AlgonquinCollegeLogo Small World - Big Picture
Making an Impact - Testimonials
Allison Turner Khairoon Abbas Ismael Sonou Craig Barlow Mike Ballard Mary-Lise Rowat Ben Shillington Cameron Dubé Sarah Peterson Stephen Rensink Dan Straton
Khairoon Abbas
Expedition Africa was an unforgettable journey for me. It is through this experience that my vision transformed from simply showcasing the diverse stories of Africa to taking a more proactive role in Africa's progress.
This journey has brought me closer to the realities of life in Africa, the challenges that range from diseases such as HIV/AIDS to unemployment, child labour and varying political values across this vast continent. This unique experience has left me with indelible memories, memories that continuously drive me to strive for a better Africa. From the hard-working children I met to the women I spoke with, I have learned a lot as a young African woman.
In northern Tanzania, I was privileged to hear touching life stories from a group of women living with HIV/AIDS. The strength of these women that echoed in their stories, taught me the essence of hope in any seemingly hopeless situation. I realized that these women have a right to be heard and have a significant contribution to make in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
There are many harsh realities that speak to me: The difficulties that children, orphans and women face; the socio-cultural practices that fuel gender discrimination and violence; and the biting nature of poverty, all of which leaves me with one mission. I have a big role to play in alleviating these issues and many more. This expedition has left me educated, empowered and confident. It has allowed me to see my continent through a different lens; as a writer and journalist, I continue to critically examine issues and seek possible solutions.
In this fight for a better Africa, I plan to lead the way; whether on a continental, national or regional level, my life is dedicated to Africa.
Ismael Sonou
It takes some individuals a lifetime to discover themselves. For others, this moment of self actualization happens in an instant or as a result of an event. "Expedition Africa", which I was a member of for four months has taken me through the depths of the African continent through which I encountered men and women, young and old, rich and poor of diverse African backgrounds, but all sharing the same passion and love for the continent they live on. Listening to the stories of the inhabitants of the townships of Soweto in South Africa, I got a real sense of what life was like during the Apartheid Era, and the courage, strength, and unity it took to overcome the hardships of the living in the regime. The impact of the stories to my daily actions is continuous. I have a better understanding of the continent and the difficulties its people continue to go through, a deeper sense of self and appreciation for my freedom in the pursuit of a better future, for myself and the continent.
With this Expedition, I look at my life in a different perspective, fully acknowledging now that my efforts, the efforts of one person, could create a change, if done with an open heart. Impact!
Dan Straton
Students in Algonquin College's Business Administration - Marketing Program are making a positive international impact through their Sombra Café project. Sombra Café is a student-run organic coffee company that deals directly with farmers in the region of Santa Maria de Dota, Costa Rica, who grow coffee in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly manner.
"Sombra Café is just one example of the hands-on learning that takes place at Algonquin College," says Dan Stratton, graduate of the College's Business Administration - Marketing Program and now working as a Special Projects Support Officer in the College's Strategy and Business Development Division. "As a student, I constantly dealt with real-life projects, worked with real-life companies and acquired job-ready skills."
The Sombra Café venture, with Dan's help, is extending its international impact by participating in the Small World, Big Picture - Expedition Africa project. Funds raised from the sale of Sombra Café coffee will go towards the construction of a school for 106 students in Rongai, Tanzania.
"It's an incredible feeling to know that your actions are positively affecting the lives of many other individuals," continues Dan about his involvement in the Sombra Café project. "To know that this initiative has a two-fold effect of enhancing the lives of groups of impoverished people on two different continents makes it that much more special."
Craig Barlow
One of the main goals of the "Small World Big Picture - Expedition Africa" project is to help build a stronger level of understanding about African culture and issues among Canadian students. As the team moves through Africa, one way of achieving this goal is through the ongoing updates of information to the Expedition Africa web site. The Expedition is also building educational opportunities in the literal sense with the construction of a schoolhouse in Rongai, Tanzania. Craig Barlow, award-winning graduate of Algonquin's Building Construction Technician program and current Construction Civil this important task. Craig has joined the Expedition team to unite with members of the local Rongai community to create this much-needed structure. "I am glad to have this opportunity to put my skills learned at Algonquin to use in an important project like this," says Craig. As this is Craig's first journey outside of North America, Craig looks at the building of the schoolhouse as an opportunity to expand his own level of understanding about Africa. "This is a great chance for me to not only help the children of Rongai but to experience a new culture for the first," adds Craig. Visit the "Small World Big Picture - Expedition Africa" website to follow the progress of Craig and the Expedition Africa construction team at
Mike Ballard
For Mike Ballard, who normally teaches a graduate program in Geographic Information Systems at Algonquin College, a month in the Kingdom of Swaziland was anything but routine. Swaziland's beautiful landscapes and traditional culture is contrasted by the devastating social impacts HIV/AIDS. With the highest infection rate in the world, health care and social support organizations can't keep up.
Mike and his family recently spent four weeks helping at the New Hope Orphanage, a home for children left behind by HIV/AIDS.
"The opportunity to get involved has been a very special learning experience," says Mike. "The spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa is a complex social-political problem and geographic phenomena, but by jumping in and being part of the care for victims, my family and I learned a great deal about the geographic challenges of coping with the disease and the devastation left in its wake."
Rising unemployment is pushing people into urban centers, increasing crime and violence. In a very rural landscape, getting those who are sick to a clinic for support is difficult.
"The challenge of providing medical and social support in a rural African landscape is very different from our own experiences in Canada," adds Mike.
Mary-Lise Rowat
Mary-Lise Rowat is Vice-Principal of St. Joseph's High School in Renfrew with the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board (RCCDSB). A special interest in the interaction between literacy and technology led her to want to become involved in the "Small World, Big Picture - Expedition Africa" project as project manager for the RCCDSB.
"Our aim in working with Algonquin on the Expedition Africa project was to encourage and empower students to make meaningful connections between what they know about their own lives in Canada and what they can learn about the lives of African people," says Mary-Lise.
"To this end, we chose to focus our curricular efforts on two groups - students who struggle academically and students who can be marginalized in terms of access to technology because of their rural locations."
In mid-December, a group of students from St. Joseph's Catholic School in Calabogie, Ontario, participated in a real-time video-conference with the Expedition team on the ground in Africa. This experience provided a window into the world for the participants, illustrating the endless possibilities for students through the creative use of technology.
Ben Shillington
Ben Shillington is no stranger to adventure. He is a graduate of Algonquin's Outdoor Adventure program, offered at the College's Pembroke Campus, and is a Skills Instructor in both the Outdoor Adventure and the Outdoor Adventure Naturalist programs. He was part of Ben Webster's Mount Everest expedition team in 2003 and rejoined Webster as part of Expedition Africa to help build a school on Rongai, Tanzania, and climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.
As a graduate of Algonquin College's Outdoor Adventure Program, I trained to be involved in a project such as Expedition Africa," says Ben. "Having the opportunity to assist Ben Webster in the this project made me feel that the excellent education and training I received at Algonquin was being well used."
Following his experience in Africa, Ben feels that Algonquin has prepared him well for an exciting future in outdoor adventure and looks forward to more challenges in the future.
"I have returned to Ottawa with the satisfaction of knowing that what we learned at Algonquin can be applied and executed at very high level in a very demanding environment. I also have greater confidence to take on more projects and greater challenges."
Cameron Dubé
It takes teamwork, determination and a strong sense of responsibility for the Expedition Team to traverse the continent of Africa. Each team member continues to contribute to the success of the "Small World, Big Picture - Expedition Africa" project. With just over one month remaining in their journey, the Expedition Team has pulled together to document its travels throughout Africa, build a schoolhouse in Rongai, Tanzania and summit the tallest Mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro. One of many examples of teamwork and determination from individual Expedition Team members is that of Cameron Dubé, graduate of Algonquin College's Outdoor Adventure Program in 2003. Just shy of reaching the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, Cameron helped guide a group of Expedition Team members back down the mountain as they were unable to summit. He then immediately joined a French climbing team to ascend the mountain again, reaching the summit the following day. "I am thankful for the education that I received at Algonquin College's Pembroke Campus," says Cameron. "After I graduated, I was able to take advantage of the College's articulation agreement with Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia to complete a four-year Bachelor of Tourism Management. I believe that my education and training has helped me throughout the Expedition and I look forward to sharing what I've learned in Africa with others."
Sarah Peterson
Sarah Peterson is a first-year Outdoor Adventure program student at Algonquin College's Pembroke Campus and has recently joined the Expedition team to help build a school in Rongai, Tanzania, and climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. The following is an excerpt from Sarah's blog found on the Expedition Africa web site:
I still can't believe that I am here! There are so many children around and everyone is amazingly friendly and happy. They have next to nothing in the way of possessions but seem as happy as anyone 1 know. There Was a lot of enthusiasm and excitement from the locals and everyone involved in the building project. Several Expedition members had gathered donations for the school such as soccer balls, pens, pencils, paper and other school utensils.
It was wonderful to be able to talk with the children and see their gratitude. Seeing the difference in living standards really helps put things in perspective. The following day was spent working on the school and hiking. On the hikes we walked through some local villages and farm land. The vegetation is very different than I expected, being mainly non indigenous as most of the land had been logged and replanted with European species.
Visit Sarah's blog on the Expedition Africa web site to read more about her exciting experiences building a school in Rongai and climbing - Mt.Kilimanjaro.
Stephen Rensink
"The Kennedy Space Centre is a about as technically far removed in place and time from Africa as one can get and yet I is here where I find myself only weeks after my return from southern Africa and Small World, Big Picture: Expedition Africa. It is from this place that humankind launched similar expeditions into outer space and from these that we were first able to gaze back at this blue sphere we call Earth. Images of the continents, including Africa stare back at me and I am struck, once again, by the lack of political boundaries so much so that I think that maybe we are right to speak of Africa as if it were a single entity rather that a collection of the fifty-three countries that make up this part of the world. In fact, maybe it is time that we begin to speak of our world as if it were a single entity united rather than nations divided.
Looking back, I think that the Small World, Big Picture projects have the potential to bring our world closer together by enabling us to share our stories, our hopes and our dreams. The projects raise awareness of the human condition, our possibilities and our country, one continent, one world at a time."
Allison Turner
" Working on the event for the Small World Big Picture Expedition Africa has given me a sense of accomplishment. It feels good to be helping children who are not as lucky as we are here in North America. I want to make a difference and it is very gratifying to be putting my energy into a worthy cause."

Allison Turner