Teacher has a world of hope

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life - MELISSA LAMP­MAN

Q: How did you come up with this idea?

A: World­views Project started as a wish to fight hope­less­ness and to travel with pur­pose. So many peo­ple — in­clud­ing my­self — feel over­whelmed when fac­ing the prob­lems of our world, such as poverty, hunger, global warm­ing and con­flict.

Af­ter five years of teach­ing ju­nior high, I re­al­ized that my students needed ex­am­ples to help in­spire them to make pos­i­tive changes in their world. They needed to see that the world wasn’t all neg­a­tive news sto­ries, but that there were also all kinds of peo­ple — in­clud­ing ath­letes, mu­si­cians, artists, hu­man­i­tar­i­ans, ed­u­ca­tors and sci­en­tists — who fol­lowed their pas­sion and found a way to make a pos­i­tive change. Q: What are your goals? A: I hope that by show­ing short films about in­di­vid­u­als who are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence it will in­spire oth­ers to see how they could also cre­ate pos­i­tive change in their community. I also hope that it will break down stereo­types we have of other coun­tries and al­low us to see that we are all much more sim­i­lar than we are dif­fer­ent.

I want to cre­ate con­nec­tions be­tween peo­ple so that per­haps some­one from In­dia could ben­e­fit from an idea from some­one in Is­rael and some­one in Canada would be in­spired to start some­thing based on some­one in Viet­nam.

Q: What did your friends and fam­ily say when you told them what you were do­ing?

A: My friends and fam­ily have been amaz­ingly sup­port­ive of this project. I feel so for­tu­nate that my part­ner, Leor, has sup­ported me ev­ery step of the way — even join­ing me in In­dia and nurs­ing me back to health when I had ty­phoid so I could see this project through un­til the end.

Other friends have helped by con­nect­ing me with peo­ple in dif­fer­ent coun­tries,

Af­ter hear­ing that her students felt hope­less be­cause of the world’s seem­ingly in­sur­mount­able prob­lems, ju­nior high teacher Kate McKen­zie set out to demon­strate that one per­son’s ac­tions can make a dif­fer­ence. The 27-year-old Cal­gar­ian is cur­rently wrapping up an ad­ven­ture called the World­views Project, which is tak­ing her to eight coun­tries in eight months.

Each week, McKen­zie posts a video called In­spi­ra­tional Mon­day, show­cas­ing the peo­ple she’s en­coun­tered and their in­no­va­tive ideas to ad­dress so­cial is­sues. We caught up with McKen­zie on the last leg of her jour­ney, leav­ing Iran and head­ing to Is­rael. friends have do­nated their time to help me build my web­site or give me a place to stay and they’ve have sent me en­cour­ag­ing notes along the way.

My fam­ily has been a source of in­spi­ra­tion and strength throughout this project as well. My par­ents’ ca­reer ad­vice was al­ways to do some­thing that I loved and some­thing that would help peo­ple, so I hope that I can continue to do that by pur­su­ing both of those goals.

Oth­ers have been wor­ried that I was trav­el­ling alone and were wor­ried about my safety, but I have found time and time again over this trip that I have been wel­comed with open arms and treated with amaz­ing hos­pi­tal­ity and gen­eros­ity. The world is not as dan­ger­ous as we of­ten make it out to ap­pear and I want women to know that they can travel con­fi­dently on their own.

Q: Why did you choose the places you did?

A: I wanted to go some­where in each re­gion of the world so that I could rep­re­sent dif­fer­ent cul­tures, reli­gions, lan­guages and economies in my project.

I also picked these coun­tries based on con­nec­tions I had prior to go­ing. I be­lieve that if you can have a lo­cal per­son show you their coun­try, you will get the op­por­tu­nity to ac­tu­ally ex­pe­ri­ence the cul­ture rather than just be­ing a tourist.

Q: What was it like to be a Cana­dian woman in Pak­istan?

A: I was treated with such hos­pi­tal­ity in Pak­istan! I had the op­por­tu­nity to stay with a lo­cal fam­ily and en­joy true Pak­istani hos­pi­tal­ity. I was wel­comed with a feast and flow­ers draped over me in a vil­lage and even had a Pak­istaniCana­dian in­vite me to his wed­ding.

It was a bit of an ad­just­ment wear­ing a hi­jab and there were days that it was so hot I would have loved to have been wear­ing shorts and a T-shirt, but I think dress­ing in a cul­tur­ally ap­pro­pri­ate way is part of the ad­ven­ture.

Each cul­ture has its own norms when it comes to dress­ing. For ex­am­ple, in Colom­bia, I needed high heels; in Pak­istan, shal­war kamiz. Some­times in the West, we judge what other women are wear­ing and think we un­der­stand it be­fore we have ex­pe­ri­enced it. I am glad I had the chance to wear a hi­jab and a head­scarf for a month, be­cause it has al­lowed me to more greatly un­der­stand women from these re­gions.

Q: What city and/or coun­try had the most im­pact on you?

A: Each coun­try has had an im­pact on me for a dif­fer­ent rea­son ... Colom­bia taught me so much about the im­por­tance of start­ing con­ver­sa­tions with oth­ers and be­ing part of a community.

In Uganda, I was in­spired by the sheer de­ter­mi­na­tion of peo­ple who are work­ing so hard to build a strong and vi­brant coun­try. In Rwanda, I was touched by those who have lived through geno­cide and are choos­ing to for­give and rec­on­cile with oth­ers.

In Viet­nam, I loved the story one man told me about “be­ing cool.” He said to be cool you had to find ways to do things that made other peo­ple happy and he’d ask me each day, “Are you cool, Kate?”

In In­dia, I learned so much about pa­tience and peace of mind and find­ing a way to em­brace chaos. In Pak­istan, I was in­spired by a coun­try of peo­ple who have each found a way to give back to their community through their gen­eros­ity of time, skills and money.

Q: What do you hope the youth who see what you’re do­ing take away from the project?

A: I hope that (they) see them­selves in one of the sto­ries and are in­spired to think about how they could use their tal­ents, skills and pas­sions to make the world around them a lit­tle bit bet­ter. I also hope that these sto­ries will help show them how to take the first step in cre­at­ing pos­i­tive change so that it doesn’t seem quite so in­tim­i­dat­ing to start.

I want them to know that you don’t have to be Nel­son Man­dela or a No­bel Peace Prize-win­ner in or­der to do some­thing that mat­ters — of­ten we take our small ef­forts for granted, not re­al­iz­ing that these small ac­tions all add up. I also hope that this project will al­low them to fo­cus on the pos­i­tive and on cre­at­ing in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions rather than be­ing caught up in nega­tiv­ity and let­ting it hold them cap­tive.

Q: What do you hope to take away from the project?

A: My hope was to grow deeply as a per­son and as a teacher, that I could come back with a world ed­u­ca­tion and first-hand knowl­edge of dif­fer­ent cul­tures and peo­ple. I also hope that I can in­spire oth­ers to see the hope that is in our world. We do not live in a gloom and doom gen­er­a­tion, but rather it is an age of hope where peo­ple around the world are do­ing in­spir­ing things to make a dif­fer­ence in the most im­por­tant way, in their own com­mu­ni­ties.

Q: What is the least en­joy­able thing about trav­el­ling for eight months?

A: When you travel for this long you re­ally start to miss lit­tle things like drink­ing from the tap, Western toi­lets and your own pil­low. But re­ally the great­est things I have missed are my friends and fam­ily. I’ve of­ten wished I could in­stantly trans­port them to wher­ever I was so they could join me in some of the amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ences I have had.

Q: Why did you choose so­cial me­dia as a way to share what you’re learn­ing?

A: With my main au­di­ence be­ing 13- and 14-yearolds, I wanted to pick a for­mat that would ap­peal to them. Also, so­cial me­dia has the largest global reach. When I was in coun­tries where one form of me­dia was cen­sored there was al­ways one ver­sion of my project, whether it was my blog, Twit­ter or Face­book, that was still ac­ces­si­ble. So­cial me­dia is also en­gag­ing, it al­lows oth­ers to see an idea quickly and then fol­low it in more depth if they are in­ter­ested. It also al­lowed me to com­bine my love of pho­tog­ra­phy, film and writ­ing.

Q: What can peo­ple do to get in­volved?

A: Fol­low my project on my web­site or through so­cial me­dia. Share pos­i­tive news sto­ries with me so we can continue to con­nect more peo­ple to good news. Share in the on­go­ing jour­ney — once I get back I will be ex­plor­ing the idea of con­tin­u­ing this project as a book or fea­ture film and per­haps a sec­ond jour­ney. If you are in­ter­ested in be­ing part of mak­ing any of these goals hap­pen, let me know.

Pho­tos: Kate Mcken­zie/for the Cal­gary Her­ald

In Uganda, Kate McKen­zie met an in­spir­ing group of wid­ows who have formed a sup­port net­work to cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for busi­ness, ed­u­ca­tion and community de­vel­op­ment.

McKen­zie in­ter­viewed the owner of the Wall Steak House, who projects movies each night onto the sep­a­ra­tion wall in Jerusalem fa­mous for its graf­fiti, as a way to turn it into some­thing pos­i­tive.

One of the joys of trav­el­ling for McKen­zie is the op­por­tu­nity to grow as a teacher by vis­it­ing places of vast his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance, such as Perse­po­lis in Iran.

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