  I thought Mavis was unique and I wanted to be unique.  Who doesn't at 13?  I was striving to be myself while still trying to be so much like my peers.  I remember at some point reading somewhere that Mavis meant "songbird".  I am glad to report I remembered correctly because today when doing a google search it says that same thing. 

Therefore one of the most unexpected things to come out of my trip to Zimbabwe is the popularity of my name.  Farai, our Zimbabwe guide and the first on the ground person we met, recognized it right away.  His sister in law is named Mavis.  He had trouble pronouncing Raquel and Lannette, but Mavis was easy for him!  Then the next day when we met the rest of the service centre staff, all first Shona language speakers, they were very familiar with the name and could say it easily.

The first thing Catherine, one of the care workers at Pimai, told me was that she has a daughter named Mavis.  During my first pregnancy, I remember having a conversation with my Mom about naming babies.  She thought it was one of the hardest things she had ever done.  It is hard, and I can't say that I have not looked back and wondered if we made the best choices the three times we were faced with the task.  So meeting Catherine and knowing she and my Mom had made the same decision, allowed for an instant connection between the two of us.  Catherine is a spunky, fun loving middle aged woman to whom I am very happy to have met.  Her obvious 'love of life' attitude was easy to gravitate to.  I ended up being very moved by her energy the last morning we spent together. Let's just say, Father Matthew was impressed with our dancing skills and my knees were aching with the effort.
Catherine is the third from the right.  And Mavis (not Catherine's daughter) is 10th from the right.  

Traveling to another country is about meeting people and embracing cultures different then our own. We saw many different ways to do things, but it comes down to the same thing.  People are people and building relationships is what we did.  The more we think we're different, the more we are the same.  So many great people, so many great conversations..

I am very glad to have built relationships with many Mavises including myself.  And although, I really don't think my life has changed dramatically, just maybe I have grown from my experience and can continue to do so.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Uniqueness of Zimbabwe (Not sure of this title - Maybe better would be Wonderful and Weird things I noticed in Zimbabwe)

1.  When buying a pop, you need to return a bottle first.  If it wasn't for Farai promising the absolute return of 8 pop bottles, the next time we were going through, we would not have quenched our thirst that very hot day in the Honde Valley.  (We only brought 7 back.  Oops!  Not sure what happened to the other one.)

2.  You can buy one roll of toilet paper - pink!  This can also be purchased in Switzerland.  I remember Ashley, a former student, also posing with pink toilet paper when we had a road stop on our Europe trip in 2008.  Good times.....  I wish I could link that picture here.  It's lost on the Major School website somewhere.  :(

3.  Twins are cute wherever you go.  These two beautiful twin girls were not happy at all when I tried to hold either of them.  They only liked their Mama's lap.  My son and his wife are expecting twins this summer.  So excited.  I wonder if they are boys, girls or one of each.  Time will tell! 

4.  The soil is very red!  It reminded me very much of Prince Edward Island.  It made us ask about potatoes.  They do grow them, and even cooked us some for lunch while we visited the Pimai Care Points.  But their stable food is corn and we got to shuck corn in both Sakubva and Pimai.  They dry it, grind it at mills and cook it into a thick porridge called sadza.  It holds the heat and sticks to your ribs.  One woman, Constance,  found it very hard to believe that we didn't have sadza in Canada.  I did find a video about how to make it.  Remember though that the woman we got to meet, cook their sadza in a pot the size of a huge garden pot over an open fire and feed up to 200 children a day!  

Farai and Tyler
shucking corn

5.  Any taste of home, makes a traveler happy.  Hence Erin's picture with this young girl who is wearing a Toronto Maple Leaf's sweater.  

6.  Playing 'double, double' never gets old....

7.  I take water usage for granted.  Water is hauled by these volunteers in these 5 gallon pails every day, up a steep hill and down a narrow path that can be very slippery in wet weather.  It's about a 500 meter walk.  This is the water that is then used to cook the sadza and vegetables to feed the children each day.  It's also used for hand washing and cleaning of the pots and plates after the meal.  Hands at Work is looking into getting a well dug for this particular care point.  Until then, this is what is done by the volunteers.  

8.  Cindy's a beast.  I knew that before but she proved it again.  Here she is stirring the sadza.  

Cindy stirring the sadza over the open fire.  It must boil for about 15 minutes while being stirred constantly.  

9.  Timetables are important especially when they end with lunch.

Preschool timetable found in the school in Pimai.

10.  Father Matthew has a portable Mass kit.  We were able to celebrate Mass with him in the living room of the guest house on the tea plantation in the Honde Valley in Zimbabwe and at the chapel at the Hands at Work Hub in South Africa.  Buildings aren't needed.

If you're looking for more blogs to read about Hands at Work and the work that they do in Zimbabwe, consider reading this one written by two volunteers from Canada who have spent time there.  

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Packing for Africa

We had our last meeting today for our volunteer trip to Zimbabwe and South Africa.  I had been given two extra suitcases from friends and we filled them completely with soccer balls, toothbrushes, skipping ropes, shampoos and a number of other things that we will be leaving at the care centers that we'll be visiting.  It was a determined group that made sure we didn't exceed the 23 kg weight restrictions for the airlines.

The volunteer mission will have us working with the organization Hands at Work.  This group finds the "Mother Theresa" of a community and supports her to help with the poorest of the poor in that community.  We will be supporting these care givers for 12 days in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

When we were saying our good-byes this afternoon, Raquel, our youngest volunteer at age 14, realized we wouldn't see each other until the airport in Johannesburg when the group of 7 will all meet up with each other, and we all had a brief moment.

Many people who have chosen to spend time with this kind of volunteering have told me that it has changed their lives.  Pretty high expectations!  I have pretty much been a "those who expect nothing, shall not be disappointed" kind of person most of my adult life.  How will I be affected in this journey? How will I affect others in this journey?  Stay tuned.........

All our hours of meetings and planning from the last year is coming to a close.  We are leaving in 6 days on Easter Sunday.  Time to get at it.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

My Mom Gave me a Dollar

“My Mom gave me a dollar” – it is something that I have often said throughout my life.  Sometimes it was a joke, other times, it helped me make some real tough decisions.  I said it when someone asked me to do something.  “Do you want to go to the movie tonight?” 

     “Sure,” I’d answer, “My mom gave me a dollar, I can do whatever I want.” 

     “Do you want to go to canoeing for the weekend?” 

     “Absolutely,” I would answer again, “My Mom gave me a dollar, I can do what I want.” 

     “Do you want to be go to University and become a teacher?” 

     “Why wouldn’t I?  My Mom gave me a dollar!” 

     I am not sure where or when it started.  I don’t remember that for certain.  But I do know it empowered me.  I could make my own choices, do my own thing.  I didn’t need someone’s permission, my Mom had given it to me a long time ago when she gave me a dollar and told me to use it wisely, spend it well and make good choices with it. 

     So last Wednesday, I knew that I wanted to say something to my last class before I retired on Friday.  I would only have a few minutes with the Grade 8’s before they wrote their last final.  I told them the story of me and my Mom.   I gave them each a loonie, told them to remember that they had the power within them to do whatever they chose with their lives.  And when it came a time when they had to dig deep to make those good choices to remember, “My teacher gave me a dollar, I can do what I want.”

Arletta Jean McColl Dunham - Feb 26, 1933 - September 22, 2012  (My Mom)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

BIT 14 - Bringing IT Together

I attended BIT14 from Nov 5 to 7th in Niagara Falls, Ontario with 3 other teachers on the iSITS committee from the Living Sky School Division.  

One of the keynotes was George Couros.  He is known as the Principal of Change because of the blog that he writes.  He now works in Central Office for the Parkland School Division in Alberta.  During his keynote, I experienced emotions from one end of the spectrum to the other.  I wish every teacher could listen to him speak.  I found his Ted Talk.  Not the same as in person, but you'll get a sense of him as a person and an educator.

I took a couple of things away from this conference compared to other conferences that I have attended in the past.  One message that rang loud and clear is that we should be coding with kids.  And not just in Computer Science classes at the high school level.  We need to be coding with kids at all ages. I attended one session with Brian Aspinall.  He showed us how to use Scratch to find the factors of numbers.  There is also something called The Hour of Code where we can all get tutored through how to make programs work.  Both my grade 6 and 8 Math classes have worked through the first Angry Bird codes and some have started the Lightbot ones.  A huge hit so far.  

I didn't go to Niagara Falls with the intention of going to so many sessions about Google Aps for Education (GAFE) but it kind of worked out that way.  I have been a google drive/doc user for years now, but finding out the Division was going to the Google Classroom for all students and staff at the last iSITS meeting had me wanting to learn more.  There is so much that we will be able to do with this.  I am still learning, but here are some of the sites that I will be going back to many times to help me with ideas.  Some of the addons are very cool.  A great presentation by Andrew Bieronski  showed several ways we can use GAFE .  For example - Super Quiz is an Add-on for Google Form that can be used to automatically assess quizzes given to students with a Google Form. Have you ever hear of Google Ideas? Me either. Or Google Keep? Who knew. 
and Google Cultural Institute and the possibilities with Google Drawings is endless. There are some examples for a Science lab report with that here from a presentation by Jonathan Berlingeri and Joe Sisco.

The second message I took from this conference is the same one I have been hearing for a long time now.  It's not about the tech.  It's about the relationships that we create with our students and how we engage them and empower them in their learning.  So that's what I strive to do each and every day.  Believe me some days are better and easier than others.

More links you may want to check out:

Richard Byrne

Google Alerts 
Connected Classrooms
Epic - a reading program that encourages both comprehensions and collaboration
Panoramio - shows pictures of places anywhere in the world.
Free Music Archive
Youtube Audio Library

This conference reminded me of many of the Showcase type conferences that we used to have in Saskatoon.  I miss them.  It was always a fun couple of days getting inspired and networking with teachers from around the province.  I was inspired in Niagara Falls to continue working with my students in different ways.  I also really enjoyed getting to know Lane, Emily and Rhonda better and am very thankful that I have so many great teachers to go to with my ideas and problems.  Again it's about the relationships.  I am blessed to work in a school division that encourages and supports us to not only attend conferences but also to try many different ways to reach our students.  

Monday, May 5, 2014

Discovery Education Presentation

Discovery Education Presentation from Major School

Today's presentation that I gave in North Battleford at our STF day.  I had 17 participants who asked some great questions.  I was a little nervous and we had a couple of bandwidth glitches but basically it went well.