Coming to Canada has been one of the most meaningful learning experiences in my life. Arriving in the summer afforded me the opportunity to swim in its beautiful blue ocean and to savor some of its breathtaking floral gardens. I am shocked at how people of such a wide range of cultural identities harmoniously live and thrive in this country. I also admire the celebration of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. As an indigenous Maya of Belize, I feel connected to Indigenous Peoples in body, mind and spirit through the stories, struggles and successes we share.
Through my work in the field of education, I have also been able to engage in dialogue and connect with people from various cultures, which has enriched my perception of leadership and learning. For example, my classmates and I sit in learning circles to share ideas and discuss concerns about education. By sharing these unique stories, we have formed deep friendships and I have broadened my knowledge of life. I have since thought about using this technique for Belize. Perhaps, it would be a good start to engage stakeholders in education and give teachers, parents and students “voices”.
I have also realized how connected and reliant Canadians are to their land. After visiting the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria, I learned about how the indigenous people survived on traditional hunting and fishing for centuries. Even today, like in Belize, fishing, logging and tourism are three of the most important income generators for Vancouver Island. As a result, there is urgency to build awareness and resilience in these coastal communities about climate change. Through combined efforts of the indigenous people, the non-indigenous and the government, British Columbia has taken the crucial step of forming networks and learning circles to build resilience in its communities. In education for example, the curriculum in British Columbia has recently been revised with the help of elders, parents and educational leaders in the communities to be more inclusive and to integrate indigenous worldviews in schools. These changes are important because the revised curriculum can influence perceptions of resilience by emphasizing the connectedness between the Canadian people and the land, spirits and oceans. By encouraging students, parents and educational leaders to develop a great respect and appreciation for nature and culture, British Columbia is gaining momentum in building resilience among its communities.
As an educator, I believe that people view life based on their cultural, spiritual and cognitive lenses, and if one can understand this, then one can begin to understand how people deal with change. By creating learning circles in Belizean schools, educational leaders will be better able to understand how citizens cope with adaptation and change. Through this understanding, a diversity of approaches to addressing challenges such as climate change can be attained. Building resilience in Belize is important because its coastal communities are fragile and heavily reliant on marine life for fishing. Moreover, the rainforests of Belize such as the Chiquibul are the life blood of its biodiversity and watersheds. Tourism, Belize’s highest income generator, will also be greatly affected by climate change.
Living in Canada for the past two months has helped me to recognize that building resilience in coastal communities starts with getting to know people and their cultures. In doing so, I have gained a more mature perspective about resilience both inter-personally and intra-personally. I hope that this quest and enthusiasm to learn more about Canadian culture and my own culture will continue into the subsequent months both on and off campus.
- Miriam Juarez, VIU Masters of Education Leadership Student & QE Scholar