Howdy! I am a graduate student at McGill University. My research interests include narratives of marginalized identities, Islamic seminaries in Canada, the meanings embedded within our clothing and Participatory Action Research (PAR, YPAR, CBPAR). I am currently a research assistant (RA) in a few projects that have allowed me to participate in numerous stages of the research process. I work at the Social Equity and Diversity Education (SEDE) office at McGill, where we are currently organizing our inaugural research symposium on equity and diversity research, which we hope will enhance and strengthen interdisciplinary collaboration on equity, diversity and community research at McGill University. On my limited downtime, I am an avid gamer indulging in video games and table top games. I read and write about fashion, especially about our perceptions of what is considered a good outfit and what is not. I also am addicted to the NFL.
The month of June usually means anticipating and watching the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), however this June I will be a graduate student with Transformative Praxis: Malawi participating in conversations about development with local Malawians. A team of us, including Dr. Stonebanks will be working with TPM’s development committee in constructing a charter of values, mission statement and brainstorming sustainable project ideas that will contribute to the community and other TPM projects in education and health. We have an enriching month of collaboration ahead of us.
PS The boy has no name. (GoT reference???)
Hi, my name is Ashwini. I’m going to be honest – I don’t like writing introductions about myself because I’m never sure what to say, and the dry, mundane details about my life are too…well, dry and mundane to share. Since this blog is a (much dreaded, but essential) part of the course, because it forces us to critically reflect on our experiences in Malawi, here is my awesome life, in three short paragraphs.
I study Economics at Simon Fraser University at the undergraduate level. I’m interested in development economics, although I have yet to take a course on the topic at SFU. This is my second time in Malawi; I came last year as well, where I worked with the women’s cooperative on their projects, and local stakeholders on creating a Development Committee.
This year, I’ll be working with Aamir, Dr. Stonebanks and Jenny, our Malawian Field Director, on the Development Committee again, as the attempt to create one last year was frankly too rushed and ill-thought out and the group eventually fell apart as the year progressed after we’d left. I had expected it to, given how it was founded, so I wasn’t too surprised when news came from Malawi that only one or two members of the committee were regularly contributing to the campus, and it was, for all intents and purposes, defunct.
Being in Malawi for the second time will be interesting – it will be far easier to get my bearings and get to work; I’m more aware of what is expected of me and what I can expect from the local community. I’m looking forward to all the work that is to come, and to strengthen my relationships with people I met last year. If there is anything I learned from my last trip, it’s that relationships take a long time to build, especially across distance and cultures, and especially if you’re looking for equal partnership.
My name is Kate Newhouse. I am 22 years old and from Oakville, Ontario. It’s a waspy town on Lake Ontario about 45 minutes west of Toronto depending on traffic. My family is extremely supportive of me and has made it easy for me to do what I want and make choices about experiences I know many people miss out on. Their support and encouragement both financially and emotionally is very valuable to be. My life is very different from life in Chilanga.
I am a very observant person and I love to learn about different cultures. I find it fascinating. I also love children. I like to be around them all the time and hear the things their little bodies think and feel. I have been working in different summer camps since the age of 13 and completed university placements that really promoted my love of learning and growing with my students.
I recently graduated with my B.A and B. Ed from Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, QC. Which means now I am tasked to find a job and become an adult, something I don’t know how to prepare for. Bishop’s introduced me to Dr. Stonebanks, his wife Melanie and Transformative Praxis: Malawi.
I became interested in going to Malawi after hearing Dr. Stonebanks talk about it in one of his lectures. From how he spoke about the culture and the different projects that were being supported, it was obvious this was his passion and is now his legacy. I didn’t know much about the project, but I knew I wanted to be involved. I came to Malawi first in 2015 as an undergraduate student .That year we started an after school program and made the campus come to life. This was the first year that TPM was staying on the permanent campus location. We were in the space and the after school program along with the soccer tournament, health initiatives, workshops and tuck shop made the campus come alive. It was truly amazing to see the progress that was made. I went home and began planning so that I could come back. I couldn’t wait. I really didn’t even unpack. For two year I had a box of Malawi stuff just waiting to be used again.
So after two years I am back. Excited, nervous, and ready. An Oakville girl ready to make a small difference. Working with the teachers this year in three local schools will be a challenge and disheartening at times, but I am excited to see what happens. There is a focus on English as a second language this year, which is new for me, so I will be learning alongside my Malawian colleagues. I have no real expectations, but the conversations we have and beginning to understand how they think and feel about education will hopefully empower them and motivate me to begin my teaching career.
If you’ve stumbled upon this page, thank you for taking the time to read a little bit about me. My name is Lara McTeigue. I just finished my third year at Bishop’s where I graduated from my first of two degrees. Convocation was not even one week before we boarded the plane for Malawi in fact. With a Bachelors of Arts in Education in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), I’ve had the chance in the last two years to begin student teaching in French elementary schools around Sherbrooke. Coming from Laval, a suburban area just outside of Montreal, Bishop’s has truly become the corny infamous home away from home it’s known to be for me. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in several different clubs including the Residence Events Committee and Educational Committee, the Bishop’s University Mentoring and Tutoring Club, the Language Teaching Club as well as the Jewish Students Association. I have mostly adopted a leadership role on the Bishop’s campus for the past couple of years while working in Residence Life. I’ve also volunteered in several different school initiatives including Sexual Assault Bystander Intervention Training and Mental Health and Wellness Week. I have worked with Dr. Sunny Lau as her research assistant and am excited that she is one of the professors who will be piloting this year’s course in Malawi.
Next year I will have my practicum placement in a high school while finishing my next undergraduate degree in Secondary Education. My experience working in the school environments so far have allowed me to begin shaping a professional identity as a teacher. My ultimate goal as a prospective teacher is to help make learning meaningful for my students. Working in a French environment while using the target language as the language of instruction has surely presented its challenges. I initially went into the TESL program with the hope to be able to spend some time teaching abroad. Working overseas would not only have me working with second language learners but may also very possibly have me working with foreign language learners with wide ranging cultural backgrounds. In classes at Bishop’s we’ve been taught theories that should allow us to become more culturally sensitive to diverse students in our ESL classrooms. These lessons stem from the desire to create more inclusive learning spaces. It is an entirely different experience to be working with these complex and unique individual learners in reality however. Transformative Praxis Malawi was an amazing opportunity to put these theories into practice while collaborating with a completely unfamiliar culture in a safe space.
I admired TPM’s goal to develop sustainable operations that would aid the community long after Bishop’s presence, much like I hope for my teaching to have sustainable impacts on my students. An area I really want to focus on exploring while I’m here is to help better understand the local sustainable learning systems called TALULAR (Teaching and Learning Using Locally Available Resources). TALULAR is a program adopted by the Malawi Institute of Education that has had some obstacles in its implementation. My hope is to observe its use or lack thereof, discuss and learn more of the teachers’ opinions of the program and experiment with it in developing and carrying out lessons in the classrooms. I believe that lessons should always be shaped entirely while having the students and their prior perspectives in mind. Perhaps using local resources can help me in learning how to make my lesson plans more relevant and impactful on students in a Quebec or even universal context. I expect to confront several obstacles myself while learning and collaborating in this foreign environment but I welcome these learning curves with arms wide open.
I hope that if you decide to continue reading that you are able to try not to pass judgement but instead understand that my blogs are simply a reflection of my raw learning process while I vulnerably navigate uncharted territory.
Hello, everyone. My name is Lina Xu. I come from China. I started my Master of Education at Bishop’s University this January. Before being in international studies in Canada, I have been working for over 10 years in the field of administration in China. As a matter of fact, I always planned to continue my further education overseas. I failed to do it right after graduation due to the fact that my family found it difficult to support me further financially since there was something wrong with my father’s business at that time. As a result, I began to work in Shanghai instead of going for a Master’s degree. I am easy-going, hilarious and open-minded. I was first introduced to Transformative Praxis: Malawi when our professor, Dr. Stonebanks, who is also the director of this program was giving us lectures on Globalization of Education at the beginning of the last semester. Since he was so passionate when speaking of this program, I was interested on the spot that I would like to join them this year to experience the most impoverished area in the world in person if possible. After a brief introduction on Transformative Praxis: Malawi by Dr. Stonebanks and his team, I decided to come this year.
Before I came to study in Canada, I was indeed quite interested and got myself involved in some social charitable events in China with some Non-Government Organizations. I would love to try my best to help those in need and I care about their feelings. Together with other volunteers, we organized activities to help the children of immigrant workers from the countryside to identify themselves in a positive way as the citizens in the new surroundings in big cities like Shanghai. We experienced bitterness and tasted happiness together, which was quite meaningful. In addition, I have seen some programs from the media about the mysterious Africa: the beautiful scenery, the genuine smiles from the bottom of their hearts despite their struggling against poverty. Meanwhile, I also read some articles on the development work in Africa. I wanted to go and see in person what is really going on in this field. Furthermore, having lived in big cities in China and then studying in the most advanced country in the world, both with a flourishing economy and promising welfare, I forget to cherish what I possessed from time to time and I always took things for granted. I believe the Malawi trip will not only provide me a brand new window to get to know the world, but it is also a platform to know myself better in the global context. Most importantly, we are here to be “a drop in the bucket” for the changes that are going on and for more changes to be come in the future. Hopefully we can bring something positive to the local community by our development work. Moreover, there is a course that we are going to take with the local teachers: Pedagogy of English as Second Language Learning. We hope to bring some new concepts to the local English language teaching using their local resources.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude towards Dr. Stonebanks, Prof. Melanie Stonebanks and our fabulous team members for 2017 Malawi. I am looking forward to this coming adventure. Together Each Achieve More!
In case you forgot, or are new to reading the blogs, my name is Mark and this is my second time in Malawi on the Transformative Praxis: Malawi (TPM) campus. I’m a secondary education student at Bishop’s University, and I’m going into my final step B. Ed program this upcoming fall. Over my years studying at Bishop’s I’ve become passionate about the field of education, and I could not pass up this opportunity to return to Malawi and take part in a collaborative knowledge transfer project over the course of several weeks in a professional development setting, among fellow teachers from the local schools near the campus here. Among other reasons, which I will get into in subsequent blogs, is this passion for education and learning, as well as the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from the same profession whose circumstances and access to resources are drastically different from mine in Canada.
For now, I’ll tell you a little more about myself. Outside my studies, I have a passion for sports, I’ll try any physical activity, but my favorite still remains soccer. When I first arrived at Bishop’s I was studying history, and later switched into Secondary Education and Social Studies. I only recently realized it, but most of my jobs as a youth have been in a teaching role to some capacity, whether it be coaching or ski instructing, this always felt like the natural role and path for me to pursue.
Well, enough about me, I look forward to delving deeper into my reasons for coming here again and having you follow my journey from start to finish in the blogs to come.
Hello everyone, my name is Ning Ma, coming from Nanjing in China. Now I am studying in Bishop’s University as a master student in the Education Department. Just to be clear, I am not a student teacher originally. But when I started to get touch with the education area, I felt totally falling in love. This is a very meaningful area that can really change people a lot from their lives, values, even social status. This is also the reason why I have chosen to come to Africa. This is my first time to come to an underdeveloped country and I am curious about their real daily life and educational situation. I am thinking if I can have a chance to help them even a little or give them some encouragement at least. This is such a fantastic program for me to grow and to learn a lot about the local culture. Thanks for Dr. Christopher Stonebanks, Professor Melanie Bennett-Stonebanks and Dr. Sunny Lau to give us this opportunity to see and to feel the real Africa.
I did some research when I was in Canada. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. People here even cannot have their daily life to be guaranteed. So, I was wondering if they can have equal chances as the students from other countries to get suitable education. In the next three weeks, I will observe and learn from the local teachers to see how they use their local resources to develop their education. I hope after these days I can have new thinking and know more about the underdeveloped country.
My name is Yue Yao. I am doing my Masters of Education degree at Bishop’s University, and this is my second year. I come from China. My hometown is called Harbin, which is very close to Russia. It is famous for its ice and snow. When it is winter, you can see colorful ice lanterns anywhere, just like in a fairy tale world. I love my hometown so much! My parents are both engineers. They are open-minded and created a very comfortable environment for me growing up. I am very lucky to have parents who always support my decision economically and spiritually. I like music and I am a Jazz buff. Swimming is my favorite sport, and I really like the feeling of floating in the water. I am a curious person and am very interested in learning new things. I think that is why I love traveling so much. I have almost traveled the whole of China and to many other countries. I met different people and different cultures while traveling, which made me very delighted and excited.
When hearing about this program directed by Dr. Stonebanks, I immediately showed huge interest. Because I finally would have the chance to go to Africa, not as a tourist but as a student! I was always curious about Africa because it was so mysterious in the books. I heard about many customs that are different and interesting that made me very curious. So going to Africa was always a dream for me. After hearing Dr. Stonebanks’ talk about Malawi, I really wanted to know how people there led their lives in a harsh situation. I was also curious about how their education was being implemented with limited resources. In this program, I will have the opportunity to go into three local schools to see what they think of education, how Malawian teachers interact with their students, and how they use limited resources to teach. I have a lot of questions and look forward to talking with the local teachers. It is a very precious chance for me to know the different culture but not as a tourist. I also really want to make a contribution to Malawi even if it might be small, and I think discussing with them ways to improve their quality of education would be one of the most effective ways to help the development. Because only they have enough knowledge to solve their own problems I do believe that some of the problems could really be solved while collaborating with them in this way.
Hi, my name is Yuyin Ning, an international student from China. I just finished my first year of studies in the Master of Education program at Bishop’s University. I am very glad that I can join the family-like group of Transformative Praxis: Malawi. Professors are extremely considerable and caring about us like parents; the rest of group members are very friendly and care about each other as well.
After my first year of study in Canada, it’s hard to not notice the big differences between Canada and China’s education systems. Both education systems have advantages and disadvantages. The differences caused by politics, economies, education policies and teachers’ responsibilities impact students in vary different ways. We have a saying in Chinese : “hai zi shi guo jia de dongliang” which means “children are the foundation of a country”. Therefore, the education system can influence a country’s development profoundly.
When I found out about Transformative Praxis: Malawi, I started to be curious about the place where this project was located in Africa. I wanted to know many things like how do they develop education when the food supplement is still a primary problem? What do they learn? How do they learn especially when the educational resources are very limited? How do they develop the study of English as a second language while being a colonial country? As all of these questions came out, I decided to find the answers myself. So, here I am.
My name is Amber Fortin and this will be my second time in Malawi doing fieldwork with Transformative Praxis: Malawi. I was there last summer working with the Community Women’s Group on a cooperative model chicken coop with hopes of producing both eggs and chickens to sell in order to create a sustainable income. I have recently graduated from Mount Allison University with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in International Relation and Sociology with a minor in Political Science. I am very excited to be returning and to use the knowledge from my degree and past research to put into action here in Malawi. This year my project will be to work with the Women’s Group again on the management of the Tuck Shop, Chicken Coop, Community Center, Experimental Garden and the Compost Pit from last year’s projects. Ashwini, who is a new students joining the team this year, and I will be assisting the women on the management and development of these projects as well as the implementation of a Development Committee.
My name is Ashwini Manohar and I’m 24 years old. I’m currently a third year Economics student at Simon Fraser University, to which I’ve just recently transferred from Mount Allison University, where I discovered my love for economics. I stumbled into it quite accidentally, because all my life I’ve wanted to be involved in film and theatre. That’s sort of on the backburner now.
I was born in Singapore, where almost all of my extended family still live, and came to Canada with my parents, siblings and paternal grandmother in 2005 at age 13. To qualify it as a shock to the system would be an understatement, and my very first impression of Vancouver, I regret to say, was one of disappointment. I’d never been outside of Asia before and I missed the heat and the lush greenery that lined Singapore’s barricaded concrete streets. In fact, I think the relative openness of Vancouver’s roads (and Western culture, as I found out eventually in school) was what sent me reeling. I remember still that I spent that whole summer huddled in a sweater, (because 20-something degrees is actually cold to somebody used to 30-something degree weather!) angry with my parents for “destroying” my secure and comfortable life in my beloved Singapore.
These past 11 years have been a period of gradual but substantial change, more mental than physical. Vancouver has become home, in the true sense of the word, a place where I find serenity and peace. Today, I inhabit some hyphenated identity that I can’t fully comprehend myself.
This will be my first time in Malawi, and perhaps because I realize what I’m in for with the culture shock, or perhaps because I don’t truly know what I’m in for, in addition to excitement, curiosity and unbridled optimism (which I expect to be crushed a little), there is also an underbelly of nervousness and anxiety as the weeks turn into days, and then into hours before my departure date. I’m told this is going to be a life-changing experience. I find myself pacing my house, up and down the stairs, heart thumping, unable to calm my scatterbrained thoughts. The only reprieve comes in the form of my family’s six-month-old golden doodle, Romeo, whose presence I’ll greatly miss while in Malawi.
I’m currently reading North of South by Shiva Naipaul, recommended by Dr. Stonebanks, since the political and historical connotations of my Indian-descended brown body in Africa is something I need to understand and grapple with prior to, during and after my trip. Ensuring that I’m not part of or perpetuating harmful ideologies while in Malawi is important to me as well as to the project itself.
I’m looking forward to learning and growing in the next few weeks and to share my thoughts here. Thanks for reading!
My name is Cassia Tremblay (or Cass or whatever you like!). My hometown is Calgary, Alberta but I have just finished up my third year of a Biology undergrad at St.FX University in Nova Scotia. The small town of Antigonish has become a second home to me and has provided me with so many opportunities (like introducing me to TPM!). I’m thrilled to be joining the TPM team for the first year this summer! I’m hoping to be able to apply some of what I have learned in my courses to contribute to a health related project on the ground in Malawi. This will involve working with community and other TPM members to plan and then construct composting pit toilets. I hope that the introduction of composting toilets to the community, paired with education, will encourage discussion about improving sanitation and can even benefit agriculture. It sounds like the toilets will greatly benefit the community if built near the Community Centre, Radio Station, and the soccer pitch. I hope these locations allow me to work with the sports projects being lead by other TPM members as well as explore mental health radio programming that is in place in other locations in Malawi. I am really looking forward to learning about and contributing to collaborative work and research throughout the duration of this trip. Can’t wait to get started!
My name is Kassandra Norrie and I am a M.A. graduate student in the School of Education at Bishop’s University. This is my third time travelling to Malawi with TPM. I first joined Transformative Praxis: Malawi during my final year as an undergrad at Bishop’s University, and it was because of this experience that I decided to continue on to graduate studies. The grassroots project is completely funded by student fundraising and a few generous donations from supporters, like Switzerland’s Jahan Foundation. After graduating with my B.Ed, I taught in Halifax for three years and began my M.A. at Acadia University. I returned to Malawi last year as a student in the graduate course, and wrote a paper as my final assignment on perceptions of learned helplessness in rural Malawi based on my own observations and dialogue with leaders in the community. Following this experience I made the decision to transfer back to Bishop’s to work under Dr. Stonebanks’ excellent supervision and become more involved with TPM.
What differentiates our work from other charity-based programs is that we are steeped in a research approach, with professors, undergraduates and graduate students working collaboratively with community. We don’t just help to build schools; the work we do is collaborative and fused with dialogue. An example would be the hybrid curriculum currently being designed, piloted in an after school program, and soon enacted in the charter school. We are now actively fundraising for the construction of a grade one, two and three classroom block. In my experience, it is the small projects that are driven by heart that create the most lasting changes in development work, and I encourage you continue following the work of all TPM members!
Hello, I’m Kirsten Dobler! If you were taking a look at our previous blogs you will have seen me before! This is my second time to Malawi. I travelled to Malawi last year with a focus on education and the after school program. I will be working on these projects again, as well as with the Teacher Professional Development. I am very happy to be returning to our TPM Campus. I am looking forward to continuing what our group developed last year and to see the smiley faces of the kids from the surrounding villages. This year, I will be bringing an accumulation of my first experience in Malawi, my first back-to-the-west culture shock, and the completion of one university degree. While I have had an experience in Malawi before, I can only assume that this one will be entirely different. I’m preparing myself to ensure that my projects will have continuity. I am also doing my best to prepare myself to offer support to my peers that have never been to Malawi before.
Although this will be my second time in Malawi I believe that it will be a completely new experience. You’ll be hearing from me lots!
Hi! My name is Laura Donoghue and I am 23 years old. I am studying Kindergarten and Elementary Education at McGill University. I grew up just outside of Montreal in a little tourist town, St Sauveur. Growing up I got to ski all winter, play soccer all summer and horse ride year round. Over all I grew up in a very safe and sheltered area.
I moved into an apartment in Montreal in 2010 to attend Dawson College. I studied North-South studies and had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua. I learned so much on this trip. We lived with host families in the rural towns and got some insight into their way of life. What stuck with me the most was the children, and how much I loved spending time with them. Their eagerness to learn and go to school was eye opening to me. We had a conference with one of the local school principals and there I found out that many of the children with special needs in the area were left behind due to the lack of resources available to them. This stuck with me as I had always taken for granted the extra help I got in school and had not realized how fortunate I truly was.
After Nicaragua I took a year off to explore my interests. I ended up working for an activities camp in England where I taught a variety of activities, such as archery, climbing, and team building. I then worked for the same company on the Mediterranean coast of Spain for the following two summers. I loved living in a new country and experiencing the culture, language and way of life.
Last summer I decide to yet again work abroad for the summer, except this time I worked with teenagers on a teen tour in Italy. This was a very different experience and reminded me of how much I loved working with the local Nicaraguans and learning from their knowledge and life style.
After hearing about Transformative Praxis: Malawi, I was determined to find out more and get involved. I am inspired by the collaborative nature of the trip and cannot wait to learn from the locals. As one of the focuses for Transformative Praxis: Malawi is education, I decided it was a phenomenal opportunity for me. There are many unknown aspects of this trip, and I am sure I will be challenged in ways I have not even imagined. Though there are many nerves that come along with participating in this trip, my excitement to learn from my peers and the locals is overwhelming.
My name is Marcello Glo. I was born and raised in Nicaragua until the age of 13 when I moved to Miami to finish the remaining years of Middle School and High School. After graduation I wanted to change a bit from the environment in Miami (very materialistic) to something a little saner, so I decided to come up North for a change of pace. Honestly, I can say that it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Bishop’s has offered not only a multicultural experience but also exposed me to environmental studies, which is what I will be majoring in. I learnt about Transformative Praxis: Malawi through my professor, Dr. Darren Bardati, who will be joining us this summer as well. I will be working with Dr. Bardati doing research on landscape and environmental conditions to build a framework to develop sustainable ways of agriculture. The idea of empowering communities so that they can maybe one day become self-reliant instead of depending on international aid seemed to be an amazing idea considering my own country experiences many of the similar problems as Malawians. Additionally, the idea of being able to apply the knowledge I’ve learned so far in my studies seemed like an amazing opportunity I couldn’t say no to. I am super excited to spend these 5 weeks with you guys and get to gain some perspective on what the real situation is and what part we can play in hopefully making the world a better place (one can dream right?). I know it sounds a little corny and maybe even naïve, but hopefully it does make a change and maybe I will learn a couple of things I can even apply in my own country in the future. Anyways, I’m really excited and I hope we can get to know each other a little more.
Hello! Dzina langa ndili Mark Freedman (My name is Mark Freedman). I am from Montreal, Québec, Canada. I am currently an undergrad student at Bishop’s University, well into my degree of secondary education and social studies. I have always been the type to stand in the ‘teacher’ role throughout my various jobs growing up while at the same time, I believe there is no cap on learning or what you can achieve in a lifetime, it’s limitless. I have a huge respect for my fellow human beings and the environment we inhabit, and with that I enjoy learning about and appreciating other cultures and ways of life around me.
While in Malawi, there is so much I could hope to accomplish alongside my colleagues, collaborators, and co-learners. My goals are to take monumental steps in empowering women through sport as a step toward the greater goal of alleviating human suffering through dialogic and collaborative education. Trying to remain as realistic as possible, my goals are simple, and anything above and beyond is icing on the cake, so to speak. Also, building around the idea of sustainability, I’m interested to find out what the local people think about collecting rainwater for garden use, and potentially collaborating on some sort of rain harvesting system.
One of my greatest hopes is that I will learn just as much from the people as they can learn from me; whether it’s about culture, customs, or education, there will be exchanges. Having a passion for education, I look forward to learning about and collaborating on curriculum with my co-learners as well.
So long for now!
Hi! My name is Mélissa Chapdelaine Poirier and I’m heading into my second year in a French Major. My home town is Les Cèdres, in Québec. Going to Bishop’s University is a real opportunity for me, as it has provided me with services to improve my academic records, to find a job and to get experience in volunteering. When I heard about Transformative Praxis: Malawi, I was excited about this new opportunity to possibly make a small change in the world. As it was one of my resolutions this year, I decided to pursue this opportunity. Although I have experience volunteering in the past, going to Malawi is the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had. But hey, it’s a good idea to learn a new culture and a new environment in the world. I actually love to learn about new cultures and new languages. In life, my passions are in arts: music, painting, writing, photography and drawing. Also, I like languages; I’m actually studying French, English and Spanish, as I like travelling. I have travelled to Ontario, Quebec and United States. My goal during my time in Malawi is to make a small change with English as a second language. As a person who grew up with a second language, I know how difficult it is to remember the grammar rules and vocabulary after the lessons. I am excited and enjoying the moments before the real challenge starts!
Hi all, I’m Sunny Man Chu Lau, associate professor in the School of Education at Bishop’s University. Second language education is my research area and my teaching profile. In particular, I’m interested in critical pedagogy that promotes critical literacy learning and dynamic plurilingualism and multiliteracies that resist the monolingual bias. I was born and raised in Hong Kong when it was still a British colony at the time. Having experienced the colonial education, I felt deeply for the need to design curricula and adopt pedagogies that reflect, embrace and mobilize the local cultural and linguistic resources for learning that is meaningful and purposeful for the local. What attracts me to the TPM project is the heightened awareness of the importance to work WITH the local people, respecting their own defined needs as well as the strengths and resources they have. I look forward to the opportunity to exchange with the local teachers about language and literacy teaching practices in the two different contexts.
We just had the first online seminar on Sunday and I was surprisingly happy to find that most TPM participants seemed to know each other very well already and I did feel like being welcomed into a close family full of cheeky fun and laughter. Look forward to getting to know you all as well as the project more!
To those who will read this, My name is Tim O’Connell and I am a 28-year-old resident of Montreal, born and raised in the West Island. I am a recent graduate from McGill University’s Elementary Education program. Before entering McGill, I graduated from Concordia’s JMSB program and worked in sales, before realizing that business was not my forte.
Ever since hearing about Transformative Praxis: Malawi in my ELA class taught by Professor Bennett some two years ago, I was hooked. I have always wanted to do something along the lines of traveling to an underdeveloped country and work with the locals; however, no other organization or trip option really grabbed my attention like Transformative Praxis: Malawi. I wasn’t interested in traveling to an exotic country, help build a house in a few weeks, snap some pictures with the local kids and party for the rest of the trip. I wanted something meaningful that was more than just a quick stay somewhere foreign. TPM offered all that I was looking for; an opportunity to travel to a beautiful country and work and learn alongside the locals in a collaborative environment. Additionally, to have the possibility to implement change and continuously work towards that change far beyond the trip’s duration. I look forward to bonding with the people of Malawi, the dedicated professors and fellow peers that will be participating in this amazing adventure.
While in Malawi, I would like to implement a rugby program that will aim to teach the students the basic skills required to play the game. The focus will be around physical activity, teamwork, and fun. Rugby is an amazing sport that can be enjoyed by anyone at any age or ability and I hope to pass on my passion of the game to the locals of Malawi.
My name is Kirsten Dobler and I am a third year Elementary Education Major with a Minor in Music from Bishop’s University. I’ve become very involved with the School of Education at Bishop’s and I hope that this project will help me to link my learnings to real life. The value of education is something that is very important to me and I hope that by sharing and learning together we can make the world even just a little bit better.
I come from a small town called Powell River, just about as far West Coast as you can get. I ventured east for the first time in 2011 with a volunteer program called Katimavik and soon after I made my way to Bishop’s and I have called it my home ever since. I’ve recently began au pairing in Italy during my time away from school and I have had the pleasure of traveling around Europe on my weekends off. I hope to continue my worldly adventures and making a postitive impact as I do so.
As I mention before I greatly value education, especially in places that have different ideas and ways that we do. I also understand the importance of respecting the people and land that we will be sharing in Malawi. I hope that we can make meaningful connections with the people of Malawi. I am very excited to meet the challenges that we have ahead.
My name is Natchasiri but everybody calls me Froy or full out Froy Choi! I was raised in a beautiful island au tropicale Phuket, Thailand. I lived there my whole life, so coming to Canada is a very exciting step for me! I have been here for my second year at Bishop’s University studying Fine Arts and I am having the best time of my life! I grew up in a British school with amazing multicultural background friends, so my favorite thing to do is adapt and learn new things! My interest circles around from photography, painting, writing, cinematography, science, astronomy, to cooking! I joined Praxis Malawi so I can experience a whole new culture that I know very little about and along the way make a difference for the new soon to be friends. I know that my contribution will count in the long run.
My father, who works as a plastic surgeon, always stresses to me that I am the citizen of the world, and compassion and selflessness is what we do best as humans. I am blessed with the lifestyle I have, enough to eat, enough to use. Therefore giving back and sharing is the wisest thing someone could do, whether it’s knowledge or dreams. When I look back and compare Canada to Thailand, or perhaps any countries I visit, I see one obvious similarity that there will always be people that are enthusiastic enough to lend a hand. My purpose for this trip is not to only find myself, but mainly to bring life into the community as much I can, and I can’t wait to discover everything and to share! I also can’t wait to meet my team!! See you soon.
My name is Alexandra (Alex) Bernier and I am a second year Mathematics and a first year Education student at Bishop’s University. I was born and raised in the beautiful green state of Vermont in a French-speaking home. I chose Bishop’s for its small size, because it’s not too far from home and I have dual-citizenship. I enjoy playing volleyball, road biking, and playing the ukulele (even though I have not come close to mastering it yet). This summer, after the Praxis Malawi project, I will be returning to summer camp for the fifth year as a counselor. Camp has been a big part of my growth along with being a personal care aid to a young girl with disabilities during my last year of high school. I am enthusiastic, open-minded, and my friends tell me it is easy to approach me when they need to talk about things. I believe good communication is key for a healthy relationship and a healthy life style. Through my own struggles in life, I have found that inner-peace is really important to find clarity and to be happy. Ways I have found help me are by surrounding myself with people that challenge me and are respectful, being active, doing yoga, listening to music, reflecting, and meditating.
My Name is Kate Newhouse. I am a third year Elementary Education Major and Psychology Minor at Bishop’s University. I am from Oakville, Ontario, which is about 8 hours away from Bishop’s. I love to be involved here at Bishop’s and so from first year on I have joined many different clubs and I am now a Dance Club Coordinator, Competitive Dance Team Choreographer and Dancer, Fashion Show Choreographer and Dancer, A part of Big Buddies and a Stage Manager for plays in New Plays and TheatreActiv festivals, I am part of the BU Blog Project as well. I am organized and up for the challenges that this opportunity will surely present.
Howdy, My name is Marten. I was born in Ontario, but I’ve never lived there. I was raised on a trapline on the Alaska Hwy, near Whitehorse, Yukon. I’m not scared of bears, but I don’t know if I’ll ever feel comfortable driving on a freeway. A pivotal point on my timeline was at age 5, when I was introduced to soccer. The next landmark was at age 9, when my siblings were born. Since then, my story has been a combination of the great outdoors, soccer, and trying my darndest to be a real role model for each person I meet, particularly the young ones. These days I’m a player/coach/team manager for the Bishop’s Men’s Soccer Club. Bishop’s is treating me well, but it is by no means a final destination for me. I’m really motivated to indulge in this project in Malawi. I know it’s going to be transformative. Hopefully we can contribute to something more long term as well.
My name is Victoria (Vicki) Miller and I am in my 3rd year at Bishop’s studying Elementary Education and minoring in French. I am originally from Holliston Massachusetts, which is about 45 minutes outside of Boston, so as expected I am a die-hard Bruins, Red Sox and Patriots fan. I spent my junior year of high school studying abroad and living with a family in the Alps of France and was able to travel a bit around Western Europe. It was amazing being immersed and learning so much about another culture and life-style. I speak fluent French and it is a huge part of the reason why I am here at Bishop’s and in the province of Quebec. In my free time I like to read, skate, listen to music and practice karate. I love working with kids and meeting new people. In fact, I am going back to a camp in Central Maine for my third summer after our Malawi trip. I am so excited to meet everyone and go on this amazing adventure together!
Hello everyone, my name is Jessica Fobert and I am a second year Education student at Bishop’s University. I spent two years studying in my hometown at St. Lawrence College in Cornwall, Ontario. I loved the feeling and opportunities that small schools provide, so I chose to come to Bishop’s University. I have a major in Social Studies (history and geography) with a minor in Psychology. If I could choose, I would continue to add more disciplines because I have a passion for learning. That is one reason why I want to teach is because my students will continuously be providing me with new knowledge and secondly, I am passionate about helping others out. My mother comes from El Salvador, a third world country, and she never got the opportunity to get an education. I want to provide learning experiences for those who do not get that chance. As a future educator, I plan to travel and teach, so that I can learn more about other cultures and how other groups of people live. I plan to share my experiences with my future students so that they can learn about and respect the diverse world we live in.
I am very proud to say that I have the privilege of returning to Malawi for a second year. My name is Ryan Moyer and I am attending Concordia University in Montreal to continue my studies in sociology at the graduate level. As last year’s trip was extremely motivating and transformative, I am very excited to return to Malawi and I am looking forward to building on past relationships in order to get things done.
It is really exciting to be returning the year that the new campus is going up, as it seems metaphoric of opportunities for new meaningful change to arise. I am enthusiastically beginning to work in the field with the concept of adult education/life-long learning. University was the most transformational experience of my life thus far, and I would really be honored if I could add any input towards making adult education accessible in Kasungu.
I am looking forward to another journey.
Amber Fortin was born and raised in Alberta and now lives in British Columbia with her family. She has a loving and supportive family who she would be lost without. At 21 years old she has a passion for social justice and art. She is a 4th year student at Mount Allison University finishing a Bachelor of Arts degree double majoring in International Relations and Sociology. She created Break Free this past August in order to raise awareness on the issues of emotional abuse and domestic violence. Amber currently does public speaking events on emotional abuse for her campaign as well as for mental health. She plans to have a career in Development Policy or Foreign Policy after she graduates.
My name is Kassandra Norrie. I am a Townshipper and I graduated Bishop’s University in 2012 with a B.A. Elementary Education, B.Ed, and B.A. Major in Sociology Minor in Criminology. After graduation I moved to Halifax where I worked teaching Junior Primary and began my Masters at Acadia University.My primary objectives for this independent study is to first produce a literature review on Learned Helplessness, postcolonial views on theories of cycle of poverty and current research on the looking glass self in formal schooling. Second, I want to connect the readings to the practical work I will be doing in Malawi, during the 2015 TPM program. This year’s project will focus on developing and implementing curriculum through an afterschool program. Through journal writing, I will be reflecting on the manners in which Malawian students and (our Canadian) pre-service teachers respond to a curriculum meant to promote agency through critical thinking, creativity and social entrepreneurship. Third, when I return to Canada I will connect the practice and theory through a final research paper.
My name is Kimberly Gregory and I am 23 years old. I am currently doing my Bachelor in Kindergarten and Elementary Education at McGill University. I was born and raised on the south shore of Montreal, in a small town called St-Lambert. I am someone who is very athletic, which is in large part due to my 13 years of experience as a high level gymnast. Gymnastics has taught me that with discipline and hard work you can accomplish almost anything. This is a quality that I believe is essential when taking part in an experiential learning opportunity, especially in a developing country like Malawi, where facing unfamiliar obstacles is a daily normality.
In 2008, I had the opportunity to travel to South Africa, as well as Zimbabwe. It was the most memorable voyage of my life. The natural beauty and wildlife that surrounds this part of the world is astounding. Nonetheless, what really left an imprint on my psyche was the extreme poverty that entrenches some of the areas I visited. Although I was aware that extreme poverty like this existed, I never realized the scale of the problem before seeing it first hand. As a result of this, I was determined to join the Praxis Malawi endeavor in 2014, in order to attempt to alleviate human suffering in the Kasungu region of Malawi.
I am returning to Malawi this year as it was the most enriching experience of my life. I learned a lot academically, but I also learned a tremendous amount about myself. The issues that you confront while you are there truly allow you to grow as an individual. It also permits you to see life in general, from a new and clearer perspective. Malawi is known as the “warm heart of Africa” and I think that there is no better way to describe it as the people are hospitable, kind. and find joy in their lives despite the horrifying conditions that they live in. I am very excited to see the campus come alive this year as the members of Praxis Malawi, as well as the local community have been working extremely hard to develop ways to support sustainable independence of local cultures. I hope that my experience from the previous year will allow me to use my time more wisely, in order to accomplish short-term goals, which will yield long-term benefits.
People who know me best would say that I am a creative, sensitive and levelheaded individual that is always looking for ways to make life and learning more fun. I am a self-appointed, full-time advocate for enthusiastic participation in whatever life throws my way. But when life throws me a day of downhill skiing, followed by a night of board games and watching movies, I couldn’t be happier. I believe that attitude is everything and with this outlook, life becomes less about learning how to weather the storm and more about learning how to dance in the rain. I am eager to start this adventure and as always ready to learn, listen and gain new perspectives. Oh and laugh. Because life is better when you are laughing.
I’m Karen – one of the few Irish students from Trinity College travelling to Malawi this year! I’m a third year Children’s and General Nursing student and I’m enjoying every aspect of college life! I’m from the medieval city of Kilkenny and I try to get home occasionally to visit; but the buzz of Dublin city is addictive and that’s usually where you’ll find me.
Nursing is a wonderful vocation and it’s such a privilege to care for people when they are at their most vulnerable. I love nursing, but even more than that I love people and their uniqueness, flaws and stories. The conversations patients allow me to engage in is definitely the highlight of my training. Putting others before myself and making them feel loved/appreciated is something I strive to do, on my days off just as much as the time I spend in the hospital. I know I will struggle to withhold myself from directly helping the community in Malawi. I must keep reminding myself of the mission of our trip; rather than providing help through utilising OUR skills, we can help people more through empowerment and pushing them to see their own ability. A supportive collaboration which leads to an independence is possibly the best definition of “selflessness.”
I know this Summer is going to be incredible! The Summer is usually my busiest time of the year as I fill it up by volunteering at kids camps. I’m a leader at different activity camps for children and teenagers that are connected with my church, and I volunteer at respite camps for disabled teenagers. Many similar events run weekly in my church and helping out with all that goes on is something I love to do and I happily allow to take up a good chunk of my free time! Working in Africa is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time; I’ll soon have an actual adult university degree and will be forced to find a job, so this big adventure is a now or never kinda thing. I’m excited to explore and learn more about the world and myself, I hope to get stuck into every aspect of the culture, make plenty of memories and hopefully take a few quality Instagrams.
Hi I’m Katie Schouten, I’m a second year intellectually disability nurse in Trinity and I’m 20. I would describe myself as a fun person and aim to look on the bright side of things. I’m enthusiastic and can see the positive in nearly everything. I am good at listening and have a great caring ability as part of my nursing training. I have no previous experience in volunteering but I’m out-going and am looking forward to having a brand new experience in Malawi.
About the Blog
Since 2013, students participating in Transformative Praxis: Malawi have been writing blog posts reflecting on their experiences of participating in action research in Malawi. The original blog with the full archive can be found here