My service-learning experience with Breaking the Silence Network (BTS) began through a university course that I was in called Exploring Global Parallels. We were given a selection of service-learning opportunities and chose to do my placement with Breaking the Silence in the Mapping Resistance in Guatemala and the Maritimes project. I had heard from some of my professors about BTS’ work in Guatemala but was otherwise unaware of what was happening in Guatemala. I was also very interested in learning more about land resistance movements in the Maritimes, as I am from British Columbia and I did not know very much about Indigenous land rights issues here in the Maritimes. I had never heard anyone use the phrase ‘solidarity network’ and I was eager to learn about what they are, what they look and how BTS operates. Through some of the other university courses I had learnt about NGOs, aid and different forms and structures of development including bottom-up development, but I had never heard of solidarity networks, so it was very interesting to learn about their value in development.
Through these meetings every week I learnt from discussions the meaning of privilege, how to be a good ally and what solidarity means and looks like. As we neared our final weeks, we began to research specific land resistance movements in the Maritimes, across Canada, and in Guatemala. Through this research, I was surprised to learn how similar the issues Indigenous communities face in Canada and in Guatemala, and the complete ignorance shown by Canadian mining and extraction corporations around the world. My three main takeaways from doing a service-learning placement with BTS are the meaning of solidarity and how to be a better ally, the similarities between land rights movements around the world, and how lucky and privileged I am to be able to live on this land. I am very grateful to have had this opportunity to work with BTS and Indigo, I will never forget the things I learnt.
Be sure to check out the students’ podcast about their projects, featuring interviews with Lisa Rankin and Antigonish Local Committee member Janette Fecteau.
Natalie is a 3rd year student at StFX studying Sociology and Development studies. Her interest in travel, community economic development, and the ways that social issues affect national and global health is what drew her to studying Sociology and International Development. In the future, she hopes to work in the public health sector as a medical social worker.