Global Citizens in Manitoba
Breanna Wiebe (19) had the opportunity of a lifetime when she met her World Vision sponsored child last year in Tanzania. “It was amazing to see how this boy was thriving because he had access to his basic needs,” she says. “More than anything he was thankful for an education.” As World Vision’s Youth Ambassador, Breanna works to inspire young people in Manitoba and get them involved in global issues. This year, she started a World Vision Club at the University of Manitoba.
Tito Daodu (23) was born in Nigeria and immigrated to Canada as a child, settling in Winnipeg’s inner city. Drawing from a multi-cultural background, she decided to become involved in international issues at a young age – with a special focus on global health. She is now studying Medicine at the University of Manitoba and, upon graduating, plans to practice in Manitoba’s Northern reserves and eventually work for Doctor’s Without Borders. “Young people in Canada have so many options,” says Tito. “They have the privilege to gain skills to help those who haven’t had the same opportunities in life”.
École Leila North Community School
The middle-years students are getting MAD at École Leila North Community School in Winnipeg. They call it “making a difference.”
Teachers at Leila North had always tried to raise awareness of global and local issues, but students really stepped up their own efforts after attending MCIC’s Generating Momentum conference in 2006.
“Generating Momentum really taught us to think bigger and to make more of an impact with what we were doing,” says teacher Miles MacFarlane. “Instead of simply raising money and donating it to charity, we learned how to really educate our students with why we are raising money. We also learned how to communicate our message outside of the school and involve politicians and decision makers.”
For example, the students at the school decided to abandon the 30-hour basketball marathon they had planned. Instead, they made a video using the idea of basketball to illustrate poverty issues for the Make Poverty History campaign (see http://tinyurl.com/2adeby). They held an assembly to premiere the video and had many guests attend, including school trustees, their MLA, and other politicians. CBC even came to cover the event.
“One powerful image from the event was a large poster across the entire gym wall,” says MacFarlane. “Every three seconds, we found out, a child dies of issues related to poverty. So every three seconds, a student drew a face on the poster. At the end of the one hour assembly, 1,200 faces were drawn.”
Since then, the school has kept up their efforts. Most classes scan the newspaper for stories of people making a difference. One group of students takes care of recycling, and collections for Winnipeg Harvest still happen as they did but with greater understanding of the bigger picture.
Four classes are involved with PAWS—Positive Action in Winnipeg Schools. Some of their activities include visiting care homes, raising money for malaria nets and different charities, or graffiti clean-up in the school and in the community.
“Everyone at the school is involved with things,” says MacFarlane. “There’s no specific social justice group—it’s just part of the plan and the culture here.”
The Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada (CDF) is forging connections between the Canadian business community and the developing world.
“We don’t go overseas and tell people what to do,” says Wayne McLeod, chair of CDF. “We have conversations with the local folk, and they run and manage things based on their needs.”
The goal of CDF is to raise money in the cooperative sector and use that money to support cooperatives and credit unions in developing countries in an effort to fight poverty.
Wayne is CEO of Westoba Credit Union in Brandon, Manitoba, and became involved in CDF ten years ago.
“I decided to step up to the plate, be a little less selfish and do what I can do,” he says. “I was in a position to help the less fortunate, and I seized that opportunity.”
In a cooperative, such as those supported by CDF, farmers might come together so that they can sell their product as a group and also buy as a group to lower their costs. It’s a collective approach to managing their future.
One of the great advantages of the organization is the expertise available from co-ops and credit unions. In 2007, 23 senior managers and staff travelled to Africa to provide hands-on coaching to credit union staff. The relationship is a reciprocal one where individuals from overseas will come to Canada to learn and share their experience.
Credit unions are also set up so that people can improve their lives. For instance, a small loan to a woman with children in Africa helped her buy a sewing machine so that she could earn a living for her family. On a larger scale, CDF—with the support of MCIC—helped rebuild the credit union system in Sri Lanka after the December 2004 tsunami disaster.
CDF maintains a relationship with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) which multiplies most of what CDF raises. MCIC also regularly supports CDF through the Manitoba Government Matching Grant Program.
“Manitoba is one province where the support received from cooperatives, credit unions, and the public in general has been extremely generous,” says Wayne, “and we’re very appreciative of that.”
As a Canada World Youth (CWY) participant in Honduras in 2007, Rob Pankhurst saw first-hand the benefits of fair trade—goods from the developing world that are grown or produced by fairly paid labour and with environmentally sustainable methods.
His group visited Coaprol, a fair trade coffee cooperative run by about a dozen families. Not only did the cooperative grow coffee, but it roasted, processed and packaged the coffee beans right on site.
He was struck by the quality of life and standard of living at the cooperative. “Every family had established housing and didn’t seem to be struggling in terms of meeting their needs,” says Rob.
“The reason I don’t think it’s a romanticized view is that we did see the other side, where you would see young children working and houses that were in very substandard conditions,” he adds.
Baldemar Garcia, another CWY participant, is part of a coffee-growing family in Honduras. He says the experience opened his eyes to the value of fair trade, including its ecological benefits.
“In the future, I would like to work on fair trade projects with my family, and also with a cooperative. It would be different than working on a traditional finca (coffee farm) because there aren’t middle-men. To be a member of the cooperative is like being the owner. You get to share your ideas as well,” says Baldemar.
Both Rob and Baldemar encountered another aspect of fair trade when the exchange group moved to their Canadian segment in Brandon, Manitoba. At the Marquis Project, a locally based international development organization, they worked at a store devoted to fair trade goods.
“I improved my technical knowledge and started to learn some of the realities,” including customers who would question the higher cost of fair trade items, says Rob. “Having that first-hand experience in Honduras I had learned that those lower prices are at the expense of people’s lifestyle and livelihood.”
Rob says the whole experience has made him more aware of global issues and a more responsible consumer.
“I’d really encourage young people to get involved in the international development realm, whether in the local community or overseas. It’s really valuable in terms of changing your perspective.”
Muriel Smith, O.C.
“Instead of taking our case to those who can do something about it, I realized that I should be one of the people who are doing something about it,” says Muriel Smith, a long-time volunteer and former Manitoba deputy premier and cabinet minister. It’s an approach that motivates her to be an advocate for human rights, and demonstrates the commitment she has brought to so many causes.
She is a long-time supporter of the international development efforts of the YM-YWCA and MATCH International. She also co-founded and is still involved the Winnipeg chapter of UNIFEM Canada, the Canadian committee of the United Nations Development Fund for Women.
Muriel attended the World Conference on Women on two occasions (1985 and 1995, in Nairobi and Beijing, respectively). She credits the experiences with expanding her knowledge of the impact of global issues on the lives of women. It also encouraged her to make her voice heard at the UN as the president of the United Nations Association in Canada.
In 1995, Muriel was among the group of Manitoba women, including 40 who attended the Beijing conference, who founded the UN Platform for Action Committee (UNPAC). An organization that believes there is too narrow a view on economics, UNPAC works to get gender analysis in the budget. For instance, women (and less often men) contribute a significant amount of unpaid care-giving work to society—efforts not taken into account in the provincial budget.
“We’re trying to take international principles and apply them locally,” says Muriel.
Muriel also volunteers her efforts for Empowering Women of Burma (EWB). The group’s objective is to give support to the people in refugee camps, to provide skills training for women and children in the peripheral areas of Burma, and to further the education of the youth who have been neglected for more than a decade. In 2006-07, the group received a Community Solidarity Fund grant from MCIC for nursery school teacher training, supplies, and nutritious lunches for the children.
In 2007, Muriel was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada, in recognition of her efforts to promote social justice in Canada and around the world.
Shimby Zegeye-Gebrehiwot is a grade 12 student at Vincent Massey Collegiate in Winnipeg who considers her passion for global justice, human rights, and animal rights a normal human quality.
“I don’t know how people can not care about these issues,” says Shimby. “These problems are not going away any time soon.”
Shimby says her family has always been a very focused on human rights. Her parents were both born in Ethiopia, a country that has faced democratic problems and political unrest.
Being involved with the debate team for seven years has also contributed to her awareness; you have to stay on top of current events to be a good debater.
Shimby was able to share her passion for global issues as one of many local students who participated in the 2007 Generating Momentum for Our World conference, MCIC’s annual conference for high school students. It was her second year attending, and she plans to go again.
“Everyone at the conference really seemed to take everything to heart, and that’s really encouraging,” says Shimby. At the 2007 conference students held discussions and created projects on the topic of global concerns over landmines, including the legacy of the Ottawa Treaty to ban landmines.
“It was very informative,” says Shimby, “and I’m amazed with the projects everyone came up with in only a few hours time. Everyone came out of it with more awareness or a different viewpoint.”
Shimby has gotten involved by participating in many groups at school, including Peace and Social Justice Club, Kiwanis Club, and Peer Helpers, which she says has extended their activities to include the 30-Hour Famine and AIDS awareness, among other global issues.
After high school, Shimby plans to continue her involvement by pursuing a double major in international development studies and women’s studies.
“The passion I have for global justice issues was always there for me,” says Shimby. “For others my age who haven’t witnessed injustice first hand, it may not be as innate, but many are still becoming aware.”
Don and Donna Winstone
When Don and Donna Winstone went to visit their friend in Courtney, British Columbia, in 2001, little did they know that a life-changing experience awaited them.
A friend took them to the Traveling World Community Film Festival. What they saw was a slew of challenging and thought-provoking films that put a human face on a lot of different issues.
“And it wasn’t just little clips,” says Don. “You really got to know some of the people in the films, because in a lot of cases the documentaries took years to make.”
One film that particularly affected them was named Friendship Village about a US war veteran and the devastating effects of the Agent Orange that was dropped on Viet Nam.
Although the couple, who live in Winnipeg Beach, Manitoba, had kept a moderate awareness of global justice issues through their church, it was films like this one that really opened their eyes. The next year, they decided to attend the festival again. They were so moved by the films that they decided to create a similar festival that same year in Winnipeg.
The Global Justice Film Festival enters its sixth year in 2008. Supported by MCIC and eleven other organizations, the festival does more than just show films–it allows for reflection, provides a forum for discussion, and prompts participants to action.
Don and Donna have also held a documentary film festival in Gimli and now show films there on a regular basis.
“Without these films, we would not know nearly as much about global issues,” says Donna. “And we’ve changed because of them,” adds Don.
Those changes include owning just one vehicle, eating food with less packaging, and helping refugee families through their church, to name a few. Don has also helped set up the Lake Winnipeg Foundation to help restore the health of the lake and its watershed.
“We’re doing what we can to help reduce our footprint on earth,” says Don, “and we’re always learning more.”
Each week, up to 35 high school students at Collège Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau in Winnipeg—about 10 percent of the student body—participate in the Social Justice Club.
“The goal of the club is to inform ourselves about issues and to take action,” says teacher Larry Paetkau, “and I think we’ve achieved that.” The club started in 1991 with the help of teacher Roland Dion.
The club is a truly dedicated one, and shows it by their many different activities. Each week students make presentations at club meetings. They are helping organize a national UNESCO conference to take place in April 2008 at the University of Winnipeg. In the coming months, the group will take part in a “famine” to help raise money for an ongoing project in Bolivia. As well, 20 students will be participating in a sweat lodge at Sagkeeng First Nation to make contacts and understand better some of the issues facing First Nations peoples.
Grade 11 student Kirsten Penner-Goeke remembers Urban Plunge where participants went to different missions in Winnipeg’s North End like Siloam Mission, Winnipeg Harvest, and Union Gospel Mission to learn first-hand some of the problems people in the area face.
“You just don’t see things walking around,” says Kirsten, “and the experience has made these problems all the more real.”
Samantha Mauws and former student Rachel Hagel also appreciate the awareness the club has given them. They each learned directly about global issues when they travelled to Bolivia through the club. Three years ago and with the help of a grant through MCIC’s Community Solidarity Fund, the Winnipeg group helped start an after-school program in the city of Santa Cruz. Each year, the school raises funds to maintain the program and improve it with laptops, books, and other materials. Samantha and Rachel were able to travel to Bolivia with other classmates and help out directly with the program.
“It was a really positive experience,” says Samantha. “Everyone who went learned a lot about themselves, and the world as a whole instead of just Canada.”
“Eighty-five percent of Tanzania is involved in farming,” says Dinah Ceplis. And in many ways, the rural development issues there aren’t that different than in the area where she lives near Minnedosa, Manitoba.
A professional agrologist and long-time volunteer with the Marquis Project, a Brandon-based international development organization, Dinah has been instrumental in building connections between agricultural communities in southwestern Manitoba and Tanzania’s Lake Zone region.
Dinah says the two regions share a reliance on farming economy and related challenges like rural depopulation. And they face common questions, like “how do you establish and sustain businesses in rural areas? How do you maintain that dynamic rural environment?”
Her involvement began through a twinning project in the early 1990s between Assiniboine Community College (ACC), where she is an instructor, and Ukiriguru Agricultural Training College.
“ACC did a lot of farm business courses and computer training for the farming population around Brandon,” says Dinah. The community-based approach to training farmers was adapted to the needs of the Tanzanian farmers. “The question was how do you design program that would assist those farmers, including providing information on processing and production?” she says.
The connections between Manitoba and Tanzania have continued to be fostered by the Marquis Project.
The Marquis Project, with the support of MCIC, has worked in partnership with the Tanzania Society of Agricultural Education and Extension and Brandon’s Sexuality Education Resource Centre to assist remote communities that were losing their youth to HIV/AIDS. Ongoing projects have funded peer education on reducing the spread of the disease and have helped support the struggling rural economy by introducing a marketable food crop high in Vitamin A.
Dinah says the most powerful links between Manitoba and Tanzania are in the form of long-term, direct relationships. Several Tanzanians have come to Brandon to study rural development. As well, Canadian and Tanzanian youth have participated in exchange programs.
“People say it makes the world a smaller place,” she says. And while it may sound simple, there’s a lot of truth in those words, she adds. “When they have actually met someone from there and know what’s happening in Tanzania, they can draw parallels with their own experience.”