Transforming lives and communities through learning.

March 8, 2013
by victoriahong

Out of many, one people

I love the culture here because it is so colourful and the history of the resilient Jamaican people is so rich.  Jamaica’s motto is quite fitting because our team is incredibly diverse with backgrounds representing the Philippines, Colombia, Afghanistan, Trinidad, and, of course, right here in JA.  The many issues being discussed prove that we, as women, are all similar even though we come from different cultures because everyone has struggles and we’ve all felt hurt or pain before.  It’s unbelievable to witness the artists that have been coming to perform for the girls like Steppa, Latty J, and Randy McLaren.  It adds emphasis to the messages of the topics on healthy relationships, leadership, self-efficacy and goal setting.  Also, it shows Jamaica’s character because the awareness of the injustice of many things is very evident in both the high school and University of West Indies students but they do not complain about it, rather, they use humour and art as forms of expression to overcome because they are survivors and warriors.  We’ve been given a very brief overview of Jamaican history and I’ve learned that Nanny and the Maroons were strategic and strong soldiers who fought for themselves even though the British and Spanish oppressed them.   The Jamaican people are a mix of Taino, African, and Spanish which is how their language of Patois came about.  It’s a surprise to me because I always thought it was broken English and French Creole.  I am still learning and like we’ve been telling the girls, no one is perfect and it may be a cliche saying but you can only grow by making mistakes.

On a more personal note, I think I’ve come full circle because I have to admit I arrived (actually, left home) with some baggage and I was able to unload a bit of it during a reflection moment with the Centennial team and now I feel I can focus on the task at hand which is making sure these young ladies get the best of me as a coach and mentor.  I am so excited to keep in touch with Jodi who described to me how they will teach the grade 1 children and it was exactly what we, facilitators, have been taught the structure of this Girl Bawse program should be and this was just from attending, listening, and participating.  I hope so much that Shantelle’s dream of becoming a police officer like her mom will come to fruition one day.  Their interests in family, fashion, food, and sports may be the same as any girl in the world but it is imperative that they put into practice what they’ve learned this past week to reach their goals.  This is the reason why I chose this GCELE as my first choice and I will do everything I can to help these deserving and beautiful girls.  That is my purpose.

March 7, 2013
by Sarah Lilah Sarwary

You’re More Than A Survivor, You’re A Warrior

The location is Kingston, Jamaica. The time is 12:35 a.m. & the mood/feelings enticed by the events of today include enlightenment, joy and peace. Today was my very first day of the Girl Bawse Empowerment Program and it was POWERFUL. Many of the workshop activities hit me on  a very personal level, as it did my co facilitators. As women, we have endured many forms of abuse from sexual, emotional and physical. I for one have faced all three of those forms of degradation & have been able to rise above it. However, today brought all those memories and feelings back to me, and to be able to share it with these girls on an intimate level felt empowering. Myself along with 2 other girls (Amanda, & Rallecia) facilitated and planned the 3 hour workshop (of course with the help of some amazing ladies).  We were nervous as it was only the second day of the workshop, but we all had a sense of confidence and optimism which led to a successful outcome. Chet Sing, faculty advisor and professor of General Education at Centennial said that “the day was very emotional and powerful, a little too powerful for him“ he said smiling. If you’ve ever had the privilege of meeting Chet, than you’ll know that he always has a mouthful of knowledge and wisdom to pass on. To have him somewhat speechless and have him become emotional was an immense compliment for us. The day consisted of group activities, after a very powerful skit on sexual, physical and emotional abuse, and ways to identify these unhealthy patterns. They then went on to do some skits and poems of their own. One poem included the following:

Love me and I’ll love you.

Trust me and I’ll trust you.

Keep telling me and I won’t lie to you,

Work with me and I’ll be loyal to you.

A second poem included:

When the stepfade a touch yuh,

Tell somebody til dem believe yug,

Fight fi yuh body, fight fi yuh life

Yuh body is yuh temple

You’re invincible and you’re visible.

Love and respect yuhself.

So girls you need to know that you have self-worth

Nuh get caught up ina peer pressure.

Empowerment is di answer.

We ended the session with a speaker called Lati J. who spoke about some of the tribulations and trials of her life, and how she has overcome them. Her topics were directly related to the activities that the girls had participated in prior to her speech. We, as faciliators felt a sense of pride, relief and happiness in knowing how well the day went, and how related they were to the girls’ culture/daily lives. I’d like to thank Amanda and Rallicia for co facilitating with me and supporting each other through out. Amanda continues to inspire me with her strength, heart, and unwaivering belief to make a difference in these girls’ lives. Rallicia, your intelligence and ideas leave me at awe. You had an exam today and still had the biggest smile on your face. Thank you to the all the girls from UWI and Centennial. Finally, the best moment of the day was when Tashi, one of the student’s gave me the biggest hug. I can’t wait for tomorrow!

March 6, 2013
by amandahooper

as I sit here…..

As I sit here at the University of West Indies, in Mona, Kingston Jamaica, for our third session with these vibrant young ladies, my heart melts with joy.

Our lunch today was very emotional and I think some of us here have evolved forever.

Monday was very interesting. As we set up the seminar room you could tell each one of us was nervous and excited. Our ideas were flowing like  a river of love. The young ladies piled in quickly and with enthusiasm. I introduced myself as I would in any setting and thanked the girls for coming. My palms were sweating and I let them know how nervous I was to meet them all. They laughed and smiled and asked me about my tattoos. I knew instantly that we would all be great friends forever.

The session started off with some introduction games and a discussion. Mondays topic was Self Concept and Beauty, and we quickly learned these young ladies were very very intellectual and knew exactly what the world was trying to show them in terms of media portrayal of women. We asked each girls to state their name and why they were proud to be a girl. Every answer made my smile and many warmed my heart….some…well….hahaha they were down right hilarious! Our guest speaker was Steppa, and he delivered a very powerful message on the issues of sex and music. What a breathtaking experience his voice is beyond powerful. We did an activity where we all stood in a circle with our backs facing each other and a sticky note was placed on each back. We were all given pens. And we were to write positive words about the person in front of us on their back on the sticky note. Then we turned around and did it to the other person behind us. The comments were heart warming and some girls were very shocked to hear their compliments. It was amazing and moving.

I also started my own sticky note activity daily and it includes us sticking two sticky notes on the edge of each desk, and we also put a spare table aside with a happy face on one side and a not so happy face on the opposite side. I told each girl at the end of Mondays session to write something positive on the notes or something negative, which ever they liked. I told the girls it was a free of judgment section and to let their selves be candid as possible. They were so amazing and the positive FAR out weighed the negative comments by about 90%. I just heart these ladies (happy face).

Tuesday was my time to shine. My group members were Sarah and Rallicia. We had the topic of Culture, Family + Healthy Relationships. It was a very emotional session for all of the facilitators. We started our session with a skit on Sexual, Physical, and Emotional abuse. It was a tough topic but the girls responded well. We showed a short film and it was very powerful. The girls were glued to the screen. We had some fun activities for the girls like giving them only 5 minutes to create a poem or skit. We broke the girls up into 5 groups of 5 and the creativity that came out of them was breathtaking. Afterwards we mixed up the groups and gave them various situations to act out into their out skits. Again, it was magnificent. Beyond hilarious and touching. These young ladies are so smart and amazing. I cry once every session. Our guest speaker Tuesday was Laty-J and her story touched me personally, she is a single mother, the same age as me, and her struggles were very very very hard to sit and listen to. A couple of the girls caught me crying pretty hard. I thanked her many times for sharing and her message really moved me. Never ever give up hope!

Wednesday (today) is where I am sitting and observing these ladies, and I tell you these young women are so so so so so so so BRILLIANT! Today’s topic is leadership and the ladies are doing an amazing job facilitating the workshop. I was surprised to hear that the girls think Beyonce and Niki Minaj are the devil. I agree but that is only my opinion. We discussed that leaders could have positive and negative traits but most of the girls were excited about true leaders. Such as Hilary Clinton.  It was refreshing to see high school aged girls not persuaded by the norms of society. (again happy face) Our performer today is Randy Mclauren and his powerful poetry had all of the young ladies intrigued. He was very very powerful. As are all of our guest speakers. The girls are on break right now sharing snacks and conversing amongst each other and after they finish their snacks today’s facilitators have some very fun team building activities. I shall blog some more at a later time, the next two-three days will be very emotional, and I need to prepare myself for our goodbyes. I truly never want to leave!!!


March 6, 2013
by Lesley

Unity really brought these girls together

Such an inspiring day. So many mixed emotions from what I have seen today from the team and the students of Mona High and Papine Highschool. It was such a powerful session and the bond that had been created during that time was amazing. Words cannot explain how I feel right now. All I can do is cry of happiness cause its the only way I can really express myself. The abundance of emotions that I had from the powerful speech Latijey had and the skits the students did today showed the unity and strong bond that is forming over the past two days.

Seeing the transformation from day one to day two showed comfort ability within the session and with one another.
I am so happy I am on this. The powerful awareness of womens empowerment has truly inspired my life. As i see the faces of all the students in the room, it brings an enormous amount of happiness in me. I really want to continue on from this journey, and continue it for the rest of my life.

March 5, 2013
by victoriahong

Once you go, you know!

And now I know all the things Jamaica has to offer.  From fern gully to june plum and sorrel to Emancipation Park to Saffron Indian Cuisine to Black-billed Streamertail hummingbirds to shrimp patties to Mystic Mountain that was constructed without removing a single tree.  The list goes on and on.  Never would I have imagined that I would get such an insight into Jamaica that would benefit me as a person but also as a Tourism Management student.  On the topic of benefits of this experience, the first workshop was delivered by Natalia, Yanique, and myself on Self-Concept and Beauty.  To see them enjoying the Inside/Outside Me activity where they were able to express their artistic side and then their caring side when they paid compliments to the women in front of them for the second session’s activity, was such a relief.  The young ladies impressed me so much with their confidence, fearlessness, and pride in themselves as females.  There were many moments where I felt like there was something stuck in my throat because of their answers to our questions.  I cannot wait to bring what I’ve learned here to my own community to empower Canadian women.

To end this blog entry,  I have to give a huge thank you to Lynn and Kisha who brought me along with them to Real Jamaican Radio.  I am so honoured that Yasmin nominated me to observe the inner workings of Jamaica’s historical radio station (not to mention the DJ, Paula-Anne, is a female!).  The logistics of this whole trip have been organized entirely by these 3 women and I will never be able to fully express the appreciation I have for them.