Twenty four sociology students from Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, were on Abaco for the week of February 14-22 to participate in a new university credit course, ‘International Community Engagement ‘ hosted at Every Child Counts School.
The course was directed by Professor Jean Golden as part of the University’s Bahamas Project in association with ECC since 2011. Additional field support was provided by Professor Patrizia Albanese.
This course was designed to immerse students in an intensive learning experience in a developing country through participation and reflection. The students were prepared for this course ahead of their arrival in the Bahamas by attending mandatory classes at the University and reading a variety of sources on development and social justice issues in the Bahamas which would later be integrated into their final reflective journal assignment. They also met in groups to prepare projects for use at ECC.
These projects required research work on the Bahamas to put together interesting material for the education of the ECC students which also involved putting together illustrative films. Some Every Child Counts students also put together and presented projects accompanied by film about The Bahamas which they presented to the Ryerson students.
While on Abaco, the students studied international development, equity and diversity issues and participated in community defined projects and community service. They enjoyed talks by a large number of community leaders on their wide ranging areas of expertise which included education, community activism, ethnic conflict, religion, media, environment, social services, community clubs, politics and aspects of the economy which included agriculture, fishing and finance.
In addition to the many diverse lectures the students received they also experienced first-hand many of the cultural aspects of The Bahamas. They were taken on tours of various settlements which included Spring City, Murphy Town, Dundas Town and the Mudd, and were taken by bus on an eco-tour by Glender Knowles.
Their final day was spent visiting Elbow Cay.
During the week, the Ryerson students sampled and enjoyed traditional Bahamian foods. Following lunch one afternoon at the Oasis restaurant, Chef Antonio Huyler presented a history of food and business.
During their free time they attended a local club to experience the live music of the Bahamas. The visiting students were also served a traditional Bahamian meal at ECC by the students of Mr. Mars’ class which they had prepared themselves. They were fortunate to be here to witness both the junior and senior Junkanoo parades and were given a first-hand insight by Junkanoo Master Colin Curry of the Spring City Rockers.
Another traditional Bahamian treat they enjoyed was conch salad which they were shown how to make.
In addition to the wealth of information that the Ryerson students received from the various speakers they themselves gave back by contributing to the ECC curriculum through the projects they had developed especially for the students of ECC. They worked in groups within the classrooms with all age ranges from the youngest to the most senior students.
All of the Ryerson students say that they were profoundly moved by their interaction with the ECC students. Dimitra Varitimielis worked with the youngest remedial students who, she said, had made an great impact on her.
“It has been a very heartwarming experience and I will always remember how all of the children help each other. When you see their backgrounds it really affects you and it makes me want to return,” she stated. Daniela Ranieri had not realized before she came the range of disabilities of these students and felt that she really bonded with them.
Patricia Roque was amazed at how talented the students were, each one being unique and with something special to offer. “It has helped tremendously to see this all first hand and it has been a great form of experiential learning,” she stated.
Jennifer Lavergne was almost overcome with emotion as she said, “The kids have been a great inspiration to me, they never show that they have had any struggles”.
The students and their professors left Abaco on February 23 to return to their classrooms at Ryerson University where they will complete their Reflective Journals toward their course credits. On the effect this visit will have on the students, Professor Albanese stated, “This has been a life changing experience for everyone involved. It has been a phenomenal week. The Every Child Counts School is a marvel with passionate and committed teachers. This has been magical and we will never know how much our students’ lives will be emotionally touched by this experience.”