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saw another First Nation person. The people I encountered had never met a First Nation per- son and they were very interested in me. Many discussions were about how we were so much alike – the drum, the dancing, the storytelling, the role of Elders, the state of our health, the quickly changing diet, how many of our com- munities are doing without the many advan- tages mainstream society takes for granted and, most of all, the hope and laughter that is pull- ing us up, keeping us together and making us stronger and stronger. This helped me realize what I had already


suspected; even though we are from different parts of the world we all have many of the same issues, dreams and desires.


VOICE: What kind of training did you receive before you went on the trip? What do educators need to think about or have training on before engaging in interna- tional development work?


MELISSA: My professional experiences as an elementary guidance counsellor, a special edu- cation teacher, teaching in the primary, junior, intermediate and senior divisions helped pre- pare me for Project Overseas because partici- pants can be asked to deliver PD to a variety of participant groups in different subject areas. My ETFO training as part of Leaders for To- morrow, Women in Action and Presenters on the Road gave me a solid foundation in work- shop facilitation. CTF provided team leaders with two full


days of focused training on development co- operation, intercultural awareness, handling team finances, emergency preparedness, media interviews, social media protocols and team- building skills. In addition, CTF brought all the teams together for three days in Ottawa to review our roles and responsibilities, ad- dress potential challenges, explore culture and reverse culture shock and dispel myths of PO being edutourism.


PEGGYSUE: We also met people who had participated in the program. This was very helpful because it gave us good perspective and provided the opportunity to ask questions. We had some videos and discussions about travel- ling abroad, what we could do and could not do, what our role was and the expectations of us as educators. We all come to the table with our own per-


spectives and biases and what the training did was allow us to talk about those in a support- ive environment. Most of us do not even know that we carry biases until we are confronted with them. I think it would be very helpful for


educators going on these trips to understand what white privilege is and how they might be embodying it without even realizing. Although it is a subject that was touched upon, I do not think we did enough to gain a strong under- standing of how we might unintentionally be reproducing systems of power and oppression.


VOICE: What advice do you have for those who are planning to participate in the program?


MELISSA: It is very important to recognize that Project Overseas does not exist in a vac- uum. Do your research. Learn about the his- tory of your host country’s educational system. Recognize that Canadian teachers and our international colleagues all function as part of educational systems rooted in a colonial past and built on foundations of exclusion, dis- placement and marginalization. As a result, as teachers from the global north, our intentions may not be the same as our impact when doing international development assistance work.


We must be willing to centre all our work on anti-oppression practices and to examine our biases critically, especially about developing countries. This will allow PO teams, working in partnership with their colleagues abroad, to share leadership, build capacity, encourage teachers to use their voices, and implement policies and programs that can be sustained long after we head home.


PEGGYSUE: My advice to those who are plan- ning to participate is to be open, honest and humble yourself. We are more the same than we are different and once we realize that, beau- tiful things can happen. I would definitely en- courage anyone to participate in this program, but your mindset plays a very important part in what kind of trip you have. n


Melissa Rabess is a member of the Elementary Teach- ers of Toronto.


PeggySue Bacon is a member of the Keewatin Patricia Teacher Local.


With contributions from Punita Bhardwaj and Izida Zorde, ETFO executive staff.


ELEMENTARY TEACHERS’ FEDERATION OF ONTARIO 27


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