Monday, April 18, 2011

Cricket for the Blind

This is a little tidbit I meant to post about a few weeks ago when my brother first left.

After hugging my brother goodbye at the airport, I took the ZR van along the South coast back towards home. After about 10 minutes, a young girl about 12 years old, dressed in a blue t-shirt and shorts, climbed carefully into the van with her oddly-shaped bag. As she made her way to the back of the van, her mother spoke diligently with the driver, directing him to escort the girl somewhere I was not familiar with when they arrived at the terminal. I thought perhaps the two knew each other and that the girl was heading to a friend's house. But upon catching a glimpse of the printing on the t-shirt and the difficulty she was having to make her way to the back empty seats, I realized that this girl is blind. And that inside this bag was her cricket equipment. Immediately intrigued, I looked up the game when I arrived back home - it looks like a really big deal in India and the UK. Each time fields 11 players, as 20/20 goes, of which a certain number have to be legally blind, while the other players can be visually impaired. The ball emits a noise making it possible to hit even without seeing it. Along with a few other changes, visually impaired children and adults can play the same sports at a higher level.

Cricket in Barbados, and in the West Indies in general, is a phenomenon. I will not go as far to say that it is akin to Football in South America, however with the UK legacy in the region, it is still incredibly popular. For someone whose mom has worked at Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind for the past 10 years, I am really interested in watching a game! I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Visa issues aside...Antigua!

It's the moment you've all been waiting for...okay not really but finally the title of my blog can live up to its regional expectations after a short work trip to Antigua.
On the communications side, UNICEF is working in select countries in the region to equip children and youth with the writing, photography and video-making skills to enable and motivate them to speak out on issues affecting them, their community and their country. Sounds vague, but workshops like this one in Antigua, help to show young people that their opinions matter. The video productions group, facilitated by LiveUp host Mitzi Allen, brought youth into groups to plan, script, budget, shoot, edit and present a five minute segment on a topic of their choosing. I was impressed when the three groups chose themes of child abuse, peer pressure and sports promoting positive youth development. I'll have to post the videos next week when they're finished!

The journalism/photography group were told to list three of their passions and focus on one for their story, and some really interesting ideas came out: from redefining the word 'ghetto', to girl guides tuning down the aggression of one girl, to discussing what happens to orphans and forgotten children in the family law system from the perspective of an adopted girl.
Focus group on Monday went well, though a lot of kids were shy even when I spoke to them directly. And most of them had never heard of UNICEF, let alone the CRC so at least I was able to explain a bit about that.

One of the highlights of this trip was definitely meeting Fidel and Cozy, two bright and upfront girls, who took some time to show me around and share about themselves openly. And I thought Barbados was a small island; Antigua has less than 100,000 people and everyone knows everyone’s business. Such is the case with “Antigua’s list: girls” – a survey voted on by a plethora of males (I hesitate to use the word men because the whole idea is beyond immature) with categories such as “Menstruating Barbie”, “Cutest Face” and “Best Body.”
As you may know, I turned 24 on Monday while in Antigua, though without text and virtual messages from friends and family, I might have completely forgot! After the workshop finished, I went to eat a giant, delicious pizza at Big Banana, followed by an ice cream-topped fresh waffle from the Australian, which later I found out are the two must-eat-at places in Antigua. After eating, I strolled around the harbour, snapped some sweet shots and met the Sushi Kid. This artist, music producer and sushi master successfully guessed my age and went on to explain how he was planning on becoming a millionaire in the next 4 years. Ronald Silencieux, his real name, was quite the character but made it perfectly clear how few opportunities there were on the island. I spent the rest of the evening enjoying more ice cream and talking about life with a complete stranger. It’s about finding joy in the unexpected.
Tuesday I spent most of the morning talking with Fidel and documenting more of the youth workshops. Her and Cozy wanted to show me more of the island but when we ran out of time before my flight, we made a quick stop by the coast and for some sandwiches before I headed back to Barbados.

Side note about flying Liat (the Caribbean regional airline)aka Leave the Island at Any Time. For real, the plane left 15 minutes early. The pilot apologized for the delay in leaving as I boarded, calling out “we were delayed because of the individual coming on board just now.” Oh thanks. Luckily I smiled, waved and said sorry to all 6 other people on-board.
Every day I am learning more about UNICEF’s role in working with partners in that we document the process – necessary for our transparency but it can be burdensome for partners, we speak at the opening and closing ceremonies of conferences, workshops and trainings, and we ask partners to fill out surveys and forms to receive their funds. Now that I have a better understanding of these processes, I think it's time to get some hands-on work under my belt, and now that I have my return to Canada date of May 27th, it’s time to really think about what’s next for me!