Evan Smith

ConneXions Social Justice Program: “Inspiring the next generation of global citizens.”
Waterdown District High School, Waterdown, Ontario

Evan Smith.2a

“My own journey began as a child with a love for the outdoors, the culture of Canada’s First Nations and a curiosity about world issues, no doubt inspired by nightly news-watching parents who immigrated from England with my older brother in 1968. After graduating from university, I took a job that changed my life forever. I taught for a year at Escuela de Las Americas, an English-speaking school in Venezuela’s oil belt. Latin America fascinated me, its geography, its language and its rhythms. Two years later, this love of Latin America merged with my interest in indigenous culture when I connected with the Quechua culture of Peru. The historic Inca cities of Cuzco and Machu Picchu inspired me, but even more inspirational where the people I met. They were young activists from the Rural Agrarian Catholic Youth Movement who worked to sustain and improve their communities while maintaining their cultural identities. The Holy Cross Fathers led our group during that March trip in Peru and helped us to gain a deep understanding of the challenges involved in achieving social justice. At the start of the next school semester, I started an extracurricular club called SOLID: the Student Organization for Learning about International Differences, with the help of my friend and colleague, Terry Bishop. The club meets bi-weekly and includes a program called ConneXions: an interdisciplinary high school program in which senior students are challenged to see global citizenship as a journey for social justice nourished by real connections with our planet and all its peoples. Combining in-class learning in World Geography, English and Interdisciplinary Studies, the ConneXions program culminates with a two-week project in Latin America with Canada World Youth’s Global Learner Program. I look forward to building on the relationships with communities that we have created through the ConnecXions and Global Learner programs.” .

With his innovations in teaching, Evan has been pivotal in giving his students the tools to understand complex issues such as economic globalization, the legacy of colonialism, and global social inequality. As he explains, these issues are too complex to be learned solely from textbooks, and giving students the first-hand experience of life in Latin America enables them to see the world from a different perspective. Over the past decade, Evan has inspired students to make a difference in the world, with many of the alumni of the ConneXions program going on to post-secondary education and careers in international development.

Kelsey Hamil

Alumnus, Global Learner Internship, India

Many of the moments and the opportunities I encountered during my Global Learner Internship have been while working with Seva Mandir, one of the Global Learner partner organizations in India. I helped to organize the first public outreach event put on by Seva Mandir. This event was a celebration for the ‘Joy of Giving’ week in India where the entire country is asked to give in any way possible. After a week of planning we were able to host a booth at the mall, which generated a lot of attention and, as a result, donations to the Children of Udaipur campaign. We made large trees on which we posted leaf-shaped messages written by the citizens of Udaipur to be shown to rural school children who are supported by this campaign. The event was a great success and, as a result, has now opened the door for many more similar public engagement and fundraising events.

I would like to share a small story of something I experienced one day during my work in the community, something that made me feel at home and that I will always remember. Before leaving my community work placement, after facilitating a discussion with a group of women, I wanted to be sure to say a proper goodbye to everyone. During the study, it was very difficult to interact with the women as I do not speak their language nor do they speak mine. But, on this day, I tried to say goodbye respectfully by saying “Namaste”. One of the young women spoke so sweetly to me and responded “Namaste Didi”. Didi, in Hindi, means older sister, which normally I would have thought was silly, but the term is used in a very respectful way. This moment now represents the image I have of my relationship with that village community, one of great respect. I hope to maintain a wonderful relationship with the women in the village, as well as build the same kind of respectful relationships in all the others that I visit.”

Suzanne Narain

Alumnus, Global Learner Group Project, Costa Rica

I went to Costa Rica with the intention of changing someone’s life or making a tremendous difference in a small rural community. I did change someone’s life: my own.”

Eleni Giannopoulos

Alumnus, Global Learner Group Project, Costa Rica

My involvement with CWY began at age 16 with the Global Learner program, which marries formal curriculum with experiential learning. We spent two and a half weeks in Costa Rica, living with host families and working in the Manual Antonia National Park. Our experience helped us gain a concrete understanding of environmental diversity and the effects of eco-tourism in the Monteverde Cloud rainforest.

The impact of the experience was deep and I resolved to shape my own reality through what I understood the mission of CWY to be. I wanted to achieve personal transformation to embrace and safeguard cultural roots and to learn through direct experience.”

Marlene Hume

Teacher, Oakville Trafalgar High School

Our students have had the opportunity to share the lives of Costa Rican and Ecuadorian families and their lives here have been changed forever. New friends, adventures and lifelong lessons have been a part of their experiences. Our lives are enriched by this opportunity to give to a community that willingly welcomes us with open arms into their lives to share their world so that we can better understand them and, in doing so, understand our place in the world.”

Thierry Côté

Alumnus, Global Learner Group Project, India

It’s an experience that changes your life, that gives you food for thought for a long time. Yesterday morning, when I woke up in Montreal, I asked myself why I was not in India.”

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