Thrust into the heart of Africa

St. Michaels student will be getting his hands dirty in Mali.

St. Michaels University School student Alex Economou

Alexander Economou is going on an adventure.

The 17-year-old St. Michael’s University student packs his bags three days after prom and flies to rural Quebec, and later to Mali as part a Canada World Youth exchange program that takes him to one of the poorest countries in the world.

“I decided to sign up, not expecting to be accepted into the program,” Economou said. “It hasn’t actually struck me yet … once school ends I will be scared and excited at the same time.”

Deferring for a year his enrolment at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick to participate, the 2011 high school graduate still doesn’t know what exactly he will be doing once he arrives. He only knows he will volunteer for environmental and agricultural projects he will apply for once he arrives.

“I am a person who likes adventure … It is exciting to go to the unknown. I trust the program I am going to and I am going to be completely safe,” he said. “It is a good way to be a global citizen and it helped with my mission to be a better global citizen, to be a better person and help people.”

The first part of the exchange will see Economou and eight other students from across Canada meet up with nine students from Mali for a three-month stint in Quebec. All 18 students will travel to the African nation for the second half of the program.

SMUS social studies and history teacher David Lynch introduced Economou to the program and is confident the students involved have made the right choice.

“I really think it is going to be a priceless experience for him, to really delve deeply into a very different culture and context,” Lynch said.

“(People) who go to Africa tend to go as tourists and see what tourists see. He is going to see what the local see, eat what the locals eat and see a whole different side of Africa.”

The teacher speaks from experience, having embarked on the same journey 15 years ago. He believes it changed his life.

“It really opened my eyes to the world. I lived a relatively sheltered life in Victoria and this opened my eyes to some of the great things in the world – and some of the bad things.”

For Economou, the toughest parts will be being away from friends and family for the longest period of his life, and having limited access to communication, including the Internet and social media.

However, the adventure-seeker is up for the challenge.

“(It’ll be) a complete experience of a different culture,” he said. “It is experiential education. It is out of the classroom and into the real world.”

editor@oakbaynews.com

Just Posted

West Shore Parks and Rec staff member injury raises concerns about cut-through traffic

WSPR says staff member ‘seriously injured’ while monitoring scheduled closure

Victoria resident catches, cleans pigeon feet to help fight stringfoot

Hair, string tangled around birds’ feet can cut off circulation to toes and whole feet

Cyclists rejoice as the Christmas Lights Parade returns

Family-friendly 10km ride visits big Christmas displays, Dec. 21

Victoria residents advocate for funding for neighbourhoods without community centres

North Park Neighbourhood Association hopes to see $75,000 to bolster nearby staff

VIDEO: These are the top toys this Christmas, B.C. toy experts say

Consider the play value of a game, staff at Toy Traders say

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

Nanaimo mechanical engineer creates thief tracking program

Nanaimo Thief Tracking lets users plot and share information about thefts online

Mayor wants B.C. to institutionalize severely mental ill people who are homeless

Those suffering from mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, need specialized care, mayor says

Five things of note from Trudeau’s mandate letters to his ministers

Some marching orders come from the Liberal Party’s campaign, while others are new additions

Scheer’s resignation tips party into internal war over school tuition payments

The Conservatives have a Toronto convention already scheduled for April

Navigating ‘fever phobia’: B.C. doctor gives tips on when a sick kid should get to the ER

Any temperature above 38 C is considered a fever, but not all cases warrant a trip to the hospital

POLL: Do you have a real or artificial Christmas tree?

The lights are up, holiday shoppers are bustling through the streets and… Continue reading

Transportation Safety Board finishes work at B.C. plane crash site, investigation continues

Transport Canada provides information bulletin, family of victim releases statement

Most Read