This month we chat with Kasia who is one of our Business Support Officers. Kasia was one of the FFI group who travelled to Canada this month as part of a cultural exchange with other staff, foster carers and young people. She tells us more about the trip and all the fun they had below.
The goal was to give the young people the opportunity to see a new place and experience different culture. It all came together this year thanks to a lot of work from both sides. We also get to welcome our Canadian friends to Ireland in a few weeks’ time for the return leg of the trip.
From Ireland we had 3 staff members, 3 foster carers and 6 young people. On the Canadian side it varied from day to day but in total there was usually a group of about 24. Everyone got on really well with one another and there was an instant bond.
Less than five hours on our trip out and a little over four hours on the way back. Really short considering the distance but people don’t realise how close St. Johns is to Europe. The distance to Toronto is a further four hours via a connecting flight.
We were met at the airport by the Party Bus. There was loud music, snacks, drinks and comfy chairs for everyone. Just what we all needed to kick start our trip. It was great fun and all the young people really liked it. Once we got to the accommodation we had a quick unpacking session and then we went out in search of food.
Very similar to Ireland actually if you exclude the whales and icebergs in the distance. There are lots of natural landscapes and greenery. Downtown in St. Johns was amazing and there is so much colours. It is a very picturesque place. We visited Jellybean Street which got its name as all the houses are different colours like a pack of jellybeans. There were a lot of woodland areas and lakes. One of the most frequent road signs were “Watch out for Mooses” warning the public of the large population of wild moose in the area.
The portions of food were so big, we went to a place on the last day of our trip which filled us to the brim for our journey home. It was very like Nandos here in Europe. We had fresh Lobster one of the days when we were having a BBQ and it was absolutely amazing. Other food on the BBQ included, Ribs, Steak, Sausages and Chicken. It was all delicious. We also tried a dish called Poutine. It’s a local Canadian dish that consists of chips topped with a rich gravy and cheese churns. I also had the chance to try an amazing dessert of deep-fried cheesecake topped with a warm salted caramel sauce. We visited a lovely coffee chain every day called Tim Hortons. It was founded by a former NHL player. Their French Vanilla was to die and was a favourite of the group.
Culturally people are very similar. A lot of the accents sounded similar to parts of Ireland in particular the south east. There is a lot of focus on spending time outdoors rafting, hiking, barbecuing and having fun.
The people were all very relaxed and laid back. Everyone was so welcoming and gave us a lot of really positive memories.
The itinerary was jam packed. We spent a lot of time outdoors. We went to Cape Spear and Signal Hill which were really interesting. We did a lot of outdoor activities like, hiking, rafting, whale and puffin watching, swimming in a mountain lake, a soccer-baseball game, stargazing, an outdoor picnic, and several barbeques just to name a few.
Spectacular!! Not the usual weather for that time of year as we were told. Temperatures ranged from 20-30 degrees. The previous year at that time was 10 degrees and lots of rain so we were incredibly lucky. We also saw some icebergs in the distance when we were whale watching.
All the activities were really fun but mostly I think they just enjoyed the opportunity. Some asked “why us?” and “why were we chosen?”. The loved the chance to mix with other children from different cultures and just get to know one another. Everyone really came out of their shell once the initial shyness faded away. The group were all really welcoming of each other’s differences and just really formed a good bond.
It was a really great trip. We all met around the fire on the last night to discuss the highlights of the trip. Mine would probably be the whale watching and swimming in the mountain lake but there are so many amazing memories. It’s really tough to choose.