Meeting the Community Based Organizations in Uganda

Hello from Lira, Uganda! What an interesting, eye-opening, and fun experience this has been so far!

I have now been in here for a month and I have no idea where the time has gone. Between getting settled into a work routine, bartering for fruits and vegetables at the local supermarket, and dodging crazy boda boda (motorcycle-taxi) drivers and bicycles, it has all seemed to pass by in a flash.

One of the things that has left the greatest impression on me amongst all of the new stimulation associated with moving to Uganda has been meeting the Community Based Organizations (CBOs) that we will be working with over the next six months. The Canada Africa Partnership (CAP) in Uganda currently works with three CBOs: the Needy Support Centre (NSC) in Kampala, the Aboke HIV/AIDS Woman’s Association (AHWA) in Aboke, and the Obanga Ber Women’s Group in Boro Boro, Northern Uganda. The resilience, strength, and kindness demonstrated by all of these groups has simply blown me away and inspired me in regards to what I can do to make a difference and learn while I am here.

Continue reading

Posted in IYIP 2016-2017 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Ups and Downs: Welcome to Jamaica!

In 2 days, I will have officially been living in Jamaica for one month.


Continue reading

Posted in IYIP 2016-2017, Jamaica | Leave a comment

First thoughts on Santo Domingo

During my first week in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic I have seen historic buildings/monuments, watched baseball in a corner store with locals, enjoyed a mini-concert with old ruins in the background and went for some early morning jogs along the coastline. The DR certainly has a lot to offer!

Continue reading

Posted in IYIP 2016-2017 | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Getting Started

Well, I’ve been in the Dominican Republic for five days and things are off to a great start. The vibrant city of Santo Domingo is full of music, colour and history. The people have been welcoming, and getting things set up has been a fairly smooth process. I’m posting some advice in hopes that future interns will be able to learn from my experiences (including my mistakes) in establishing myself here and elsewhere.  Continue reading

Posted in IYIP 2016-2017 | Leave a comment

Uganda: Awaken your senses!

I boarded my flight to Uganda three weeks ago and promised myself that I wouldn’t have any expectations for the journey I was setting out on for the next six months. That’s not to say that I came into this without specific goals and desires for growth, but I wanted to come into a new country without any preconceptions, assumptions or impressions. And frankly I’m glad I did.

Continue reading

Posted in IYIP 2016-2017 | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Tourism in the Dominican Republic

My experience in the Dominican Republic has been largely based in Santo Domingo. I live and work in the zona colonial where the history and beauty play host to the many tourists who make it to this part of the island. The organisation I am completing my six month internship with is called ProActividad. They are an organisation that focuses on creating social enterprises in order to foster community based tourism in the Dominican Republic.

Why is community based tourism important?

Community based tourism is simple. It is tourism that allows tourists to interact with local people on all levels – communicating with them, learning from them, experiencing real Dominican life and also contributing to the local economy by staying in locally owned and managed hotels, purchasing products from local artisans and sampling authentic Dominican food. While this doesn’t seem like such a radical concept, in the Dominican Republic it vastly differs from the predominant form of tourism: vacations in all inclusive resort.

Many people who have been to or know the Dominican Republic have not experienced the old streets of Santo Domingo, the mountains of the inland or even the more remote beaches such as Bahia de las Aguilas. Most know about Punta Cana with its perfect beaches, clear blue water and palm trees that have been claimed by all inclusive resorts. Places to go spend a week basking in the sun, drinking copious numbers of mojitos and eating far too many very non-Dominican dishes. It is a place to relax with all the comforts of air conditioning, room service, high fence security and armed guards.

My first experience in an all inclusive resort was here in the Dominican Republic in the aforementioned popular destination of Punta Cana. After living in Santo Domingo for three months I boarded a bus and found my way to the gate of this other world. I am not going to pretend I did not enjoy my time in VIP sipping champagne and lounging with nothing but ocean views and blue skies to distract me from how full my stomach was with gourmet fish, but it also was not real life Dominican Republic. Aside from the painful reality that sees such a vast divide between the wealthy and poor in this country and how much food is consumed and wasted in these resorts while others struggle to live on the low wages that are so common, there is the undeniable truth that the hundreds of dollars tourists are so quick to depart with for the promise of all inclusive is not going directly back into the local economy as it should be. While there is no denying the benefits of resorts that grant much needed jobs to locals, the resorts in Punta Cana are by majority foreign owned with profits being sucked directly out of the country and feeding the pockets of those in distant lands.

The Dominican Republic has an economy heavily dependent on tourism. In 2015 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) declared the DR to be one of the more vibrant economies in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a growth rate averaging 7% in 2014 and 2015 and a similar figure projected for 2016. The World Bank has classified the DR as an upper middle income country, yet there remains a huge level of inequality within the country. While there is a wealthy elite there are large numbers living below or near the national poverty line. Together the IMF and World Bank determined that structural reform was needed regardless of the evidence of overall economic growth in the country. Changes to implement real wages is necessary, along with reform and improvement to education, job training and less reliance on foreign supplies replaced with a focus on Dominican supplies in order to generate more jobs and income for Dominicans.

This is why organisations, such as ProActividad, are hoping to work towards changing this with projects such as their current “Tolerance Through Tourism” that hopes to take this concept of the all-inclusive package and improve the concept. The trips are organised, run by and led by local Dominicans (majority from the LGBT community) and provide a more adventurous and diversified Dominican experience. With trips that can be tailor made for the number or people or time period of your choosing. Including activities such as whale watching, white water rafting or boat trips. Exploring the perfect beaches that encircle the island, the mountains at the center of the island and the history and architecture found in cities, such as the capital of Santo Domingo. These trips ensure the money you spend goes directly back into the local community instead of foreign owned resorts that we foreigners have taken so much delight in visiting.

Posted in IYIP 2015-2016 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Advocacy in all shapes and sizes

In April, I had the opportunity to sit in on a training on Advocating for Improved and Non-Discriminatory Services for LGBT People. One of the facilitators spoke of the different levels and stages of advocacy, these being from: 1 Inform ➡️ 2 Motivate ➡️ 3 Persuade ➡️ 4 Move to action ➡️ 5 Champion the issue. The facilitator also said that advocacy can take place in many forms, including through public education, lobbying, research, training and through media; and it is important to engage all sorts of people in different spaces.

It has been interesting to see how J-FLAG engages its community, the public, the government, and intergovernmental organizations, through various levels and methods of advocacy, but all with the overall goal of advocating for a better Jamaica. This includes, but is not limited to, advocating for the rights and protection of LGBT persons, the environment, children and youth, vulnerable and marginalized communities, etc.

I cannot speak for the experiences of others, although the J-FLAG social media can give a nice overview, but here are some highlights from how I have been able to experience J-FLAG’s advocacy in all shapes and sizes in the past months:

J-FLAG, its community members, and volunteers were moved to action in the clean up of Hellshire Main Road beach back in April. Cleaning up and preserving spaces around them is important to ensure that beautiful spaces continue to exist and be accessible to all Jamaicans in the future. Following the clean up, there was a Twitter chat to discuss #BanStyrofoamJa, on how potential bans in the use of Styrofoam could reduce the harmful environmental impact and allow for potential creation of alternative sustainable substitutes.

J-FLAG engages in a lot of visibility activities. Two that I got to participate in were the Montego Bay City Run and the Food for the Poor Run in Kingston. These activities are not only great opportunities for the volunteers and community members to get together, have fun, and stay active, but visibility is crucial in sharing to the public the presence of the LGBT community and the work of J-FLAG. Visibility is important in creating equality in representation.

13133127_10154176683376670_2645525302357684208_nFood for the Poor Run

The 4th Annual Larry Chang Human Rights Symposium, which took place on IDAHOT (International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia), was a day of celebrating a community of love (see Mya’s post on the symposium). The event was followed by PRISM, an evening of arts, poetry, singing, dancing, and celebrating, it was a beautiful opportunity to come together and showcase the talent of members of the community. These two events were once again opportunities to challenge negative perceptions and accurately inform the public about the LGBT community.

Larry Chang SymposiumSpoken word poetry

The community also met with parliamentarians around IDAHOT, to speak with representatives of the government about issues that affect them, to persuade them to act on improving the rights and protection of LGBT persons in Jamaica, as well as, improving the lives of all Jamaicans. I had the opportunity to attend meetings with the Minister of Labour and Social Security and the High Commission of Canada in Jamaica, along with very passionate J-FLAG staff, volunteers and community members.

Ministry of LabourHigh Commissioner of Canada in Jamaica

Posted in IYIP 2015-2016, Jamaica | Leave a comment

From the City to the Country

Khon Kaen - Songtaew - Thanon Prachasamoson

For two months I was living and working in Khon Kaen. It’s not as big and bustling as Bangkok, but it’s still considered an up-and-coming city. I’m quite the city boy, so I did have some reservations about living in a smaller city. It turned out to be a very positive experience and it has allowed me time to appreciate a different part of Thailand. As a northeastern province, Khon Kaen’s culture is actually a mix of both Lao and Thai cultures. You can see this mostly reflected in their language, music, and dance. I particularly enjoyed the Isan music, dance, and entertaining ‘mor lam’ concerts.

Continue reading

Posted in IYIP 2015-2016 | Leave a comment

From Kampala to Kibera!

I was recently lucky enough to be sent to Nairobi for a week to work with Kijiji Cha Upendo, a community-based organization (and partner to the CAP Network) that is located in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya. This was a particularly exciting task for me since Kijiji Cha Upendo’s creators have been friends of mine for nearly 10 years. Kijiji Cha Upendo’s aim is to support households caring for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) affected by HIV/AIDS in order to reduce economic vulnerability, improve children’s access to education with the provision of school fees, and to help expand the income generating activities of the caregivers of OVCs through the facilitation of entrepreneurial skills training and micro-loans.

Kijiji Cha Upendo’s commitment to the OVC households they support has a positive impact not only on the children and caregivers it targets, but also the Kibera community at large. Part of the caregivers’ commitment to being beneficiaries is to form a cooperative with other caregivers and attend bi-weekly meetings using Kijiji Cha Upendo’s office space. These women save together and even take turns supplying sugar and soap to the group, ensuring that all households always have some. In this way, not only are they supporting OVC households but they are strengthening community development.

Eunice Nambusi’s story is a great example of the impact that Kijiji Cha Upendo’s support and resources can have on promoting sustainable livelihoods at both the household and community level. Eunice first started her tailoring business in 2001, but she continues to dream of its expansion. Eunice used to specialize in making curtains, but since becoming a Kijiji Cha Upendo beneficiary in 2010, she has diversified her business to include items such as bed covers, high quality mosquito nets, pillows and pillow covers.

Eunice is a caretaker to orphans and receives support from Kijiji Cha Upendo to pay their school fees. The relief that Eunice receives from the burden of school fees has enabled her to use her income to sustain the livelihoods of her family and to make investments in the growth of her business. She also takes out micro-loans from Kijiji Cha Upendo and has a very good history of paying them back in full and on time. She has invested her loans wisely and has purchased equipment that she uses for tailoring; additionally, she is able to rent out this equipment to other tailors in the community to generate more of an income when she’s not using the machines.

Eunice Nambusi shows us how to use her tailoring machine that punches holes in curtains in her business space in Kibera, Nairobi

Eunice Nambusi shows us how to use her tailoring machine that punches holes in curtains in her business space in Kibera, Nairobi


Representatives of Kijiji Cha Upendo (Leonora Obara and Leah Atieno) and I admire samples of Eunice’s tailoring work

Eunice claims that Kijiii Cha Upendo’s support has helped enable her to become more self-sufficient, and she is eager to return the favour in serving others in the community. Her hope for the future is to be able to expand her workshop so that she can train other young women/ Kijiji Cha Upendo’s beneficiaries in tailoring so that they gain skills that can help them support themselves and their families in the years to come. Eunice’s strong work ethic and pay it forward attitude is demonstrative of the kind of community development that can be seen at play every day within Kibera.

If you would like to learn more about Kijiji Cha Upendo’s efforts in Kibera, Nairobi, you can visit their website at:



Posted in IYIP 2015-2016 | Leave a comment

“We are all worthy of love”

May 17th marked the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia and to commemorate it, the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) hosted the Larry Chang Human Rights Symposium in Kingston, Jamaica.
The theme “Celebrating a Community of Love” was celebrated beautifully with performances and stories from LGBTI individuals. The space was big, bright and definitely filled with  heart


With more than 150 people in attendance, it was an uplifting night where, regardless of your sexual identity or sexual orientation, you could be yourself. There were various speakers and performers, with my favourite being the stories told by 3 different couples. They shared their struggles, accomplishments and everyday way of life.
One woman in particular who is a police officer and is engaged to a woman said “I didn’t want to change myself to gain acceptance from my peers.” As a lesbian working in a male-dominated field, it was inspiring to hear her story and her fight to stay true to herself.IMG_3790
I must also say that the audience in particular caught my attention as Jamaicans bring a strong energy, especially when it comes to music! I have yet to attend an event that doesn’t have a musical guest (or two, or three, or….) and audience members are usually singing and dancing along with the lyrics and beat. It is incredible to witness! Definitely lightens and brightens the mood.

To get the full scoop, jump on social media and use the hashtag #PowerofLoveJA

“We are all worthy of love”-Neish McLean from J-FLAG.

Our CVC work team! Leah, Marlon and I.

CVC  team! Leah, Marlon and I.


Posted in IYIP 2015-2016, Jamaica | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment