by Kailtyn Kitzan
This blog is a part of "Student Perspectives on Global Citizenship Education", a series of blogs by Saskatchewan high-school students reflecting on their experiences through the Global Citizen Youth Leadership (GCYL) Program, an immersive, international solidarity tour from Saskatchewan to El Salvador, and back again.
This past year I started being interested in becoming a global citizen in this world. I have attended all four Saskatchewan We Days in the past which was a good start to getting me involved in social justice issues. Me to We has many campaigns that are youth friendly and they supply all the resources for you to get started. Last spring, I went on a Me to We trip to Ecuador with my high school. It was an educational and volunteer trip led by school teachers and a tour guide. We all stayed in a lodge in the jungle that was not located within the community we were working in.
The GCYL Youth Leadership Team preparing for their learning journey through workshops.
While on the trip we physically helped the people with building, painting and other tasks that needed to be done in the community. While doing the physical work I felt like I was making such a difference in the community. However, once I returned that feeling changed, I didn’t feel like I made a difference at all. I felt like our actions were not leading towards sustainable solutions within that community or country. After returning, the experience ended, there was no follow up on the trip, discussion on what we did or learned, and no action. As a result, I started to seek out more opportunities involving social justice and becoming a global citizen.
That is when I applied for the Global Citizen Youth Leadership (GCYL) program that the Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation (SCIC) was offering. They were looking for grade eleven Saskatchewan students to take part in this program. I was selected to be one of those participants. This experience expanded my knowledge on social justice and international development issues significantly.
I learned about the difference between charity and justice within international development, LGQTB, HIV/AIDS, oppression and so much more. This experience immersed me into the community and culture as we lived with host families in the community of Santa Marta in El Salvador. Instead of doing physical work we were there to learn from and share with local groups and organizations on a variety of social justice and human rights issues. While being in El Salvador I had more interaction with the locals which allowed me to create meaningful relationships. After returning from El Salvador, my learning journey did not end. While on the trip we made a documentary which enabled us to return to Saskatchewan and share our experiences with others. In total we completed nearly 20 presentations throughout the province raising awareness of the global justice issues in El Salvador.
GCYL Youth Leaders visiting with the team at the Sensuntepeque
AIDS Clinic in the Cabañas department, El Salvador.
Personally, coming back from this trip I have noticed changes in my behaviours, values and perspectives. I have become aware of the privilege I have in my life such as education, access to clean drinking water, and sanitation. As a white, middle-class, female, teenager, from Canada, I am not expected to drop out of school to help my family survive or start my own family. I am not expected to walk anywhere to access clean drinking water or carry gallons of it back to my community so that we can clean our food and ourselves. I have been more thankful for all of the opportunities available to me, including the freedom and encouragement to play sports and not be punished for my interests. I now have an overall appreciation of my country and province for the rights, freedoms, and privilege we take for granted. I value family unity and the respect we have for one another both at home and in our community. The GCYL program has left me inspired and educated in many social justice issues.
The difference between a Me to We trip and the GCYL program was that the GCYL program was an education and solidarity trip. A Me to We trip has a physical work aspect to it and a tiny portion of education. For some people they need to see that progress they are making while on trips, this is why a Me to We trip is good for them. But for me, I want to create relationships, learn from locals, and be immersed within the culture. I want to be able to come home from a trip and have their stories to share. That is why I would prefer to go on an education/solidarity trip instead.
(L to R) Kailtyn and fellow youth Leaders Tiarra Bigsnake-Keewatin and Stuart Hall sharing
their experiences with Bert Fox Community High School students, Fort Qu'Appelle, SK.
Personally, I enjoyed the GCYL program better than my Me to We trip because the experience hasn’t ended yet and I don’t think it ever will. The GCYL program has left me with more opportunities to get involved in creating sustainability within the world. After being involved in such a life changing experience, I know I will continue living my life being the best global citizen possible.
Kaitlyn Kitzan is a student at Sacred Heart High School in Yorkton, SK. Kaitlyn was one of eight Saskatchewan youth leaders that traveled to El Salvador in the summer of 2015 through SCIC's Global Citizen Youth Leadership (GCYL) Program to learn about the work of SCIC member PWRDF, and their local partner CoCoSI. Upon returning to Canada, Kaitlyn and her fellow Youth Leaders undertook a speaking tour across Saskatchewan to share their reflections with their peers and communities. Learn more here.