Tuesday, 19 November 2013

International (lackluster) Education Week

   Like many of you, I am an avid participant in education. I have an advanced diploma in Biotechnology and am currently working on a double major in Biology and Computer Science. I mention this to enforce my position on the importance of education. I believe that in any situation education is the best thing a person can do. This does not just include university, trade schools and college are equally as good. This week is International education week and I was excited to see what Brock would do, but thus far I have been let down. I planned to see the International Mosaic Student Clubs Fair in the Guernsey market and when I had arrived, in the last 45min of the scheduled time, I could not find any clubs. I was disappointed as this is a combination of two really important aspects of university, being a student and multiculturalism. The great part of a university education is the broadening of your views, the introduction to you of new and wonderful things. I was really hoping to see a lot of clubs and a lot of interest, but the event seemed to fall flat. This does not bode well for the student experience, though it may be due to the clubs inability to attend due to timing. I have seen what the clubs are able to put on as an even in their culture fair, and it is much more exciting and informative. 

   I did not leave the experience at this though; I decided to go to the Mahtay Cafe for the Conversation Cafe. This was a fantastic experience, the question for the evening was about passion and can you follow it or do you take a logical path for money. The guest for the evening was Christina Bosilo, a Brock staff member that has combined her passion with her work here at Brock university. She is very interested in international studies, and having students go abroad to learn in a new place, to broaden horizons. Some key points that came up throughout the evening where about how people are taught in the current education system. Specifically how it was more focused on dictating what you must now, not on how you learn. This is a critical concept, many people are labelled unintelligent or ADD and really it is more that they do not fit into the system. An interesting anecdote from the evening was that a student was declared fidgety and inattentive, but the educators saw that she had a passion for music and urged the parents to enroll her in a performance art school. That student went on to choreograph the musical cats, the longest running musical ever. This was a positive case of encouraging a passion and not just medicating student. It was very interesting to see that idea of looking deeper and working with a student to discover a passion and nurture that. This can be held as a lesson to not just push out a student. The conversation that night revolved around that central focus. I would agree that we need to look into changing how we view the system, to make it more inclusive of non-traditional learners. The experience was a very eye opening and insightful conversation on the issues with education today. 

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Food Not Bombs - An Impressive Experience

Recently I had the pleasure of joining a community help group called Food Not Bombs. I initially chose this as I read that it was giving out only vegan food. This intrigued me as my main degree in biology allows me to have a certain understanding of the human body. I know that many vegetarian/vegan diets require supplements to ensure that they get all the nutrients required for a healthy diet. Admittedly if you are committed and can afford the diet and supplements it can be a very healthy path. The important take away here is if you can afford it, and if you are seeking out food, and are unable to provide for that, how are you able to supplement your diet with what you need? This was what I was interested in,  I wondered if Food Not Bombs was more about changing peoples values than helping people in need.

So I decided I would investigate the organization and ask some questions, and I was honestly surprised. Upon entering the apartment of the leader (that refuses to be called the leader) where the food was being cooked I was introduced to some very interesting and diverse people. Many were young, and eager to involve me in the process. Asking questions I began to see a similar pattern of people who were more interested in social justice and helping people than pushing a message. In fact on of the regular volunteers is not vegan, he can just see the good that is done by the group.  Many of the regular volunteers are Brock students, but not just Sociology students, there was a good split of Arts and Science in this group. While making food I saw the effort they put into creating a healthy balanced meal that was good tasting and good for you. They understand the importance of a whole meal that will supply everything a meal will need to.

When I inquired about the message, and whether or not they were trying to push the vegan diet or the main message of diverting the government funds that create weapons (or any military expenditure) to the impoverished people within our own country, I was told that it is a secondary goal. If a patron were to inquire about the message, then and only then was anything mentioned. The most important aspect was to feed those who came.  I was truly impressed, many soup kitchens and other food banks will have a Christian overtone that can alienate people, but here it’s about the people, the need, and not the message. 

When it came to serving, it was jovially mentioned that we are more food “sharers” than food servers, everybody was encouraged to eat, including volunteers. I saw this as a great system. You do not have people giving you food; you instead have people sharing food with you, dining with you. It is not two divisible groups, but instead a community. There were regulars that came every Sunday for this meal and the regular volunteers would take the time and say hello and just talk with them, not separating themselves. The people who came were very glad for the meal and the talk, and even shared a picnic table with each other and would chat, it felt more like a picnic in the park than any kind of charity.

The only issue I could have with how Food Not Bombs operates is with the lack of meat. I don’t believe eating meat is wrong, it is quite normal for many species to regularly eat meat, including us. I will agree that the meat companies can treat their livestock terribly and that is wrong, but meat is not. I think most of the patrons would have enjoyed the meal even more if it had included meat, especially if this is their only meal for some time.

All in all I am blown away by the effort and generosity of this small group of people. They are more interested in helping than preaching, and befriending those they help. If ever a group exemplified the principles of Anti Oppressive Practices , it is Food Not Bombs.