It has been three weeks since we’ve wrapped up our Carleton exchanges with our youth mentors from Guatemala and I am so excited to share with you a little bit about our time together.
For one full week, the Carleton students and youth mentors met regularly every morning to immerse themselves in the world of storytelling. They played games, danced and laughed, and shared stories of their communities.
The groups were tasked with choosing a sustainable development goal and developing either a photo essay, video, or podcast to bring awareness to the issues in their community. The Carleton students would create one narrative about the issue in Canada and the mentors would create another narrative about the issue in Guatemala. Each day, the groups focused on a different element of the storytelling process: planning a topic, recording and gathering information, editing and revising, putting it all together, and producing a final draft.
The Carleton students met together as a group to plan their workshops and facilitated the activities each day. They brought their own unique expertise and experiences to create individualized workshops for each of their groups.
As the week progressed, the students formed bonds and continued to communicate with each other through the Slack channels provided. Auto-translation features made connecting even easier and helped students to get to know each other even better.
One of the highlights from the week was when students shared personal stories with each other in the style of a Humans of New York post. Pictured here are just a few examples of the experiences they shared with each other.
On the final day, we hosted two virtual premieres in which the students showcased their stories and had the opportunity to discuss their reflections on their community. The students’ creativity and their journey in the program were reflected in their final narratives. For example, Grupo Ciel Hermoso created videos about equality in their communities. The Carleton students recreated a scene from a made up television show called “Take it or Leave It” while the Cotzal students shared an interview with a mother in the community
While some groups created videos, others, such as the Carleton students from Grupo Cinco Mangos, created a podcast addressing homelessness in Ottawa. Their podcast, which featured an interview with a young man, touched on the realities of homelessness in our community, particularly during the pandemic.
Grupo Felices created photo essays about health in their communities. The Carleton students shared stories of positive and negative health care experiences in Canada and the Cotzal students analyzed the health care issues in Ojo de Agua while sharing some insight into Mayan remedies.
After finishing the program, the students reflected on their experiences and what they learned through their exchanges. In her reflection, Shela spoke about her favourite experiences in the program, saying that “my favorite moments included learning how to count in Spanish and Quiche.” She reflected on learning about Mayan culture and understanding the difference between how the issues may present themselves in different communities.
Speaking about how he would describe the program, Jonathan said, “if I had one word to describe this experience, it would be ciel hermoso, well those are two words but they mean beautiful sky because I learned that by putting aside our differences, different communities can work together for a common good through sharing their stories.”
This program would not have been possible without our partnership with the Student Engagement Office at Carleton. Their enthusiasm for a new opportunity for virtual exchanges during the pandemic led to a successful, meaningful experience for both the Carleton students and our youth mentors.
At the end of the week, our partner Tania from Carleton, has this to say about the exchanges, “the Virtual Exchange component of SOS’ Flip the Script program was so transformative. One thing I have learned from working with students during the pandemic is that they are yearning for opportunities to connect with their peers. Each day was full of enthusiastic students and mentors, engaging in activities, active listening and learning about the impacts of COVID-19 on global communities. Although students could not travel to Guatemala this year, I believe they were there in spirit through the virtual interactions and collaborative efforts of both Carleton and Cotzal students.”
Overall, the students were grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from the students in Guatemala and to share their stories with each other. Our week was full of laughter and learning, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.
If you’d like to see the final stories produced by the students, you can check out our medium publication at: https://medium.com/flip-the-script