Torch - Fall 2016

who go on The Institute excursions learn to ask the big questions of themselves and of the issues in their local and extended communities. In this way, our global impact can begin to be measured in our increased humility and understanding, rather than in the number of bricks laid. For Xu, making an impact meant stepping out from behind the camera and bringing herself and her world view into focus. Xu still exchanges online messages with her friends at the Olive Branch and hopes to visit them again this March Break, when Havergal returns to continue building its relationship with McCracken-Nangereke and her kids at the Zion home. Upon returning from Tanzania last year, Xu reflected on how she could best use her experience and skills to continue making an impact here in Toronto and abroad. She built a website ( ) to showcase her photography and is currently selling prints in support of the Olive Branch for Children. Now in Grade 12, Xu is making plans next year to study industrial design to learn how she can design products that benefit people in developing countries.

bonfire on the shores of Lake Malawi and helped one another up the mountainside overlooking the lush green of Mbeya. But they also celebrated and supported each other in more powerful ways. Xu, together with her partner and their peers, embarked on a journey of cross-cultural understanding. They taught each other Swahili and English and learned about the diversity across Canada and Tanzania. They discussed difficult ideas around cultural appropriation and Western development practices. They interviewed community elders and stakeholders to create photo essays and community timelines for the Olive Branch for Children. COBI’s unique peer-to-peer model is what made it a great fit for Havergal’s Forum for Change excursions. At Havergal, we believe that the great personal growth that can come from international experiences should not come at the expense of the dignity and development of the communities we seek to impact. Daniela Papi- Thornton of the University of Oxford has advocated for flipping the traditional approach to philanthropic and volunteer travel on its head for this reason, changing the language of service learning to learning service . This subtle shift encourages students who travel abroad to change the message from “Hi, I’m here to help you” to “Hi, I’m here to learn from you how I might be able to help, now or in the future.” In other words, we go to learn first and then do the hard work of unpacking how we might continue to make a difference in our own communities 365 days a year. Students On our last day in Tanzania, we had to describe our trip in one word. For me, that word was unforgettable . When I left from Toronto to Tanzania, I had no idea what to expect, which I think was best because I came in with an open mind, and what I actually experienced was better than anything that I could have imagined. I would say the most impactful things for me were the people I met. They are now my family. I would never have expected to form such close bonds with everybody at the Zion home. On our first night there, I thought to myself how crazy it was that we had just met them a few hours ago, as it felt like we’d known them for years.

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Photo of children at the Olive Branch for Children, taken by Audrey Xu.


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