Connections.

My name is Valerie, I’m 27 years old, and I call Montreal home. In the last couple of years, I have lived in the Netherlands and in Southern India as part of my Master’s program in Global Health. I am writing this blog from Cape Town, South Africa, where I am doing my internship as a research assistant at the Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit at the University of Cape Town, through the Department of International Development Studies at Dalhousie University. First day of work is tomorrow, more information to come on that front!

The ACIC training week in Tatamagouche united 20 driven individuals to discuss issues related to national and international development and effective intercultural partnerships. It gave us an opportunity to share and debate our vision for a more equal world. Different backgrounds brought new perspectives to conversations, which are intensified by experiences and emotions. Yet, it is the curiosity of each individual that struck me; each of us asked questions about each other, different. While we pondered on our role in reducing inequalities in different regions of the world, we listened carefully and embraced different perspectives. As each of our stories unfolded, values and ambitions were contextualized to give meaning to everyone’s passion. 

People can also connect to places. It might be the smell of the path that entices us, the colors giving light around us, or the immensity of nature overpowering us. Coming from Quebec, the two weeks I spent in Nova Scotia for training provided me with the perfect excuse to explore a new province. My internship partner, Sarah, and I went for an impromptu road trip in the Annapolis valley, where we discovered a more simple Canada; genuine conversations about the weather, locally grown foods and a commitment to community traditions (see Pumpkin People!). It made me proud to be Canadian. Now in Cape Town, I see the beauty of the landscape, but also the segregation of the city, giving rise to the very issues we are addressing during our internship. In this way, these sights, smells, sounds are intrinsically entangled with moments and people.

But what are those connections made of? What makes us attached to strangers, to passing moments? It certainly has to do with being at the right place at the right time. More than that, it’s about being invested in people and their stories; it’s finding ways to relate to one’s struggles and ambitions. Ultimately, connections create an experience that is greater than the sum of its parts, rooted in the meaning found in shared values. And for me, these connections are not only a mean to build a better world, but also an end in itself, where caring for another is the most fundamental human purpose.