Four graduating StFX students, including Antigonish’s Rachel Garbary, will be travelling down community development roads this spring and summer thanks to OceanPath Fellowships.
The announcement of the Fellowships was made April 8 and along with Garbary, Bachelor of Arts (BA) in development studies 2015, the other students are Amy Brierly and Aaron Thornell, BA in development studies 2015 grads as well, and Asia van Buuren who is a Bachelor of Science – chemistry (honours) 2015 graduate.
It’s noted in the April 8 release that “all four students gained community experience serving local or international organizations through the university’s Service Learning program,” and “three also gained experience through development studies internships.”
The four will join eight new graduates from three other Canadian universities (McGill, Queen’s and the University of Ottawa) who are part of the Fellowship program which will begin at the Coady International Institute June 8.
“They’ll be here for a three-week introduction to Coady Institute’s approach to community-led development,” Adam Baden-Clay, Coady’s youth programs manager, said. “From September until June next year, they will spend nine months living and working in the communities where their projects are based. In the 2015-16 cohort, five of the 12 Fellowship projects are in Canada.”
StFX program manager for Service Learning, Marla Gaudet, said they’re very “proud” of the four recipients.
“Their proposals were compared to those of graduate students,” Gaudet said.
“Their success speaks to the strength of their submissions and the quality of their education at a small university.”
Garbary is one of those completing a project outside of Canada.
“I’ll be returning to the community of Ada in Ghana where I spent the last two summers working with community radio,” she said.
“So I’ll be working with Radio Ada doing a storytelling project working with women farmers and the hope is to plant the seeds for transformed gender relations … through positioning women as power-holders in local food systems,” she said.
Garbary talked about the language barrier as a challenge but noted, demonstrating her experience, it’s about taking the opportunities as they come.
“It’s really important making sure I’m at the forefront in spaces where English is spoken and then, at the community level, I’ll be more in the background,” she said. “While that will be a challenge I think it’s very important to keep the conversation in the local dialect so it’s accessible to more people.
“And being away from home for nine months, I’ll certainly miss this wonderful community I’ve grown up in – I’ll miss my mom and dad,” she added.
Brierly will be working in Antigonish building connections in the local food movement.
“I’m going to be working with several different people and groups in town who are doing work around the local food movement,” Brierly said. “Specifically around the idea of a local ‘food hub’ and I think part of the OceanPath experience is to work in collaboration with community and also as a cohort to kind of shape our projects.”
She said she’ll be facilitating the sharing of stories of producers and others who are contributing to the idea of a food hub and while there is a lot of work to be done, “I’m really excited to lend a hand wherever the community sees fit.
“The challenges facing a lot of community organizations and community-based initiatives is; so many people are dedicated to the issue but have limited resources,” she said.
“People continue to live their lives so in terms of time and resources, they’re often limited so it’s sort of working around that framework and dynamic.”
Thornell, from Ottawa, will be working in Malawi while van Buuren, like Brierly, will be working in Antigonish.
“Service learning was a huge driving force behind my passion for community engagement,” van Buuren, from Coquitlam, B.C., said.
“I traveled to Guatemala in my third year where I learned more about social justice and my role as a global citizen. I was also introduced to L’Arche through a local service learning experience. The OceanPath Fellowship is a perfect fit and I look forward to working with the Hearts and Hands program at L’Arche Antigonish to promote their vision of using art to build community.”
Each Fellowship, valued at up to $25,000, is a gift of the Pathy Family Foundation, a Montreal-based foundation that has invited StFX’s Coady Institute to deliver the program over the next five years.