A message from Anonymous
What scares you the most?

Leaving a world in which my children seven generations from now will not be able to live in… well. 

/a-collection-of-diverse-photos-from-the-past” class=”tumblr_blog”>erynnemichelle:

A Collection of Diverse Photos from the past couple weeks of traveling in El Salvador and Guatemala. 

Wandering feet with wandering sisters. 

Life Lessons in Day to Day Wanderings

Describe your academic achievements (honors or degrees received) and how this experience will further your pursuits (professional, academic, volunteer).

Throughout my year in El Salvador, I studied as both a listening and independent (vocational) student, in the Graduate Studies program in both Human Rights and Education; at the University of Central America. In this unique experience, I was able to attend regular graduate classes, as well as conduct independent research, with the supervision of Dr. Maria del Carmen Cruz.

Academically, my work and study at the University has proven invaluable.  It has set the very foundation for my continuing graduate studies, at the University of Victoria (Canada); in the fall of 2013. Without the guidance, research and experience here at the University of Central America, I would not have been able to establish the focus and drive  of my Master’s thesis. Furthermore, I have gained the focus necessary for my pursuing passions in my continued graduate studies research. My research in models of Peace Education, for the empowerment of marginalized youth, will continue to pull me back to both El Salvador and the University of Central America. I believe that this year sets the beginning of the rest of my life in the work of Peace Education; and I will be returning to El Salvador as my research manifests into lived projects and tangible programs in Canada. There are opportunities for incredible partnerships and relations between both El Salvadoran and Canadian Peace Educational Initiatives; and I hope to act as a sustainable bridge for the two efforts.

As my studies continue into a Masters in Indigenous Governance, with a focus on Peace Education, I intend to continue into a PhD Doctorate, and eventually act as a Professor within the a Canadian University Institution. Furthermore, I intend on actualizing my research in Peace Education in collaborative efforts with the Canadian Government in establishing Peace Educational models throughout First Nations Communities in Canada.

Diverse models of Peace Education I have researched in El Salvador exemplify the positive and effective influence engaged forms of Peace Education have in the lives of marginalized youth. Through connecting both First Nations communities in Canada with working communities in El Salvador- we can nourish international efforts and relations of solidarity and peaceful partnership.

Throughout my time in El Salvador, I have been able to volunteer and learn from over seven volunteer opportunities: A childhood development centre (CINDE), an emergency outreach centre for orphans (Project REDD), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Casa de Arte y Paz, Red Activista, Youth for Change and a Distance Educational Program (UCA). My time with these organizations has provided me with valuable experiential opportunities to observe, participate and reflect about diverse social groups for change. Through what I have learned, I hope to continuing my enriching volunteerism in similar projects both in London Ontario, as well as in Victoria, British Colombia.

Overall, the nature of my studies, supervision, support, sustained research and exuberant volunteerism have constructed the context for a transformational year. At this point of reflection, I can only buzz with gratitude and stimulus, as I feel I will not see the fruits of my work nor what I have learned- until have returned home into continuing studies. The very seeds of my future were planted this year- and I can only continue to allow them to grow through continual determination, joy, and commitment to the furthered humanitarian needs within the local and global communities. 

Experiential Learning

How has your experience changed you outlook on your host country and sponsor country? How have you contributed to The Rotary Foundation’s vision to advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace?

One can only understand the social, political and economic realities of a country through experiential opportunities. While my research in El Salvadoran history and current issues was quite thorough before arrival- my understanding and knowledge of these realities have changed immensely. Before, they were simply lived in theoretical knowledge, rather than lived experiences.

El Salvador is a country filled with a people of illuminating joy I have yet to experience any where else in my travels. While harsh social realities ravage the homes and hearts of over 40% of those who are living under the poverty line. However, every papusa stand, every gas station, every elementary school class room was operated, managed and presented with an incredible sense of integrity. My experience of the country has been defined through the multitude of hard workers, joyful friendships and open homes which have laced my studies and wanders.

My outlook to my sponsor country, Canada, has also changed. Canada has a heavy presence of Canadian Mining Companies within local El Salvadoran communities- and there is a large “anti-mining” presence within these communities. In May of 2013, I attended a Social Justice Conference at the University of Central America- with delegates from Canada, the United States of America, Denmark, Australia, Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia and of course, El Salvador. I was unaware of the saturated presence these large industries had within rural El Salvador- and quickly became aware of the life-threatening issues surrounding the companies production- and resistance to. As a Canadian Ambassador, it was important for me to visit the communities (Campañas, Santa Marta) and gather testimonies from the effected communities; who are living with devastated ecological environments and losses of community organizing leaders. Furthermore, my awareness about my own participation and responsibility in Canadian off-shore mining industry has encouraged me to explore how I can make socially-responsible investment decisions when back home.

It was heartbreaking for me to learn that while Canadians are viewed as peace-keepers in many countries around the world, there was a very heavy “anti-Canadian” presence in many of the communities affected by Canadian Mining Companies. This was incredibly important for me to learn about - as it has magnified my work within peace and humanitarian agency must begin first with me- in my own life. My own community, my own country and beyond. 

My work as a Peace Scholar

Give specific examples of how you served as an ambassador of goodwill. How did you make a difference in someone else’s life? Was there a particular experience that changed your life?

The Ambassadorial Scholarship encourages and empowers passionate young adults, as myself, to explore topics of justice and peace within and outside of academic arena. Upon reflection, I realize that the majority of my efforts in goodwill and peace - were not in fact, large scale visible monuments- but rather in my day to day interactions with the diverse communities I am a part of. Whether it be the Rotary community, the academic and student community at my University, or the incredible friendships I have created in my time in El Salvador. There are two examples by which I feel my efforts may have nourished the lives of others, and where these experiences most definitely affected my life.The first experience, which stands out in my mind, was with a family in the Northern mountains of a little town called San Jose las Flores in Chalatenango.

Through my research, I participated in a specific project called, ‘Distance Educational Studies”. In this project, I traveled along with two-three professors from UCA to San Jose las Flores, a very remote village in the north of El Salvador. It took us 3-4 hours to arrive. The goal of the program was to offer students from rural or economically disadvantaged circumstances more access to quality education- eventually attaining their undergraduate degree as educators. With this degree, these students will now be able to teach any where in the country- with excellent education themselves.

Throughout my time visiting the community, I became quite close with a teacher from the local school and ended up staying with her and her family a number of times. Our time together was truly wonderful. Time in Chalatenango truly suspended in the air, and the opportunity to step inside the home, family and life of this incredible woman, was truly humbling. The deep conversations we shared about their efforts of preserving education for the youth, throughout the war, were life changing. The generosity and pure respect and care this woman and her family showed me- was more of a gift than I could ever offer to them. We come from extremely different realities- yet founded and  celebrated a friendship which will bind us for the rest of our lives. Over sweet coffee and papusas, with the rooster crow as our soundtrack, I learned that peace and goodwill is an effort which begins first in our immediate circles and daily interactions.

Another experience which demonstrated to me, the capacity that we each have as individual ambassadors of peace and goodwill, was through my time at CINDE. CINDE is a children’s educational centre which offers food, education and loving support for young children who’s parents work in the streets as vendedores (those who sell food, toys, trinkets etc). I spent my time assisting in simple service at the centre, through cooking, cleaning, supporting in the classroom and soothing the young ones to sleep for afternoon nap. I did my best to connect CINDE to partners I have back home in London Ontario, and compiled a translated information document- to share their work with others back home. CINDE is facing extreme economic threats and are seeking constant sustainable support from the Global North. While my time there was only three months (as I moved locations in the city), I continue to reflect upon the astounding dedication, efforts and advocation of the educators in the program.

While both examples existed outside of my time at the University- they represent one of the most fundamental lessons I have acquired throughout my time in El Salvador. Peace begins with each one of us. With everyday commitments to learning, listening, respecting, caring and growing- we each become peacemakers. When we can create a lifestyle complimentary to peace, our relationships will also reflect the peace that we exude. Those in our immediate circles will feel respected, loved and dignified through our interactions- and will share that goodwill to those in their life as well.

It would be difficult for me to articulate all of the different things I have learned peace and goodwill in the world in a brief report; however through sharing a few humble experiences, I hope to portray the impact of these every day encounters have had in my life. 

Rotary in my Words….

How would you describe Rotary to friends, colleagues, and family? How would you describe the Ambassadorial Scholarship?

When I describe Rotary to friends, family and extended community; I explain that it has been the reason as to why I am where I am today, and to where I am going in my next academic path.

Rotary opened the door to the world as a young exchange student in 2007-2008. I went off on my exchange hoping to experience truly fundamental personal growth- to learn about myself. While, the effects of my time in Brazil are still present today, I realized that I in fact began my learning journey of the world. It is here, I began my journey in goodwill and the thirst for peace and justice.

When I arrived in El Salvador, I intended to continue my journey of learning about global social, political and economic realities; which again I have in numerous ways. However, this year has been one of truly personal growth- to which I can not offer enough gratitude to the organization.

Rotary is an international effort to empower individuals and communities into projects of peace and goodwill on a personal and structural level. Through opportunities like the Ambassadorial Scholarship, Rotary empowers youth, like myself, to become fully engaged in global issues- as ambassadors of peace and justice. I explain that the Ambassadorial Scholarship is to support the furthered studies of passionate youth, in the context of an experiential intercultural exchange. Through living and studying in another culture, language and reality, students are able to explore global issues in a lived way. 

Goodwill and Ambassadorial Representation

How have the materials or training that you received from the Foundation and your sponsor and host Rotarians prepared you for your success as an ambassador of goodwill? What specific suggestions do you have for improving the orientation process?

The materials and support offered to the scholars were excellent. While partaking in a journey like this can always experience confusion or bumps along the way, I believe that the support and guidance from the Rotary community, was outstanding.

In regards to preparation, it was difficult to organize amongst myself and the other scholar, in regards to our busy school schedule. However the time we were able to come together was incredibly comprehensive and informative. I personally, would have appreciated a little more individual support in regards to the process of organizational paperwork and logistical support. On top of finishing the school year, it was quite stressful trying to combine focus with the administrative process of the program. However, as I mentioned before, the personal orientation that myself and Grant received was truly helpful and very supportive.

Due to the fact that my host sponsorship changed half way through the year- I found it quite confusing as to who to direct my inquires to and who to seek for support. Therefore, I found I dealt with many of my inquires alone, instead of seeking for guidance. The only suggestion I would offer, would be to have a mandatory skype date with our sponsors so that we could build real human relationships with them.

What advice or information would you provide to future scholars about living abroad as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar, cultural differences, representing Rotary, and you sponsor and host Rotary clubs?

As I am still in the midst of living in El Salvador, I feel I could better answer this question a year from now- after intense introspection and reflection. However I will break up this answer three sections: Administrative, Personal, International.

Administrative: Give your self lot’s of time! Get to know your home sponsor and work with them to create a relationship of trust and support- don’t be afraid to ask questions! Working with someone who knows the process of the scholarship is extremely important in establishing a well organized timeline- which works for you- in the administrative process. Keep a Rotary journal, to note important events, dates, contacts etc- for when you are to complete your reports!

Personal: Throughout your placement, it is amazing how elusive time can be amongst schoolwork, volunteerism, and general changes and adjustments to living in a radically new place and environment. The changes one experiences are unprecedented, unique, subjective and extremely personal. Prepare to expect the unexpected and to change and grow in ways you would have never known. I would recommend writing a statement of intent before heading to your placement. Ask yourself, “What do I hope to accomplish in my scholarship? What do I hope to learn? What do I hope to experience?”. Let these answers be your guiding motto throughout the year. Set goals for yourself and celebrate when you accomplish them- and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t. You are there to learn and to build relations of peace and goodwill, within and outside of the scholarly context. Therefore, allow yourself to be open to new experiences around you!

Seek out meaningful relationships, in order to establish a community of support around you while on the scholarship. Make the effort to found quality relationships within and outside of the Academic environment; and most importantly within the Rotary Community. Find time to check in with your goals, intention in being in the country, and with your own personal mental, physical and spiritual health. As scholars, we are very driven people who are determined to do
everything and learn everything throughout our year. However, we need to remember to step back and care for ourselves. We must remember we are also going through many profound changes throughout our time in a new country and culture. Take time to rest and restore.

International: Learn as much as you can about your country of placement before you depart. Explore their history, social, political and economic realities and most importantly- their relationship to your home country. Do extensive research about current issues and reflect about how your presence in the country can have positive and or negative impacts! If the language is not your first, work hard at mastering the language before leaving- although expect to truly learn the language throughout your placement. 

Final Rotary Report: Reflections from the Mountains

How will you continue to stay involved in Rotary? Would you become a member of Rotary or Roteract, recommend candidates for the scholarship, and participate in orientations?

My relationship with Rotary will be strong for the rest of my life. Upon returning to home, I will be doing as many presentations within the Rotary community as I am able. I then will be moving to complete my Master’s at the University of Victoria. While in Victoria, I intend on seeking out Rotary communities and building relations with existing clubs. Although I am not able to say as to whether I will become a member of Rotary or of Roteract- I will be connected in many different ways and hope to participate in orientations of new scholarships!

Rotary has changed my life. They have offered me opportunities that I will be forever grateful for. I will do my best to continue to growth and prosperity of Rotary - through my own interactions and education about Rotary to those in my life. I will also work hard within the Canadian Academic community to share information about existing opportunities such as the Ambassadorial Scholarship.

As I return home, I return a very humbled and determined young woman. My time here in El Salvador has been absolutely life changing. It will be quite a feat to attempt and reflect and articulate my experiences in my upcoming Rotary Presentations- upon return- and I only hope I can do the families, friends and communities here in El Salvador, justice; for the love, generosity and pure inspiration they have offered.

Caminamos adelante,
Erynne Michelle Gilpin

A message from Anonymous
Hi Erynne, I have read your blog and absolutely admire all the work youre doing; how youre investing in yourself and interests, and how fearless you seem to be.. What non-fiction books are must-reads in your opinion?

Dear friend and companier@,

non-fiction books which have made an impact in my life: 

- beyond civilization: Daniel Quinn 

- indigenous manifesto: taiaike Alfred 

- cosmology of peace: Thomas Berry

- commonwealth: hardt &negri 

- earth democracy: vindana shiva

- blue gold: Maude Barlow 

- the great turning: Joanna Macy 

currently reading: the autobiography of Assata Shakur

- blessed unrest: Paul hawken

i hope some of these find your hands and heart :)