Antigua will forever be my second home by Harleen Gill

23 05 2017

Dear Friends, Family, Alumni Champions and Supporters,

My name is Harleen Gill and this is my first year in the Champions for Health Promoting Schools Program 2017. I am currently working towards a Bachelors of Kinesiology Degree specifically in the Exercise Science stream. I graduated from high school in 2013 and was admitted into the UFV Bachelors of Science program in the fall of 2013. Three years into my biology major I realized I did not enjoy learning about plants or basically any ecological aspect of biology. After taking basic human anatomy, I had realized that my true passion was learning about the human body. Along with school, I volunteer at the hospital as a Team Leader for my shift. Collectively school and volunteering have helped me to shift gears and work towards my dreams and aspirations to be a Doctor in the near future.

I heard about this program from a friend (Amrit Cheema) who fell in love with the purpose. Personally, I was indecisive in coming down to Antigua for multiple reasons. I have never travelled alone without my family, in particular without my mom, so the idea of living independently was difficult to process. Throughout the four months leading to Antigua, I felt weak, unprepared and overall had low self confidence whether or not I would able to pull myself out of my deep hole known as my comfort zone. Fast forward to April 28th 2017, I was standing at Vancouver International Airport crying hysterically. I had forgotten to meet my dog Tyson before coming, my dad was in India and just seeing the look on my family’s’ faces wanted me to just stay back. However, the emotional outburst was minor in comparison to my thirst for a different perception on life.

I am currently teaching at S.R Olivia David Primary School. There are approximately 130 students at the school from Kindergarten all the way through to Grade  6. I have the pleasure of teaching with my two wonderful partners, Bailee Cuthbert and Christine McGuire. Working with Christine I have been able to learn about classroom management while from Bailee I have learnt about patience and how to interact with younger students. During the first week, I felt that my timing and transitions were off for the lesson plans. However, as we progressed each day I learnt that instead of pressuring myself to complete each and every activity I need to enjoy it with the students. Last week and this week, my lesson plans have been less structured and I am just trying to go with the flow and I am enjoying the classroom as much as I can. In other words, it revolves around the fun aspect rather than being disciplined. I find that the students learn more about the life skills when firstly they can relate and secondly remember it. They are able to recall life skills when they have a memorable event paired with the life skill.

I vividly remember the first day I stepped into the school. I was greeted with many beautiful faces, wanting to know who I was and everything about me. The kids were amazed at my hair, how and why it was so long. That day for the first time in my life I felt loved and wanted by everyone like a celebrity. Three weeks later, I am still showered with many smiles, hugs and laughs each and every day. My mornings truly begin as I cross through the doors of SRO. As soon as I step on the school grounds I am able to act like the 12 year old Harleen who used to play a lot and have a whole lot of fun. I play tag with the students even though I have a bad knee. It’s like I forget all about my pain and real life in general. In the last few weeks some students have been trying to teach me cricket every lunch hour, by giving my the opportunity to play on their teams even though I fail each time. Sometimes I even tell them that I will just watch because I won’t be helpful, but they still insist I play with them. Furthermore, Some students I have grown really close to have been able to open up to me about their personal issues or even school related stress. I find myself to be fortunate to be able to have such a strong position in the lives of the students in which I am able to guide them into the most positive direction possible.

I have been able to create an everlasting bond with my kids and as much as I hate to say this but it’s only making it harder to say goodbye. One of my favourite student’s was hiding his face from me today and wasn’t able to look me in the eye because he was sad I was leaving. He wanted to know if there was any way I could miss my flight and stay in touch with him.

At this point, there is only one more teaching day left and it hurts my heart knowing that tomorrow’s 7 hours are going to be my last 7 hours spent with my kids. This entire week the students have been emotional and closer than ever because they wish to spend each minute they can with Christine, Bailey and myself before we go.

I had a tough time coming here but now I will have a tougher time leaving. I never thought I would connect so easily with the students and it has made me realize
the meaning of love. I have been able to act childish with the students, and remember memories from when I was a child. The students have caused a greater impact on me more than I have impacted them. I am truly grateful to Dr Sheppard for pouring your heart out into this program. Thank you Andy, may you rest in peace. I have never met you but I already know you had a heart of gold to start a program so incredible.

By Harleen Gill
S.R. Olivia David



One response

23 05 2017
Jenelle Atkinson

What a beautiful blog Harleen! I enjoyed reading about your experience, especially because it is so relatable for myself, and other past Champions I’m sure as well. The title of the post says it all. My favourite part of this blog is all of the photos. They all made me smile. Everyone looks so happy surrounded by their loving students! The love and dedication you all have for this program is evident in your blog posts and especially in these photos. Great job Champions!

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