Skip to main content

Azkah Waseem

Azkah WaseemWhat drew you to apply for this educational tour? 

Studying Criminology in a classroom forced me to think beyond just the physical space in relation to the social problems that exist outside the world of textbooks. I always had to imagine what oppression looked like, what gender inequality looked like, the effect of global warming and other problems such as poverty and social isolation. Being given the hope to change the world while in undergrad wasn't enough. I always thought that in order to understand something and make a difference, one must experience it themselves. The chance to experience the problems I was learning about and come up with a realistic solution seemed possible through this educational opportunity.

What were your expectations going into this experience?

My expectations for this program were completely different from what I saw. I expected to see consistent issues in terms of sustainability when it came to food, poverty, economic retention, and overall general security before going into the Indigenous communities. 

How did your experience compare to your expectations?

My experience with this educational tour was surreal. The real world brings a completely different experience from what one can learn sitting in a classroom. My preconceptions taught me that countries like Costa Rica or Panama tend to be riddled with poverty and economic deprivation. From what I saw between the Indigenous communities and schools and the different institutions and programs I visited, there was strife but there was also a connection and a sense of community. It was amazing to see how much progress these people had made with how little they had. There was more value given to things such as friendship and family rather than to the number of school chairs available in a classroom, or the number of crayons available to the students. It was never about resources for these people; it was about having a support system.

Azkah Waseem holding a babyDo you have a moment that stands out for you? Why has it stuck with you? 

The moment that stuck out for me was the Madres Maestras (Mothers as Teachers) program. Before this educational tour, I had no sense of how much anything involving children meant to me. It was amazing to see how young some of these mothers were and the support system available to them. To see these children put no value in toys or materialistic things, but instead put value in seeing their friends every single day and playing with the soccer ball around the dirt hill, was refreshing. That is the background I came from and it was heartwarming to see that a world with such simplicity still exists.

Now that you’ve been back home, what can you say is the biggest takeaway from this experience? 

My biggest takeaway from this experience is to spread the message of simplicity. I think in the Western world there came a point in time where we started giving value to more materialistic things rather than to social connection. I think we lost touch with how far a social connection can take us. And while we have come to value individuality, we’ve also come to forget what social relationships and friendships can do for us. We have to remember that humankind still survived before the times of material things and technology. I feel that everyone needs a gentle reminder of how much a simple bond to another person can do for you. 

How do you think this experience will affect you in your future career endeavours? 

Since my career is based in law, I think it was interesting to see how there was no clearly defined justice system within countries such as these. Like I previously mentioned, because there was more value given to social bonds and more value given to the idea of community and togetherness, there was little of the same thought given to hostility. With that being said, this experience affected my future career in the sense that I see a more holistic approach in terms of what I want to do with my future. It reminded me that everyone deserves a second chance, and my goal to become a criminal defence lawyer is backed up by that idea. That is the basis of the work I will do in the sense that everyone deserves a second chance, and more importantly, everyone deserves a fighting chance.

What would you say to future students who are thinking of taking part in this sort of experience?

There are little words to put to this experience. It is hard to encapsulate the beauty that I and my fellow travellers experienced. It is hard to put into words when the wind hits you the right way and the sun comes up on the perfect side of the mountain. It is hard to encapsulate how the rain and the mist hit you the higher you go up on the mountain or how the Indigenous people give off a vibe of togetherness and connectivity. You forget about your phone; you forget what you left behind; you forget all the struggles that you have to face; you forget what you’ve been through, and all you see and feel is how simple life could be. To anyone considering an opportunity like this, I would say that this is more eye-opening to what life should be than any type of formal education. This experience is something that is unforgettable, it is something that will stay with you no matter how hard you try to forget it. Every time it rains, you will remember the mountains; every time you feel lost, you remember the friendships you made; and every time you learn something new, you will remember that it won’t be the same until you've experienced it yourself. This educational tour is more than education; it is so much more than applying what you’ve learned. It is more about learning the basic fundamental values of humanity.