My name is Kimberly Gregory and I am 23 years old. I am currently doing my Bachelor in Kindergarten and Elementary Education at McGill University. I was born and raised on the south shore of Montreal, in a small town called St-Lambert. I am someone who is very athletic, which is in large part due to my 13 years of experience as a high level gymnast. Gymnastics has taught me that with discipline and hard work you can accomplish almost anything. This is a quality that I believe is essential when taking part in an experiential learning opportunity, especially in a developing country like Malawi, where facing unfamiliar obstacles is a daily normality.
In 2008, I had the opportunity to travel to South Africa, as well as Zimbabwe. It was the most memorable voyage of my life. The natural beauty and wildlife that surrounds this part of the world is astounding. Nonetheless, what really left an imprint on my psyche was the extreme poverty that entrenches some of the areas I visited. Although I was aware that extreme poverty like this existed, I never realized the scale of the problem before seeing it first hand. As a result of this, I was determined to join the Praxis Malawi endeavor in 2014, in order to attempt to alleviate human suffering in the Kasungu region of Malawi.
I am returning to Malawi this year as it was the most enriching experience of my life. I learned a lot academically, but I also learned a tremendous amount about myself. The issues that you confront while you are there truly allow you to grow as an individual. It also permits you to see life in general, from a new and clearer perspective. Malawi is known as the “warm heart of Africa” and I think that there is no better way to describe it as the people are hospitable, kind. and find joy in their lives despite the horrifying conditions that they live in. I am very excited to see the campus come alive this year as the members of Praxis Malawi, as well as the local community have been working extremely hard to develop ways to support sustainable independence of local cultures. I hope that my experience from the previous year will allow me to use my time more wisely, in order to accomplish short-term goals, which will yield long-term benefits.
People who know me best would say that I am a creative, sensitive and levelheaded individual that is always looking for ways to make life and learning more fun. I am a self-appointed, full-time advocate for enthusiastic participation in whatever life throws my way. But when life throws me a day of downhill skiing, followed by a night of board games and watching movies, I couldn’t be happier. I believe that attitude is everything and with this outlook, life becomes less about learning how to weather the storm and more about learning how to dance in the rain. I am eager to start this adventure and as always ready to learn, listen and gain new perspectives. Oh and laugh. Because life is better when you are laughing.
My name is Shayla Baumeler and I am a student at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick. I have grown up in Victoria, British Columbia my whole life but have recently completed my first year of living on the east coast. I am currently enrolled as a Biochemistry major and I am planning to double minor in International Development and Hispanic Studies. I love being involved in my community in many ways, including through sports such as volleyball and softball, through local volunteer initiatives and through pretty much everything else in between. In addition, I am extremely passionate about photography and documenting my experiences through my images.
For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the human body and have been interested in entering the medical field. Through my travels from a young age, however, a passion has ignited within me to become more involved in the development of health care in developing nations.
In 2010, I traveled to a rural village in India and helped build a school for the local children. The following year, I traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina and worked in a Community Centre in the slums. Although both of these experiences were vastly different, one in a rural village and the other in a populated slum, I still observed poverty to its greatest degree. At the same time, the local people were the happiest people I had ever met. These experiences, among others, changed my perspective on my life. So, when I was told about Praxis Malawi, I couldn’t say yes fast enough!
While in Malawi, I am going to be working on the health initiative with a few other members of the group. We will mainly be doing preliminary research on the state of health in the village of Makupo and surrounding areas. We will be connecting with local families and villagers to understand their previous experiences with the health care system and ultimately where they see it progressing in the future.
More than anything, I am excited to connect with the local Malawians and the Praxis Malawi team to learn more about myself and the wonderful world around me. Thanks in advance for tuning into our blog; I look forward to taking this journey with you!
My name is Dale Perks and I am a nursing teacher at Champlain College, St Lambert, Quebec.
My professional background is in nursing. I am a nurse clinician with an expertise in wound care, having completed the IIWCC with the University of Toronto.
After 27 years in practice, with the last 14 as “nurse in-charge” of the Surgery Clinic at the Montreal General hospital, part of the McGill University Health Center, I recently took a sabbatical to teach nursing at the college level.
I have dreamed of working in a missionary, or doing humanitarian work since the age of 15, but as fate would have it, I met the love of my life at 18, married and had 2 lovely daughters, which put my dream on hold. I learned of this project through my youngest daughter, Amanda, who recently graduated from Education at McGill University. I am glad to be on board and I am happy to be able to fulfill my childhood dream!
Along with various students and other members from Ireland and Canada, I will be working on the health initiative/health clinic for the next 5 weeks.
I look forward to sharing my journey and experiences with all of you, and would like to express my gratitude for everyone’s support and prayers.
My name is Fintan Sheerin and I am a lecturer in intellectual disability nursing at Trinity College School of Nursing and Midwifery in Dublin, Ireland. A drop-out from several institutes of higher education, I originally embarked on a life in religion, and entered the seminary of a Roman Catholic missionary congregation. THAT didn’t last long and I am now happily married with four daughters.
As noted, my professional background is in nursing. I am a registered intellectual disability nurse, a registered general nurse and a registered nurse tutor. After 20 years in practice, I took a teaching job in Trinity College where I have been exploring the praxis of social justice among people with an intellectual disability for some years. This has revived my passion for human rights. It is from this background that I have come to Praxis Malawi. I have been asked to coordinate work with the local community around the development of a health initiative or ‘clinic’. This initial and developing dialogue will be the main focus of my work in Malawi and I look forward to working with Canadian, Malawian and Irish colleagues in this regard.
My name is Eloise Sheerin. I am one of the Irish crew heading on this exciting trip to Malawi. I will be going with my friend from my college Suzanna and my dad Fintan (also my lecturer!).
I am 20 years old and live in County Cavan, Ireland (in the countryside). I love travelling and have done some of this in Europe mainly. I was an au pair in Switzerland for a year before college where I learned French and a lot of life lessons. I love doing outdoor activities but also snuggling up on the couch for a film or reading a book.
I am a student Intellectual Disability Nurse studying in Trinity College Dublin. I feel that my experience in working with people with intellectual disabilities who are marginalised in our society will help me work with and understand those in a similar position. I also work as a carer for people with intellectual disabilities and behaviour that challenges on weekends and through the holidays for 2 years now. I am glad that I can work and study in the same field.
The part that I probably like the most about this project is that we, as volunteers and the community members, are all working as equals as everyone has an expertise in something and we all have something to learn from each other. We are not simply going over with the idea that we have all the answers to their questions but quite the opposite! I have had to rid myself of any preconceived notions I had and push myself to never assume I know.
I am aware that the community has asked for a health clinic initiative to be discussed and work done to pursue this. I will be helping in this as much as I can with some of the others in the Health team. Hopefully, this will be followed by putting realistic stepping stones in place for something to come.
As my background is in working with people with intellectual disabilities, I would like to tie this into the work we are doing. Suzanna and I have similar ideas in this and will be working together. We want to understand more about the life of people with intellectual disabilities and research people’s knowledge and ideas about them in their community. We would like to encourage inclusiveness into society (if this is not already there) working alongside the other members of the group from Praxis Malawi involved in work such as education and health. An idea formed was to set up a kind of support group (again, if not already done so) for people in the community to talk about and learn from each other about intellectual disabilities from the people themselves, their families, friends and anyone else.
Following from this we would like to introduce an idea of multisensory stimulation for people with intellectual disabilities. This could be a way for inclusion and socialisation. This idea could be developed by the community and they can come up with ways to interact with and support people with intellectual disabilities in their community.
I hope to be able to listen and work towards the desires of the community and leave with a new bountiful knowledge base and an unforgettable experience!
Hello everyone! My name is Suzanna Weedle. I am 20 years old and am from County Cork, Ireland. I study intellectual Disability Nursing in Trinity College Dublin with my friend Eloise and Fintan is one of my lecturers.
I am passionate about working with people who experience intellectual disability. When I was 16 I traveled to volunteer in orphanages and institutions in Belarus for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as some with mental health issues. I fell in love with the people I met there and have returned twice more since my first trip. I adore going over there as it’s always such a rewarding and enriching experience. I have also volunteered in Sri Lanka with kids in a Montessori as well as with teenagers in a day centre. I learned so much from my past volunteering experiences that I hope will stand to me as I embark on this adventure to Africa!
So as you can guess I love volunteering! I am so excited to travel to Malawi with Praxis Malawi. I really admire and believe in their ethos of equality and team work. In intellectual disability nursing we strive for a power sharing approach between nurse and client. I feel this trip will teach me a lot about how to really achieve that in practice. Everyone has something to contribute and no one has all the answers, I certainly don’t anyway!
I hope to help with the development of the health clinic along with Eloise, Fintan, Grace, Shayla and Dale. I would like to explore the various health issues facing the community members living in Makupo village and see what the best way to address these problems would be.
I would also like to explore the perspectives of the local community of people with intellectual disabilities. Eloise and I have had many discussions about our hopes for the trip. Firstly, we would like to hear from the people what issues, if any, they encounter when it comes to people with intellectual disabilities. Secondly, we would be interested in establishing a community support group (if the community feel the need for one) for those who have an intellectual disability, or who have a friend or relative with an intellectual disability, to create a space for in depth discussion and support to occur. Finally, we would like to explore the use of multisensory stimulation as a means of enhancing social inclusion and how that would fit in with Malawian culture and resources. Hopefully, we will be able to truly listen to the locals and apply what we have learned in our course to address any issues raised.
I’m scared and excited all at once, but eager to begin this journey nonetheless. Malawi here I come!
My name is Aaron Thornell, and I am a student at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia. I was born and raised in Ottawa, and am a fervent sports fan and participant. I have played hockey and soccer for most of my life, and have recently tried my hand(s) at rowing at St. FX. I consider myself so lucky to come from an amazing and loving family, and owe an incalculable amount of thanks to my parents and older sister.
During my three years at St. FX, I have studied history and development, and am hoping to enter the field of development in the future. Specifically, my interests lie in the realm of sport, and have directed a great deal of my studies and efforts towards the emerging field of sport for development. I am a firm believer that it is a wonderful way to garner participation, enthusiasm, and cohesion in projects. I think that sports can also be very helpful in conveying ideas relating education and health to young people.
I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to do some traveling, but have never been lucky enough to visit Sub-Saharan Africa. I am extremely excited to immerse myself in the Malawian culture as much as possible, as well as take in the lessons of the people and the land itself. During my time in Malawi with the Praxis Malawi project, I am hoping to continue research in this field of sport for development. I feel very fortunate to have been provided an opportunity to work with members of the community in Malawi in the organization of the campus sports field. I am hoping help in any way possible, primarily by listening to the desires of the community members. Most of all, I believe this opportunity will be a wonderful learning experience, and I am sure I will be discovering a great deal about myself.
My name is Rita Morley and I hail from the beautiful province of Nova Scotia, Canada. I have been so fortunate to have grown up in a big, loving, and very supportive family. My own personal development has certainly been influenced by many a kitchen table discussion about community and its multitude of components. Being privy to these conversations of family and neighbours, I have inherited a strong sense of the importance of human rights, social justice, leadership, participation, and the true interconnection amongst human beings.
Building on this foundation, I am now on my way to earning a degree in Development Studies at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia and through my studies I have connected with the Praxis Malawi Project. While in Malawi, I will be researching about what factors are involved in forming a healthy and holistic sense of community. In order to gain some new insight and learn from the village of Makupo, I will be helping to facilitate reciprocity and communication between the various projects of Praxis Malawi and the village leadership.
This will be my first time to the continent of Africa and I am very grateful and excited for this opportunity to learn and grow through meeting new people and experiencing a different culture. I am jumping into this experience with openness and dedication. Wish me luck!