Lara Snucins travelled to the Get Ahead Project (QGAP) school in Queenstown in 2006, along with 8 other students and 3 teachers from Branksome Hall. She graduated from Queen’s University in 2011 before going on to complete her Bachelor of Education at the University of Toronto. She is currently employed as a teacher, and considers her experience at QGAP to be one of the reasons why she decided to enter the teaching profession.
My experience at the Queenstown Get Ahead Project School (QGAP) in 2006 was by far the highlight of my four years at Branksome, and is something that I still talk about all the time. I always have trouble telling people just what made the trip so special, because I truly believe that it can’t be described through words or pictures. You can’t explain what it feels like to walk down the halls of QGAP and be surrounded by more love than you’ve ever felt in one place in your life, or what it’s like to drive through the townships and see exactly where these kind, loving, optimistic students come from. To really understand these feelings, you have to experience them yourself.
That being said, I will try my best to describe one of my memories from the storytelling project that I worked on with the Grade 5 students. We did a lot of little activities during the week, but the final task was for students to bring in an artifact, or object that was important to them. They had to create a storyboard to tell a story about their artifact, and share this story with their peers. Listening to the stories of these Grade 5 students is something that I will never forget. They spoke about things that had happened in their lives that most of us could never imagine: parents dying of AIDS, poor living conditions with their many siblings, and struggles to get a good education. The most incredible thing was that their stories were not stories of sadness. They were stories of bravery and hope. Despite all of the challenges they faced, these students remained positive, and talked about how wonderful their families were, and of how appreciative they were for their education. At such a young age, it was clear that these students really understood what was important in life. They reminded me to be grateful for everything that I have, and every opportunity that I am given, no matter how big or small. This is something that I try to remember in my daily life back in Canada.
I am so appreciative of having had the chance to travel to South Africa in Grade 11. I will remember the experience not only for the lessons that the QGAP students taught me, but also because it allowed me to develop lifelong friendships with the Branksome students and teachers that I travelled with. Eight years later, we still regularly get together to talk about the wonderful memories that we have from our trip, and the special place that QGAP holds in our hearts. I hope that the partnership between Branksome and QGAP continues for many years to come!