Ceiba Association and Project HOPE: Who Are They and What Are They Doing at the U of A?

Project HOPE Location

Project HOPE (hands open to people everywhere) is a Ceiba managed project that sends students at Grant MacEwan to Latin American Nations to participate in humanitarian projects in rural communities. Project HOPE is relatively well-known in the student sphere, but as University of Alberta students we do not often get the chance to inquire as to what Project HOPE actually is.It is simple enough to say it’s a run by a humanitarian organization and based in the developing world, but how much does that really say about it or about Ceiba for that matter?

For those of you with inquisitive minds and an interest in such projects, now is your chance to better understand Project HOPE and Ceiba through its missions, values and goals. This year both Ceiba Association will be discussing its philosophy and Project HOPE with University of Alberta audiences via an International Week presentation titled HOPE Through Community and Culture. This event which will be held Monday, January 28 will be set up as both a lecture and a Q&A format so that attendees are able to learn through participation.

In discussions with the organizer of the event Joshua Baller and past participant of Project HOPE and current Ceiba member Felicia Wilson I was able to get a better idea of Ceiba and how its 8 year relationship with Grant MacEwan University has helped provide University students with an unforgettable humanitarian experience in Latin America. To understand Project HOPE better, it is first essential to understand the Ceiba Association which manages this overseas initiative.

According to Baller, “Ceiba Association is a grassroots, Edmonton-based non-profit organization that works both locally and internationally to empower youth to become global citizens through community exchange and education.” Ceiba’s mission statement declares that the organizations goal is empowering the young leaders of today to create a more just world. What is unique about Ceiba is that it is in fact an Edmonton based non-profit organization and therefore, audience members on Monday afternoon may just find themselves a rare opportunity to get involved internationally by participating locally. Ceiba doesn’t operate solely through Project HOPE or Grant MacEwan University, but is an organization that hosts a large variety of projects with both local and international aims.

In Baller’s words, “Ceiba manages Project HOPE, international internships, and local projects such as educational sessions, community driven murals and youth workshops… Ceiba is not only for students, community members are welcome to join, too,” which means there is ample opportunity for involvement in this organization.

More specifically (as stated above) Ceiba Association manages Project HOPE through a partnership with Grant MacEwan University, but does it really make a difference? According to current Director of Marketing and Promotions with Ceiba Association and past Project HOPE participant Felicia Wilson, the time she spent Nicaragua “opened [her] eyes to many things some of which include the socio-economic divide, food security, and the importance of education and clean drinking water…it truly put [her] life into perspective.” Of Project HOPE and more broadly Ceiba Association Baller says, “Students learn to appreciate the value of their local communities. They learn to be cultural ambassadors, learn life and leadership skills, and learn to appreciate the advantages we have here in North America,” which clearly helps foster student interest in projects at home upon the return home.

What Project HOPE does for students is to expose them to the developing world in more than a classroom setting; it allows participants to witness firsthand the effects of extreme poverty in Latin America and allows them to collaborate with local villages to create a solution. According to Baller during the Canada based portion of the project, Ceiba’s goals for students are that they “build team work and leadership skills…learn how to organize an event, how to ask for donations, how to multi-task and balance life, work, school, and fundraising… [and] to become comfortable taking on initiatives by themselves, but also learn how to work efficiently in a group.” Wilson echoes this sentiment by stating that “things like this will define and shape [your] life. You can’t help changing for the better when you experience something so beautiful.”

As for their participation in International Week Ceiba’s goal is to “reveal to the audience the different ways in which varying approaches to development can positively affect cultural development and foster inter-cultural engagement and global community,” and by the looks of it, Ceiba Association is spreading this message not only at International Week, but in the international context.