A three-month trip to a country 15,000 kilometres away reinforced the idea for a Cawston woman that real change comes from grassroots initiatives and empowering the people.
Sofia Terbasket-Funmaker travelled to Zambia in the fall of 2018 with a group of young Indigenous leaders from across the country as part of the Victoria International Development Education Association program.
While there, Terbasket-Funmaker worked primarily with the organization Women for Change.
She spent the majority of her time in the capital of Zambia, Lusaka, which has a population of over one million people.
“Watching people empower themselves was so cool. I learned so much about development and how we can apply that here as well and how I want to make a change in Canada, mainly in this community,” she said.
The Blind Creek Reservation woman is currently attending the University of Victoria and is close to obtaining her bachelor degree in Indigenous Studies.
“It was great to experience a different country and it was great to get to meet Indigenous people from all over Canada who came with their own cultures and things. That was a really neat part of the program.”
For the majority of her three months in the South African country, Terbasket-Funmaker stayed in the capital mainly working in an office setting. She spent a lot of that time researching programs she could implement in her home community to empower others.
She recalled one of the most unforgettable experiences.
“We went to a ceremony and gave a bunch of families two goats. They received all the supplies to take care of the goats, and instruction on how to take care of the goats. The idea is a little while later the family would pass on the kids from the goats to other families. That’s what I really liked about the model because it was about empowering the people to take care of their own. It’s as simple as a pair of goats,” she said.
She said she had an instant ice breaker with the locals as Sofia is a Zambian name.
“When I introduced myself in their language and told them my name they got really excited. I think they really appreciated that I took the time to learn some of their languages because not everyone does that,” she said.
She noted nothing about Zambia resembled Canada and city life was not for her.
“I didn’t like walking around the city because there is so much staring and cat calling by the men. It was really a big downer for me. I loved it there but I hated the staring. I couldn’t get comfortable with it ever,” he said.
The only western food chain that existed was KFC.
“Actually all of their chains seemed to be about fried chicken. They really liked it. I really liked something called village chicken which really was just organic chicken. They called chicken they would get from places like KFC broiler chickens as we would,” she said.
Terbasket-Funmaker said rural life was more for her style.
She spent about four weeks over the three-month trip doing fieldwork in a small community called Petauke.
“It didn’t have any electricity or running water and the toilet was a big hole so you had to learn to squat and you had to face your fears of cockroaches and spiders. They were pretty big spiders and if I hadn’t been to Australia before that I would have probably been a lot more scared,” she said.
During the three months, she also got a chance to take a mini-vacation. They travelled to Victoria Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in the world.
“It was really fun to do that. I’d really like to go back during the rainy season. It wasn’t running at full and I think it’d be amazing to see that,” she said.
Terbasket-Funmaker said the trip reinforced the idea she wanted to make a career out of being on the land and helping people to reconnect.
“We spend so much time on our phones and Facebook. I think the goal is to become an outdoor leader, which is basically just leading people on multi-day backpacking trips and canoeing trips because I think we have a lot to learn from the land and we need to reconnect ourselves to what our potential is,” she said.
VIDEA is open to all Indigenous youth who have not completed post-secondary. For more information visit their website at http://videa.ca/.