“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory” – Dr. Seuss

It’s hard to believe that a month has passed since I arrived home from Vermont. My memories from GIV will without a doubt always have an important place in my heart and I will continue to treasure the time that I spent there. GIV has taught me so many new things which have had an impact on me and have allowed me to explore multiple societal issues.

I will always remember the words of one guest speaker, Neil Taylor.  “It’s important to see people with your heart rather than through your eyes”. This is a nice outlook on life that considers people for who they are as individuals and the impact they make on the world. Neil Taylor was a young teacher and athlete when the discovery of a brain tumour catapulted him into a life of blindness. He defied the stereotypes associated with blindness and is now a qualified massage therapist, has a happy relationship and does activities such as swimming and ice climbing.

Neil Taylor proved that blind people can be independent and can achieve aims in life. This is something that needs to be recognised in society. People with disabilities often face prejudice and oppression which makes it difficult for them to reach their potential. We must work towards eliminating derogatory terms used for disability and promote acceptance in order to contribute to inclusion and ensure that the rights of people like Neil are met.

Fatima and Meg, two of our camp leaders, presented a workshop on sustainable development in the developing world and how to properly allocate aid. They made me realize that in order to make the biggest impact in an affected area, you have to communicate with residents and decide on how best the aid should be used and resources allocated. We did a case study on how so much money was spent on installing bathrooms in a developing area but there was no water to use them so they were just used as storage. Mistakes like this could be avoided through effective communication and collaboration in the decision making process.

My issue group leader Mary educated me on topics relating to powerlessness such as enforcement disparity and topics relating to marginalisation such as stratification and gentrification. Mary also made me recognise my potential as a leader and my capabilities through support and encouragement. I now know that I want to be the type of leader who utilises my skills to help others to see their potential. The type of leader that sets a good example for others.

Mary Gannon, a guest speaker talked about passion and leadership and how we can use our passion to make an impact. She asked us “if we had to get a tattoo on our arm to showcase our passion what would it be and why?”. This really got us thinking. It highlighted the importance of standing up for what you believe in and using your passion to help others.

Tim Collins presented a performance on how heinous bullying is. He presented us with the realization that sometimes messages can be communicated best through the arts. His performance was powerful and showed that bullying can happen in a myriad of places such as in schools, the workplace and on the internet resulting in low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and loss of interest in activities. I really learned a lot from him and his emotive performance. In order to combat bullying we must promote empathy, morality and continue to educate people on mental health and speaking up. Behind every statistic is a human case and more must be done on a global scale.

These are some examples of what I have learned. My time in Vermont was short but I appreciated every single second of it. It was tough leaving GIV but I have so many positive memories that will stay with me. In the words of the director of the camp, Simon “there are no goodbyes in life, only hello forever”.