Thursday, March 19, 2015

Changed Perspectives - Guest Blog

Through the generous contributions of friends and family I was able to travel to Honduras this past reading week (April 20th-March 1st) with an organization called Global Brigades. Global Brigades is the largest movement for global heath care and holistic development and it empowers communities to meet their health and economic goals through university volunteers and local teams.
This experience was way, way out of my comfort zone, but it was the most valuable and life changing experience I think I have ever had in my life.

In this blog I am not going to talk about each thing we did day to day, and every detail of the project we implemented in the community (which I would be 100% happy to share with anyone another time- just shoot me a message) but I do want to share some pictures and stories and feelings about my trip to Honduras.

Beautiful Honduras

First off, I'd like to focus on how much it brought me out of my comfort zone and how challenging; mentally and physically it was, and how those challenges changed some of things I have been working on and focusing on here, back in Sackville.

I never thought going into University that I would apply and be accepted to go on a trip to Honduras, but bigger than that was I applied without really knowing anyone else that was going to be on the trip or on my Brigade. I think we all like to be comfortable, which is great, but taking a step out of your comfort zone every once and awhile is important. Because of this experience and because I went for it anyway, besides the fact that I was 'alone', I met an incredibly amazing new family of people that I grew to cherish and love over the 7 days of Brigade. We worked together, lived together, sweated together, learned together and grew together and I wouldn't trade that for anything!

Physically, the work on the water brigade was the toughest of all manual labour of any of the brigades and it was by far the most intensive manual labour I have ever done. It was awesome to see how poorly we all did on the first day compared to our last, and even then, compared to the local Hondurans.. we still did very badly. But we definitely improved throughout the week. Mentally it was really tough to see these people who were so happy and were living their day to day lives to the fullest capacity not even be able to access clean water. Clean water is a basic human right and to see how it affected not only just time and using a whole day to have to travel to the water source and collect water but also spend time their washing their clothes but the sickness and health problems that this current water is giving them.

Knowing how easy it is for us, to be able to turn on a tap and know that you are going to have clean water and seeing their situation was hard. It has changed the way I value my water and also my time. In many places around the world, water is a precious commodity instead of it being something that is a right for everyone to have. We are so incredibly lucky to be able to have constant water and to not spend hours every day walking to get water or to be able to have clean clothes.

Second, I was amazed with the 'behind the scenes' work that GB is doing and how the whole organization was run. I didn't even know about GB until starting at Mount Allison University and now it has become a part of who I am. Every night we had brigade specific meetings where we would talk to the in-country staff about the project and how it is implemented in all aspects, not just on the level that we were working. We learned about the extensive meetings that happen with the community before the project is started, how they decide what type of water system to put into the community and what to use as the water source. Then they have to find a water source that will give enough water for everyone in the community to have enough water 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. We learned about all the initial calculations and engineering before any brigades are brought into the community. We also got to see all the work that is being done in the community with the implementation of a Basic Sanitation Committee and Water Council, which consists of mostly women in the community. I believe these are things that set GB apart in the sustainability work they are doing. Yes, they bring in university students from Canada, USA and Europe but in Honduras it is Hondurans helping Hondurans (with the help of a few gringos). The trust and sense of friendship between in-country staff and members of the community were really cool bonds to see.

Our team and family

One day while we were there, we spent time in the school, in the community teaching the students, alongside the Basic Sanitation Committee and Water Council. The children in this community were so responsive and so excited to be at school and learning about the new water system that will soon be bringing water to their houses. We did skits and games and had posters but the best part was afterwards when we were all outside, we built sort of a 'mock' water system out of a bit of piping and some faucets for a demonstration of how the water system will work and the students were able to turn the taps and have water come out. The excitement that these kids had when the water came out was just a snapshot of how amazing its going to be when they water can come out of faucets like that at their houses and they will be able to use it daily which is an amazing thing.

Everyone trying to get their hands in the water.

One other cool experience that we had while at the school was that one of the women who was part of the Basic Sanitation Committee had her little baby boy (approximately 1 year old) at the education day. This little boy didn't talk yet except for one word, and that word was agua, which is water in Spanish. It struck me that this is how important water is to these people, where we don't even think twice about our water usage and consumption this little boy at 1 year old was already being taught the importance of water in his life. It was also amazing to think that this boy is going to grow up with clean and accessible water for the rest of his life.

More of this beautiful country

The pipes that will bring the community of Los Hatillos and Familias Unidas water.

Another group shot by the trench!

I know a lot of people question volunteer trips and whether they are worth it in terms of the carbon footprint and "why don't we just send money down instead" and I absolutely encourage everyone to keep asking the tough questions about volunteer world abroad. I know before I went I had a hard time with a lot of these same questions and struggled a lot with justifying why I could spend this much money on a trip in my first year of university. Now that I have been and understand there is nothing in the world like these experiences. The community you form and people you come to know and love is something that no price can be put on. To be in a developing country and seeing how and where they live is something you can't really get here in Canada. It changes you to see and view the world a little differently, and also pushes you to make change within your own communities here at home. It shows you that with hard work and a smile you can make a difference and more importantly learn from all of the people you meet and work with.

Some people argue that you could just as easily volunteer at a local food bank or in a local school and not spend the money going down, etc. But these trips, whether is is Global Brigades or CBM or Habitat for Humanity or any other organization, are something no price tag can be put on and once people see and experience, that is what creates motivation to be more active within your community and at home, I know for me it has changed my perspectives, motivation and goals/priorities.

Whether you agree with volunteer trips or not I hope this blog has given a little bit of insight into my experiences- if you want to know more you can always email me or send me a message on facebook!
Thanks for reading,
Aqua es Vida
Anna Jamieson

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Well, here we are in the middle of February and in the middle of a true Canadian winter. I have always said that February is the longest month of the year, even though it has the fewest number of days. Last week, Andrew had a business conference in Ventura, California and I was very anxious to join him and escape the cold and snow for a week. We were able to apply aeroplan points for my ticket and I was set to fly. It was a wonderful reprieve from the regular duties of home and the Nova Scotia weather. It also gave Andrew and I an opportunity to relax a bit and enjoy each other's company knowing that our daughters are all independent of us.
I will let the photos relive our trip. It was a trip that will give me the push to get through the next month and a half and know that spring is around the corner.

Leaving the northern landscape.....
The center of Ventura, California and no snow!!
Nothing like the warmth of sand on bare feet.
The mission established in Buenaventura, California in 1782.
Beautiful tile work and wall painting in the town.
 Very dry, desert garden which is part of the Botanical Garden they are initiating in Ventura. A lovely hike on a lovely day.
 The Moreton Bay Fig tree planted in 1874 in Ventura. It was truly massive.
A daily scene on Ventura Beach - surfers from sunrise to sunset.
 The boardwalk which is a great place for walking. Surf and sun at it's finest.
A common site in California - the retro van with a surfboard on top.
 Huge amount of calories, but oh so good. Nothing quite like a 'Habit' burger.
 A very unique way to hide ugly power boxes on city streets.
 The real reason for the trip - delicious strawberries in February.
Andrew visited a strawberry farm - acres and acres of beauty.
 A great day trip to Santa Barbara, about a half hour north of Ventura.
 Built in 1872, Stearn's Wharf, was the longest deep water pier between Los Angeles and San Francisco - it was a relaxing day enjoying the scenery.
 The Botanic Garden in Santa Barbara - Andrew was in his element amongst all the plants and rocks.
 View from the trail at the Botanic Garden - lots of beautiful homes tucked into the hillside.
 Taking a breather on our hike - neat bench made from stone.
 A go-to destination - The Cold Spring Tavern. A major effort to find this, but the food was awesome.
After our lunch. Andrew wanted a shot of the interesting roof job.
 Our final day in California. Heading towards the Pacific Coast Highway and found our way blocked by this truck. The roads were very twisty with sharp corners. We ended up backtracking and finding another access point to the highway.
 Really huge, luxurious looking homes in this valley.
Entryway to the Getty Villa. We toured this estate built by J.Paul Getty who recreated ancient Roman architecture and gardens on his ranch in Malibu.  
 The beautiful central garden/pool area although there was no water in any of the pools due to the drought.
Side view of the villa.
Hand painted ceilings and walls with very intricate detail. They are in the process of trying to figure out a way to maintain the originality of these paintings.
 The 'Apple' stores are a little larger in the US.
 The dichotomy of Beverly Hills - the rich and famous and the homeless.
 Home of the Academy Awards - we were about a week early to actually see the stars.
 One of so many stars on the walk of fame.
 Famous Hollywood sign.
Our last stop before heading for the airport was the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.
Home again, home again, jiggity-jig.

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words and I hope that this blog gives you a taste of the wonderful reprieve we had in February. My anticipation is that it is the beginning of joining my husband on more of his business trips and many travel adventures to come.