Bonnita Preston: Finding Common Ground

In the IAYI program, I have had the opportunity to meet some interesting people. My team is called IAYI Chimbote and we are a group of four women, three from Canada and one Perúvian- myself- Bonnita, Alexis, and Joanna. Alexis is Shuswap from the Tsq’escen First Nation and Joanna is Oji-Cree from North Caribou lake, ON. We are led by Pamela who works for Brigada De Voluntarios Bolivarianos del Perú. Pamela lives in the city of Chimbote Perú.

In the past week my team has been participating in meaningful cultural exchanges with our Perúvian partners. Each person on my team gave a presentation about their unique indigenous cultures. I had the opportunity to share a presentation about the history and culture of Métis people in Canada, and also to listen to cultural presentations about other indigenous groups in Canada and Perú.

I have learned that Indigenous peoples in both Canada and Perú have many similar cultural values and beliefs. One similarity between Canada and Perú Indigenous peoples is that both cultures honour a medicine wheel. Each medicine wheel is unique but they share the same concept.

The medicine wheel is a sacred symbol representing the earth and elements of nature. It is a teaching tool for sharing the sanctity of universal knowledge found within many indigenous cultures all around the globe! Another similarity is that both cultures have relationships to plant spirits as sacred medicines.

Perú and Canada share similar environmental issues- such as the need to protect and preserve wetlands. My team spent time researching migratory birds as they relate to wetlands in Peru and Canada. After learning this information, we put together a presentation on migratory birds to share with young children in Peru. In this way, we hope to inspire the children to love and care for nature.

We could see the children were interested and moved by what they learned. The children had many questions and reflections about the migratory birds. When we asked them if they thought the wetlands in Perú are cared for their answer was a sad “no”.

We also got to practice and learn more Spanish since we shared the presentation in Spanish! In addition to environmental forums we have been connecting with Peruvian children to give them free English classes. I never realized how hard it would be to teach a language! It has been challenging to see language through new eyes.

Overall, I am very grateful for the way this internship is allowing me to learn and grow. Language, culture, environment and gaining a new perspective on all of these things. I look forward to sharing more with you in the next post about my journey through this program.

Until next time,

¡Hasta Luego!

Bonnita Preston.