UFV students reap rewards from trip to Antigua

A group of kinesiology students return from the Caribbean island, after participating in Champions for Health Promoting Schools.

UFV student Alison Bricco

UFV student Alison Bricco

Building relationships, gaining confidence, and being humbled are just a few of the experiences had by a group of UFV students on a recent trip to Antigua with the Champions for Health Promoting Schools program.

In its seventh year, the project also reached new heights – from being commended by the Antiguan minister of education, to being interviewed on the local radio station, and creating a new exchange opportunity.

For the month of May, the kinesiology students worked in schools across the Caribbean island, along with hosting the Unity Games, an event similar to a Canadian sports day.

The focus of the trip was teaching life skills, such as teamwork and listening, through lessons and games.

Overall, the trip was a success, said Joanna Sheppard, a UFV instructor and creator of the Champions for Health program.

Not only did the Antiguan students benefit from the experience through personal growth, but the UFV students did, too.

“They became more confident in themselves,” said Sheppard. “And they’ve realized they are part of a bigger world – that teaching cannot only impact the Fraser Valley, and Canada, but also across the world.”

Alison Bricco, 23, of Abbotsford can attest to that. Remembering how she felt during her first week in Antigua, she was unsure of her abilities. But as time progressed, she felt like she was “coming out of her shell.”

“I started becoming more comfortable with my teaching abilities, and the interaction with the kids started to come so naturally,” said Bricco.

“My expectation was that we would go to Antigua to help the kids and their teachers. I didn’t realize how big of an impact it would have on me overall.”

Volunteering at the local track and field meet and the local tennis club helped the program connect with the community, as did adding two new schools.

Other highlights of the trip were having a celebration dinner with the local teachers, speaking on the radio and TV about the program, and being invited to be a part of the Antiguan Community of Practices Organization (which looks at the best practices of teachers).

In addition, the program was honoured by the Antiguan minister of education.

Four Antiguan teachers will visit UFV in April 2013 for the first time. Sheppard will also work on a research project with the Antiguan ministry of education, in conjunction with the UNICEF Child Friendly Schools Initiative, run through the United Nations.

For more, visit http://blogs.ufv.ca/antigua.