Three members of Inverness County Cares attended The Green Across The Pacific conference and it was so much more than we expected. Initially we thought we were simply going to Vermont to participate in a conference hosted by people who had a mutual interest in the St Charles Lwanga School, where we would be able to promote the St Charles Lwanga School.
Before we left home, we met with 35 Dalbrae, (Mabou, NS) students and 6 signed up to participate in an online virtual discussion involving the conference participants and 2 schools in Puerto Rico and one in Senegal.
Besides local Vermont schools and community members there was a strong international physical presence from Senegal, Puerto Rico (Justo Mendez and Ana Iris and three other representatives of Nuestra Escuela), Kenya (Br Kennedy), China, Bhutan, Korea and Canada.
We arrived in Vermont Tuesday evening and were sent to our respective billets. The conference was held on the beautiful, ‘green’ campus of the University of Vermont. Wednesday morning was a workshop with Daniel Baron, who has spent 40 years working in public, private and Native American education, and pre-K through college, as a teacher, coach, whole school change facilitator and School Leader. Daniel spent the morning and afternoon training the students who were present and those also with us virtually, including our local school, Dalbrae. Wednesday afternoon those not involved in Daniel’s second session went to see Shelburne farm, a restored farm previously owned by the wealthy Webb family. It is a teaching, tourist facility with several businesses located on the grounds.
The list below gives an idea of the presenters who shared with us their experiences and expertise on student virtual and physical exchanges where students work together to find ways to help our ailing planet.
The Thursday round table sessions provided an opportunity for conference participants to tell about how they fit with the program.1) Woodstock Union High School-International Service Learning
2) Peoples Academy-Senegal Virtual Exchange Experience
3) Green Across the Pacific-International Small Group Projects
4) Young Writer’s Project- Virtual Platform
Lunch- Tech. & Education in China a Conversation with Wang Xiaoyu
5) IVECA- Eunhee Jung, Virtual Platform
6) Burlington HS/Bhutan- Virtual Exchange Experience & Environmental Projects
7) Franklin West SU- Virtual Conferencing Platform
8) Inverness County Cares- Fundraising for International Outreach
The content and intent of the conference was very encouraging and gave us hope for the future. However what really blew us away was the reception we received concerning our work with St Charles Lwanga School (SCL) and the concern for the living conditions of the students and their future. The energy in the room from the middle school children to seniors 80+ was electric. After viewing the Power Point depicting the conditions at SCL and discussing the school with Br Kennedy, many people were greatly moved. We were swamped with people offering their services for fundraising, students asking for virtual presentations on the school, a request for virtual teacher in service presentation, people who missed the presentations asking for the presentation again, offers of cooperation and in general many people suddenly realizing how much we have and the importance of caring for our brothers and sisters in the developing world. And what better way is there than providing an education and supporting them until they are independent productive citizens.
This gathering of good, compassionate, forward thinking, community leaders gave us a very comfortable feeling and we all left knowing this is the beginning of something really good and with the stipulation that we will meet virtually on a regular basis, (with some side trips to Cape Breton as well).
The days were jam packed and our only regret was that we didn’t have time to spend enough quality time with Br Kennedy discussing the St Charles Lwanga School’s immediate needs and future plans, as well as just spending time with him and getting to know him better. We also could have used another two days just to network with the other participants who were an amazing array of experts in their field, representing the far corners of the world.Many thanks to:
Green Across the Pacific for the opportunity to participate and for the amazing hospitality.
The Bay & Paul Foundations
John Canning of Physician’s Computer Company
The Rubenstein School of Environment & Natural Resources
The College of Education & Social Services at the University of Vermont provided physical space and logistical and technical advice.
University of Vermont, which will continue to partner with GATP in this work.Marco Ayala for the videography workshop