Ryerson Stands with #BlackLivesMatterTO

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http://theeyeopener.com/2016/04/ryerson-students-march-with-blm-to/

Garnering a lot of media attention lately has been Toronto’s very own Black Lives Matter movement. A very pertinent social justice issue of our time, the Black Lives Matter movement holds its roots in our neighbouring country, the United States, where the current racial climate is centred on the persecution of the members of the black community. There have been numerous injustices involving the various police officers in different states of America, wrongly persecuting black individuals, namely, young black men. Unfortunately, for the majority, the result has been death for these wrongly persecuted individuals. This has led to a revolution in the black community; the Black Lives Matter activists used their voices to speak out on such injustices and bring honor to the fallen people of their community. They have protested various streets in the United States, asking government officials and police department officials to end the racial profiling and racial discrimination. The powerful voices of the Black Lives Matter movement in the States has been heard all around the world – including our very own neighbourhood, Toronto.

The Black Lives Matter Toronto – Coalition was is made up of Black Torontonians working in solidarity with various communities in our local streets of Toronto to work towards a common goal: social justice. This group has acknowledged the deep racial discrimination and stigmatization that black communities in the States have been going through, and have noticed similar patterns of behaviour in our very own neighbourhood. Currently, the Black Lives Matter Toronto activists have been fighting for justice for the death of Andrew Loku.

Andrew Loku was a 45 year old man, living in an apartment building on Eglinton Ave. W and Caledonia Ave. On the evening of July 4, 2015, Andrew was disturbed in his sleep by a significantly loud noise from his upstairs neighbours. He asked them continuously to minimize the noise, so that he can be able to sleep, but the noise persisted. Overwhelmed by the loud noise, and being unable to sleep, Loku grabbed a hammer and began banging it against the apartment hallway doors and walls. The police were called to address this particular noise. Within seconds of the police officer’s arrivals, a police officer shot Andrew Loku twice, killing him in the hallway of his apartment building.

Andrew Loku was regarded by all those who knew him as a kind and friendly man. He was a husband and a father to five children, and lived alone in Toronto, while working to bring his family to Canada from where they currently live in South Sudan. He graduated from George Brown College in the construction program, and worked various jobs to make ends meet for himself and for his family back in South Sudan.

The Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition has challenged the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) to release the name of the officer who shot Andrew Loku, having not been in immediate danger or threat himself. The identity of the officer has remained un-released while the SIU investigates logistics of the situation – such as whether or not officers were notified that the building in which they were responding to, the building that Andrew Loku resided in, was leased by the Canadian Mental Health Association. This apartment complex offered affordable housing services for people suffering with a mental illness. The Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition have worked tirelessly in protest, rain or shine – snow or sun, to plead to government officials, such as Toronto Mayor John Tory and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, to address this serious injustice. As such, the officer who fatally shot Andrew Loku has not yet been charged for this unjust act nearly a year after his untimely death.

I have had the privilege of visiting the hub of the protests on 40 College Street, where I met protestors from BLM-TO. It was an environment unlike any other. While one would imagine a protest to have quite a tense, aggressive, and hostile energy, the BLM-TO exuded nothing but love and hospitality to all those who observed and/or joined the protest. There was food, water, warm blankets, gloves, and hats being passed around to the protestors – not just from amongst one another, but from the on-lookers as well. There were shouts of social justice, peace, and equality. There were cries and pleads of putting an end to racial profiling and discrimination, and a plea to the SIU and the Toronto Police Department to be accountable for their actions. There was music, dancing, motivating speeches, laughter, and deep discussions to honor the valuable black lives lost to racial injustices.

It was a pleasant surprise to see Ryerson students in solidarity with BLM-TO on campus the other day. The march was organized by numerous student groups on campus, in collaboration with BLM-TO, to protest social justice in and around the Ryerson community. With Ryerson being at the very heart of Toronto, it seemed only natural that Ryerson students stand in solidarity with our community. Among the student groups during this march for social justice included the Ryerson East Africans’ Students Association (REASA); Ryerson Student Union (RSU); and the United Black Students at Ryerson (UBSR). During the march, the students in protest used their voices to urge other fellow students to show their support by donating supplies, food, water, warm clothing, etc to the BLM-TO Coalition, to encourage the progression of the protest. Students on campus were eager and receptive to what Ryerson students and BLM-TO had to say, and showed their solidarity with the movement. It was a refreshing and culturally enriching experience to have witnessed – and frankly, it made me even more proud to be a Ram and a Torontonian.

If you would like to donate and show your support and solidarity, BLM-TO can be found here:

Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition Facebook

Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition Twitter

blacklivesmatterTO@gmail.com

40 College Street, Toronto, ON

Resources:

http://news.nationalpost.com/toronto/the-life-and-bloody-death-of-andrew-loku

http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2015/07/07/andrew-lokus-death-by-a-police-bullet-came-quickly-witness-says.html

What it Feels Like for Global Youth

Recently the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) Ryerson and Ryerson University International Support hosted a panel discussion on global youth employment. The discussion centred on the difficulties that students and youth from the Global South have when migrating to the Global North. The panel consisted of Dr. Henry Parada, Associate Professor, School of Social Work, Ryerson University,
Ana Leticia Ibarra, Research Coordinator, Children and Youth Human Rights Empowerment Project, Christian Bambe, WUSC Scholar, and Thuch James, Founder, ROSS DAILYINC Online Magazine. Dr. Winnie Ng, CAW-Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy, Ryerson University gave the key note speech in which she discussed the intersectionality of love and power and the systemic racism and colonialism that bars newcomers from the same opportunities as other Canadians, both of which were further developed by the panel.

The panel began by speaking to the difference between the Global North and South and the challenges newcomers face. In the first place access to education is different in other parts of the world. In Canada we all receive and have access to basic education, there are places that don’t allow for that or have the system in place to. It is difficult to become educated in the Global South and therefore difficult to become employed. However, even if you do get an education it may still be difficult to get a job if you migrate to the Global North. This is because education is not transferable in Canada, if you are trained to be a doctor in South Africa you cannot work as a doctor in Canada until you have gone through our education system. These migrant workers are told their education is invalid here and are forced to start over from scratch. Not only is this harmful emotionally but it also sets migrants back and if they do not have a support system in place in Canada it makes it difficult for them to ever realize their professional and personal goals. Additionally, without an economic support system migrants may not be able to get the needed Canadian work or volunteer experience that employers require, let alone pay for their education twice. This is detrimental to migrants and to Canadians as they both lose out on valuable opportunities, Canadians lose the experience and opinions that come from people who learn and live in other countries. However, it is possible to overcome these barriers, past generations of immigrants made lives for themselves here in Canada and new generations will as well, it will be difficult because the system makes it difficult but there is hope.

The difficulties with credential recognition not only have economic impacts on individual but also psychological. Denouncing someone’s credentials sets them behind in their life progression and they may also internalize this, they may begin to feel that they are inadequate or that something is wrong with them when it is the system holding them back not themselves. Individuals may give up due to the distress and the knowledge that so much time will be wasted out of their life and this benefits no one. Additionally, there is a strange anomaly here. In Canada we accept the education of people coming from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom but nowhere else. Why is this? The panel believed it was due to systemic racism. Which seems to make sense because why those four countries and no one else?

The panel then moved on to how employers can aid youth. Simply put employers can help by giving youth the opportunities to develop the practical skills needed. Currently there seems to be a shift towards an individualistic system where potential applicants have to develop practical skills on their own before even applying for a job. Employers no longer want to provide this kind of skill training, youth need to seek it out on their own. Adding on to that if migrant present these but not in a Canadian context they don’t count, they must develop them within Canada. This seems counterintuitive since Canadians who go abroad and learn new skills are welcomed back with job prospects because of this worldly experience but it doesn’t seem to go the other way.

Lastly, the ideas of the “brain drain” and associated “brain waste” that occur in Canada were reflected upon. These were two new concepts to me and two ideas that I found quite saddening. The Global North countries are attractive to youth and workers in other countries and they know this. Global North countries bring in the best students from the Global South and educate them and force them to stay here for a set period of time. This is the “brain drain”. We are taking the educated youth away from their communities where they could be making a large impact and benefiting the lives of the people around them. They could be setting up a system within their own countries to make them better but we keep them here. Along with this, the bright and educated migrants who come to Canada of their own volition are not allowed to work, this is the “brain waste”. We have skilled people coming into our country but they are only allowed to work in the service industry because their experiences are invalid. In all the panel agreed that Canada should look into the idea of return migration. Bringing bright youth to Canada and giving them the opportunity to get an education and then allowing them to return to their country or stay here and develop support systems for future generations to become educated and improve the lives of all.

Black History Month Spotlight: Viola Desmond

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As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, this week, we shed light on a historic Black Canadian figure. Viola Desmond was born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She initially trained to become a teacher but decided to change career paths. She was a successful businesswoman who owned a barbershop and hairdressing salon business in partnership with her husband, Jack Desmond. In the midst of her business’ expansion, Viola left for New Glasgow, Nova Scotia in 1946 to pursue a brighter future for her business.

It is in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia where Viola Desmond makes a name for herself as one of the most influential and remarkable people – especially as a woman – during times of segregation between Blacks and Whites. Viola Desmond innocently went to the movie theatres one night in New Glasgow and decided to take a seat in the main floor of the theatre. Unbeknownst to her, this specific theatre had specific tickets for African Canadians – who should be seated in the balcony area – and White Canadians – who may be seated in the main floor of the theatre, where the movie can be better seen. Upon being asked to leave her seat and relocate to the segregated seat she was intended to sit in, she refused. The police were called and Viola Desmond was charged without being advised of her right, ending in her spending the night in jail.

The following morning, she paid the fine of $20 for the alleged crime and was charged with defrauding the Government of Nova Scotia with the difference in tax between a ground floor ticket at the movie theatres and a balcony seat ticket. The difference amounted to approximately one cent.

Desmond courageously decided to fight the charges against her, understanding that the issue was not surrounding around the idea that it was tax evasion, but rather, inherently racist. Viola Desmond took the case to court, where she was able to gain public opinion on the matter both locally in her own community, nationally, and internationally. This issue raised significant awareness on segregation within Canada.

Viola Desmond’s arrest quickly caught the attention of the Black Canadian community. The Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NSAACP) raised money to per her fine and help her to fight against her charges. Carrie best – the founder of Nova Scotia’s first Black owned and operated newspaper, publicized her story in order to truly amplify her message and spread awareness.

As a result of the garnered attention generated by Demond’s case, the government of Nova Scotia had no choice but to eliminate segregation laws. In 1954, the government completed repealed them.

This was quite a significant turning point in the history of segregation within Canada as it revealed and exposed the fact that segregation was still real and alive within Canadian borders. At that time, there was a notion that Canada was the safest place for Black people who are being racially discriminated and segregated internationally to go to. Canada was put on a pedestal for being “free of segregation and racial discrimination,” when in reality, such practices were still very much alive and not eradicated. This event urged the Canadian community – who was expected to be an ally in the Black Civil Rights Movement – to take corrective action and implement more inclusive and culturally-aware laws and policies into legislation. It significantly sparked the wave of Canadian Black Civil Rights movement, urging Canadians to explore, expose, and correct issues surrounding racism and racial discrimination within our own borders.

This event truly catapulted Canada’s policies and legislations towards a more progressive and inclusive direction. The Canadian government began consciously implementing more diverse, multicultural, and inclusive laws in the years to follow that incorporates Black Canadians into Canadian culture as valued members of society. As a result of the corrective action that followed after this event, Canadian people adopted a more culturally aware, inclusive, and diverse ideology about race. The issue of racism was brought to the forefront of social justice issues and light was being shed on racial discrimination as being very much so present in Canadian society, contrary to popular opinion.

This event ignited a very important movement in Canadian society. It sparked the discussion and the need for action towards a society that is built on a foundation of diversity and multiculturalism. Viola Desmond remains an influential historical figure in Canadian history who, despite how little her action back then may have seemed, took an action that is not only significant but extremely powerful.

Resources:

http://www.blackhistorycanada.ca/profiles.php?themeid=20&id=13

http://www.digitaljournal.com/print/article/249537

http://canada.metropolis.net/EVENTS/ethnocultural/publications/historical.pdf

What I Learned From A Child Soldier

You never know what to expect when you come to Ryerson University. Surrounded by such diversity and opportunities, I’ve come to take every day as an unexpected journey – an everyday Bilbo Baggins. That’s why when I saw a poster that read “In Conversation with Michel Chikwanine: A Former Child Soldier,” I couldn’t look away. Although my parents were expecting me home in the next 2 hours, I knew this was another one of those “once in a lifetime opportunity”.

The International Issues Discussion (IID) series is designed to engage the community on major events and issues in contemporary global affairs. Michel’s presentation was incredibly captivating as he effortlessly took us back to when he was a boy living in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a refugee in Canad and now, a public speaker and  student at the University of Toronto. I had not intended on retelling his story on this blog but I feel it is important to do so. His story is special because he survived but it isn’t unique as people to this day, are still living his story.

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Courage and the pursuit of knowledge are two things that Michel has come to live by. For one, I think courage is a loaded term. What one might find courageous, another finds idiotic as it often means fighting the norm or what is expected of you.


“If you want anything you must be resilient’ – Michel Chikwanine

It was when Michel was a boy that his one courageous act is the reason he is still alive today. When he was a boy, Michel stayed afterschool to play soccer with his friends – defying his father’s order. It was there that soldiers came and abducted him and his bestfriend. There, like thousands before him, he was conditioned to become a weapon. Stabbed in the arm with cocaine and gun powder, he was blindfolded and told to shoot the gun that was placed in his small hands. The foreign curves and weight of such a violent tool was too much for him and he dropped it. But as the hysteria from his wounds took over him, he finally shot. When he opened his eyes, he saw his best friend lying there, in a pool of his own blood. He was 5 at the time and his best friend was 12.

That was his initiation. The soldier then evoked more fear by saying because he had killed his best friend, his family will never love him and they are his family now. This initiation step has forced children to believe a lie that encapsulates them in a life of fear, hate and violence. But Michel knew he needed to escape and he finally did when the soldiers took him to a village. Everyone went with their guns into the village but Michel ran into the forest. He ran for days, in a direction he did not know without food or water. To this day, he still has scars around his body. After days of running, he came out of the woods, to a shop that looked familiar. He ran into it, mumbled hysteria and passed out. He woke up in the hospital with his family around him.

After that things got worse and better. Michel’s father was a human rights lawyer and was abducted and tortured because he spoke out against the injustices that went unnoticed. When soldiers came to his house they made Michel watch as they raped his mother and three sisters. They said they would come back the next day so they fled that night with the clothes on their backs. Their journey as refugees was brutal but they eventually made it to Canada. To my shock, they were billed for the flight and food they had not only on the plane which amounted to $5,000.

Today, his family is not whole as his father was poisoned and one of his sisters went missing when she was getting her refugee papers. But Michel remains optimistic and courageous. He speaks about his experience and advocates for change that one day children won’t have to endure the terrifying experiences that he went through. I leave you now with the words his father told him many times before and that he strives to live by:

“Who in this world won’t die? But what defines us is the legacy we leave behind”  – Ramazani Chikwanine

TedX Ryerson U 2015: Iconoclast

On Saturday, November 14th, TedX RyersonU held its annual conference. This year’s theme was “ICONOCLAST,” focusing on topics and ideas to change and enhance the future. There were numerous speakers – from current students at Ryerson, graduates of Ryerson, and established professionals – all who spoke of concepts surrounding creative and innovative ways of thinking, and the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration. There were three sessions held throughout the day, each with the intention of inspiring Ryerson University students to make significant impacts for the future through their work, and how to go about making a change. It was a successful event, with approximately 400 students and community members in attendance, all eager to learn about what it means to be iconoclasts of today and tomorrow.

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Just as in other TED conferences, TedX Ryerson held three sessions throughout the day: one session for technology, one session for entertainment, and one session for design. Each session is meant to showcase a set of speakers involved in technology, entertainment, or design, as they speak about the given theme of the conference. With the theme being iconoclast, each speaker delivered powerful speeches about what it means to be innovators of the future, and how to challenge the status quo, in order to break barriers and create change. Each message delivered was captivating, inspiring, and challenged students to think critically about what it means to be iconoclastic.

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A session that resonated with me the most was the first session – the session of technology. The focus of this session was about the future and how to become innovators of the future. The speakers during this session spoke about how to think outside of the box and push boundaries to develop creative ways of thinking. They emphasized thinking through alternative perspectives apart from your own, and challenging traditional ways of thinking. The importance of interdisciplinary collaboration was also emphasized, as the speakers forced students to find ways to incorporate other disciplines in their work. Interdisciplinary collaboration has been found to offer new perspectives and alternative approaches that may not have been considered prior. It offers new opportunities of growth and maximizes learning.

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This session resonated with me the most as it exposed me to new methods of achieving personal and career goals. It allowed me to think about how to affect change and develop the future through creative and innovative approaches. It pushed me to think outside of the box and to step out of my comfort zone to learn something new and offer new perspectives. It also allowed me to see that interdisciplinary collaboration is essential for iconoclastic work. Working with people from a multitude of different disciplines means having a team with a variety of different sets of knowledge and skills. These different sets of knowledge and skills each offer something unique towards the development of a certain goal, and offer more opportunities for achieving this goal in unique and innovative ways. This session pushed me to embrace change and explore the unknown in order to find new ways, better ways, to create a better future. The discussion from this session really drove home what it means to be an iconoclast of today and tomorrow.
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Adventures in Africa

Me at Huruma Orphanage in Kenya

We all have dreams, wishes, and desires that we imagine our lives to be like. Remember when you were younger your imagination was probably a lot more active. Do you remember asking your friends questions such as “if you could be anything when you get older what would you want to be?” Perhaps a teacher, a doctor, or a fire fighter may have been one of your replies? How about the question “if you could travel to any place in the whole world, where would you go?” I bet most answers included some tropical place known for it’s beautiful beaches. Well I was a bit different I always wanted to go to Africa. I do not know why? I never had any friends or family from there. In fact, my parents and the rest of my relatives are from Fiji Islands, which I have never been to by the way, but it is known to be a beautiful exotic island!

As I got older, I never thought I would get the opportunity to go to Africa and I focused more on my education and career aspirations. Until one day, I attended a student volunteer fair and came across a booth that grabbed my attention. The association was called Global Youth Network, a non-profit, youth-driven, grass roots organization that enables youth towards making a difference in the world. That year they were sending two teams of university students to volunteer trips, one to El Salvador, Central America, and the other was Kenya, Africa. When I saw this my eyes lit up and I grabbed an application. The only downside was that I did not get to choose which team I was placed on but I filled out the forms in hopes of being chosen for the Africa team. Lo and behold, I got that email soon after that I was invited to join the team heading to Africa!!! I was thrilled, but soon afterwards, the feelings of nervousness and anxiety began to sink in. The trip was for one month in May, right after the winter school semester ended.

The organization was very orderly and made sure that steps were taken to prepare the students before departure. The teams were selected early in the Fall, so we spent the year prepping and planning. My team consisted of ten people, one was my team leader, and two others were co-leaders. We had regular meetings that involved team building activities, education on the culture and customs in Kenya, travel expectations, and discussions on social justice issues. It was a bit intimidating at first. Think about going to some foreign developing country with a group of ten strangers for one month! However, the regular meetings and other endeavors we worked on together on such as fundraisers helped us get to know each other and helped us form a supportive community. The trip was quite costly, approximately $3,000, but that included flight, accommodations and meals. My team did many fundraisers such as bake sales and a silent auction, which helped to lower our costs, and we individually raised funds and asked for sponsorship. In addition, to further prepare us, three days before we departed my team and six other teams from different universities stayed at a camp where we attended educational workshops. From the camp, we were then transported to the airport and off to a new adventure!

I had the most amazing experience of my life and would not trade it in for some all-inclusive vacation lying on a beach sun tanning all day. While in Kenya, we stayed at a couple different places in the rural parts. We got a lot of hands on experience doing various projects such as painting a hospital, helping at an orphanage, tree-planting for an income generation program, helped in the construction of a latrine, and cleaned up a residence where patients with tuberculosis resided. Furthermore, I witnessed the poverty that you hear about in the media, visited individuals and families in the slum communities and even attended a funeral of an orphan who passed away due to AIDs.

At the end of each day, my team would debrief together to share our experiences, which helped us cope with the tragedy we saw and prepared us for the events of the next day. Instead of feeling emotionally drained, each morning I woke up inspired and filled with eagerness for a new day to help make a difference and engage in a new experience. I would highly recommend to you to visit a new country by going on a volunteer trip. It is a great opportunity to fully embrace a various cultures, and make life long lasting friendships both with your travel buddies and the locals, who I remain in contact with to this day!

Helping Hands for Habitat

I know a lot of you out there have had some volunteer experience. Whether to help humanity, be involved in the local community and give back, to get real world experience, to enhance your resume for future prospects or some combination of all of these. Well I have numerous volunteer placements and some of them were not the most exciting. Lets just say I probably spent more time watching the clock waiting for my shift to end!

Volunteering should be fun, rewarding, and something you look forward to do. Not something you feel you have to do. One of my best experiences was working with Habitat for Humanity. They are a non-profit organization that operates in numerous countries around the world. They provide affordable housing to low-income families that have unfortunate circumstances. You can probably find a local chapter within your living vicinity. Families have to apply to be eligible for a home and another requirement is they must dedicate a set number of hours to actually building their own home!!!

In my experience, I was a team leader for a group of university students travelling to do a build in Jacksonville Florida during Reading Week. I know it may sound a bit odd to travel to sunny Florida to do charity work, however, in that particular area many families are homeless due to number of hurricanes they experience on a regular basis. Being a trip leader was fun but it definitely had its challenging moments, scheduling, preparing my time before leaving, making arrangements for transportation, accommodations and daily activities. It was definitely a worthwhile opportunity and I would highly recommend this position to anyone who likes challenges and adventures!! With such a large team I had to rent mini vans and we stayed in a church nearby the worksite that had a kitchen to prepare meals.

When we arrived there, friendly hosts who were members of the Jacksonville Habitat for Humanity greeted us. I never pictured myself helping to build a home and I was not sure what to expect. I quickly learned that I was going to be hammering the nails and really helping to build the home from the ground up!! The site where we worked was a small street with five or six homes, all at various stages of development. My team split up into groups and we were assigned to a Habitat Leader to work with. Some members were putting shingles up on the roof, others installing the electrical wiring, or putting in insulation. I was assigned to building the foundation for a new home. That is right, I was physically hammering the nails into the wood. At first I was thinking to myself, how in the world am I going to do this and is it really going to be livable for a family? It turns out it was much simpler than it looked and really fun and satisfying to know your hard work was going to have a huge impact on the lives of those less fortunate.

One of the best parts and most memorable too was working alongside the families that were going to be residing in the homes. They were grateful for the help and very enthusiastic to work with. After one week of volunteering, you could even see the progress made. On one of the houses I spent most of my time on, what started as a concrete foundation had 2 x 4’s put up as a frame for the house at the end of the week!! Lastly, I even got to autograph one of the wood pieces that was used as a frame!!

Finishing

I’m 2 assignments – a paper and a presentation – away from completing my Bachelor of Social degree at Ryerson. While I’ve been thinking about graduation for some time, this only became real for me during class yesterday. Our prof distributed paint and canvases, and asked us to express our feelings about graduation through artistic expression.

I’ve never been much of an artist, and spent more time mixing paint colours together than creating a visual statement of my feelings. With a night to think on what my time at Ryerson means to me, and how it feels to be finishing up, I’ve formed a more in-depth reflection.

My undergrad has been a 5-year process; I started at Ryerson in Sociology. I loved the theory – Foucault, Durkheim, and Marx continue to influence me – but yearned for a more practical application of what I was learning. I switched into Social Work after a year, and I’ve never felt a stronger sense of belonging in my academic career.

During my first year, everyone around me was thinking and talking about issues that I was interested in, and the Faculty of Community Services and Ryerson’s Student Union ran a number of engaging events. The course work in first year reminded me a lot of Sociology – we only had one SWP (Social Work) class – but I relished the opportunity to become part of a vibrant community.

Second year was when things got real, with 6 courses each semester. My head was filled with Healy, Mullaly, Saleebey, and other emerging Social Work theorists. I chose mostly political courses for my electives and began to form my ideology that would later inform my modality of practice.

I opted into an International Placement for 3rd year, which occured during the Spring/Summer following my 3rd-year course work. I took the extra time I had during the Fall/Winter to start engaging more heavily in organizations that I felt I would be interested in working with in the future. I also learned a lot about Social Work Research in 3rd year, and have already started applying my learning to real life.

My 3rd year placement in Bulembu, Swaziland was an unforgettable experience and is the source of some of my most cherished memories. To have been able to take this trip, and receive school credit for it was an unbelieveable privilege. I would not trade those 3 months in for anything.

4th year, which I’m a week away from completing, has also presented me with an incredible placement experience. I’ve signed on to a research project into developing a program for serodiscordant couples – where one partner is HIV-positive and the other negative. The program this study will produce is set to be the first of its kind in North America – based on an early environmental scan (our literature review might reveal otherwise). In coursework, I’ve been able to build ever further upon the theory I learned in 2nd year.

Overall, Ryerson’s BSW program has left me feeling confident about my future as a social worker. I could not be more enthusiastic about the experience I’ve had at this university, and am thrilled (and a little scared) to finally enter the real world.

Standing Out

“You’re unique – just like everyone else”


Almost all of my fellow first year nursing students that I have encountered thus far have said that they want to pursue a career in pediatrics (myself included). Sure, I expect that opinions will change over course of the next three years, but as it stands now, I foresee a high demand for the line of work that does not have the greatest supply. Since coming to university and hearing that most people have the same end goal as I do, I’ve only become more motivated to stand out from the rest in both anticipation of the real world and in hopes to prepare myself (both personally and professionally) for what I am sure that I will one day encounter as a nurse. At this point in time, I’ve really only touched the tip of the professional iceberg with some retail experience, a whole lotta babysitting and as much volunteering as I can handle. As I see it, it’s never too early to start building up your resume or branching out to make contacts in preparation for the real world, and so over the past few years I’ve been trying to do just that.

 

The other day, one of my fellow students and I were talking about what we envision for ourselves after graduation. I told her that I hoped that my volunteer experience in the health care field would help me to get to where I want to be in my career one day (if not for the experience just being listed on my resume, but for the skills that it will help me to develop) but she thought otherwise. In fact, this person told me that she purposely hasn’t spent any time volunteering or trying to get work in the nursing or health care field because she thought that the nursing degree which we will all graduate with in the end will be enough of a qualification to land a job. At first I thought she was joking, then I realized that I couldn’t disagree more. Yes, we all graduate with the exact same thing and if we’re all going to be going for any jobs at all then going above and beyond is the best (and only) way to stand out. No one’s going to hand you a job – in any field – and getting the degree is only one piece of the puzzle.

 

A nursing degree does not make a nurse, and it’s up to us to go above and beyond to foster the most personal and professional growth we can in ourselves – for any profession. I don’t see the sense in adopting the “least possible amount of work” attitude throughout university to try and scrape by and hope that a piece of paper and a few letters after your name will do the talking for you. Even if a bachelor of anything was enough to find a job in the real world, why would anyone want to limit their learning to that? I’d like to think that we’re all pursuing something that we’re passionate about but I know that’s not the case for all. I hope that this person smartens up soon enough to realize that when other people raise the bar by doing everything that they can to become the best that they can be, striving for the bare minimum just isn’t going to cut it!

KONY 2012

KONY 2012 from INVISIBLE CHILDREN on Vimeo.

Joseph Kony is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the Ugandan military force that has captured and enslaved over 30,000 children. These children have then been deployed as child soldiers, and forced to carry out terrible, inhumane actions.

I blogged previously about the situation in Uganda and some of the front-line work being done. Now, the US-based organization Invisible Children has launched a campaign to bring Joseph Kony to justice. This campaign is realistic, but is also dependent on the help of average citizens.

Watch the video above. Whether you share the video on Facebook, sign the petition, and/or send George Clooney or Stephen Harper an email, you’ll be making a positive, substantial difference in the future of Central Africa’s children and the future of policy-making and activism in the world to come.

KONY 2012 Website