Jade Zylberberg graduated from Dalhousie University with a Bachelor of Management in May 2013 and is hoping to start a Master’s program in September 2014. She was fortunate to go to QGAP with Branksome Hall in March 2008 when she was in Grade 11.
There are truly no words to describe my experience at The Queenstown Get Ahead Project schools (QGAP). The experience opened my eyes to the world and made me realize that I was living in a complete bubble. While I had been used to worrying if someone would have the same prom dress as me, these students didn’t know whether or not they could find a ride to school or whether they would have food to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Despite the troubles faced at home, I was amazed to always
see every student with a smile on their face each day. They couldn’t be more excited to see us walk through the halls, hang out with us at recess and sing with us.
As part of our trip to Queenstown, we were given buddies that were close to our age, in the older grades of QGAP. Not only were they familiar faces at the school, but they also came with us out for dinner and for bonding activities throughout the week. To this day, there is one memory that I will never forget. We were out for dinner with our buddies and all ordered our food. When our hamburgers arrived at the table, one of our buddies asked for it to be immediately wrapped up to go. When we asked why she was going to wrap it up prior to eating it, she simply answered:
“I don’t think my siblings have had anything to eat today and I wanted them to be able to share this.”
That one sentence opened our eyes. How could it be possible that they hadn’t eaten anything all day? Without consultation, we all asked for our dinners to be packed to go and gave them to our buddies to take home to their families. We knew we would be okay with only having chocolate for dinner, but we didn’t know if they would be.
While at QGAP, I also had the opportunity to teach grade 5 students about various cultures in the world. Each morning when we would walk in, they would greet us with cheers and songs, making us truly feel important and special. What we may not have realized until after we left was that to them, we were important and we were special. We made the trip from Canada to be with them and for most, that was more than they could have ever wished for. On our last day, we received letters from our students that I keep in my drawer and pull out when I need a pick-me-up. Notes that thank me for “changing their lives” truly lift my spirits. That two week trip to South Africa not only opened my eyes to a different side of the world, but truly changed the way I live my life- it made me realize the necessities of life like education, housing and food, things I deem as basic, should not be taken for granted. I am eternally grateful to Branksome for the opportunity of a lifetime. I am forever changed because of that experience.