Stories from the field

Author Joel Toorenburgh

Joel Toorenburgh – Blog 7: The Great Fun Magical Day (GFMD)

For my last blog post, I want to talk about one of my favourite experiences I had while in Dhaka.  

Quite a way back now, in July, we were lucky enough to meet Anas, a young man who had previously worked with RMMRU, but who was pursuing his Master’s degree in Germany. Anas had come back to Bangladesh to visit family and during his visit, he also did a bit of work for RMMRU. It was at this time that we met Anas. We quickly formed a bond and were eager to spend more time together and learn about his life. Unfortunately, Anas had to return back to Germany to continue with his studies. However, the discussions we had in Dhaka lead us to stay in touch.

Through Anas, we learned about an opportunity to attend and participate in the Global Forum on Migration and Development (the GFMD). We had heard all about this conference through CAPI and RMMRU, but hadn’t been provided with any concrete information on how to get involved and registered. Luckily for us, Anas provided that much-needed connection. 

The GFMD is a conference which had been held annually since 2007. The forum aims to explore the interconnections that relate to migration and development. The 2009 Forum in Dhaka feature two civil society days, two days government days and one day in the middle as a cross-over. 

And so for the last five months, Anas, myself and a number of others have been involved in creating a “youth group” for the GFMD. Back in Europe, Anas had begun working for an organization called Terre des Hommes (TDH) which is also involved in a number of projects. One of them, called “Destination Unknown,” seeks to promote the rights of migrants who are on the move with a special emphasis on children and youths. So through Anas and TDH, we began compiling a bit of a team. 

The goal was two-fold: to highlight the presence of youth in migration processes and secondly, to highlight the lack of youth in forums which deal with youth and migration. We prepared a number of materials in preparation to the GFMD: brochures, op-eds and a number of other branded items. All these things were done before the GFMD and all of the communication were done online. 

It is sometimes difficult to decipher people through online interactions alone. We often praise the modern-internet day, but nothing beats face-to-face communication.  However, I soon learned that behind each email address was a wonderful, inspired and dynamic individual. 

My experience with the GFMD was awesome for a number of reasons. First, I had such a pleasure working with the “youth team” that we created. Sometimes in life, we loose faith in humanity and the goodness of humans and so it always a pleasant surprise to meet kind, energetic and thoughtful individuals. The human experience really is defined by the relationships we are able to form. 

Secondly, I found the whole conference experience really interesting and enlightening. In my first two years at UVic, I participated in the Model United Nations (MUN) club and I was actually a little bit shocked at how similar MUN and the GFMD were! Ihope that I have the chance to participate in a conference like this again in the future. The first time round, I always feel too shy, and uninformed to jump in and give my two-cents. It is hard to get over the stage fright, but I’ve learnt that often times, people in the room only seem to know what they are talking about. People love to use lingo and technical terms to (perhaps unintentionally) dissuade discussion or participation; I guess people like to sound smart. It’s funny that this was both what I learnt at the conference and also what our youth group was all about  – including the voices of youth! 

Lastly, the conference was truly international with representation from all over the world. There were people from Togo, Congo, Cameroon, Chile, India, Morocco and many, many more. In many cases, it was the first time I’d met someone from this or that country. We attended different sessions and took turns working at our youth table. Our table attracted a lot of attention and we were able to fully exhaust the stock of everything we brought. During the conference, we took short interviews with representatives from different civil society organizations (CSOs). Each of them shared a little bit about the work their organization is involved in and also explaining why the thought youth were an important group. 

It was also a great chance to practice my French and Spanish. There were many participants from francophone West Africa and many from Latin AM.

I feel super lucky to have been able to participate and I hope that other CAPI interns are as lucky as I to participate in something interesting. There are many criticisms one could level at the GFMD: it is not productive, it is not inclusive etc. Many of these are valid and I wish I had another blog to address some of its problems, but for me in my life right now, it sure was a cool way to spend a few days – one might say great, fun and magical days! 


PS once I find the link for the youth video I’ll post it here 

Joel Toorenburgh – Blog 6: The Bubble

**Disclaimer: The following is personal blog based on my individual experience in Dhaka, Bangladesh.** 

Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. 

― Paulo Freire

When we aren’t directly confronted with an issue, it’s easy to ignore it. When we don’t know an issue, when we don’t see it, or we aren’t informed of the stakes at play, it’s really really easy to ignore it. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the spaces and places in my worlds. My current surroundings in Bangladesh, but also a bit about home in Canada where these issues are also relevant. 

I would argue that inequality is one of the biggest problems facing many our societies around the world. Some have tackled the problem better than others, but it’s a reoccurring trend in too many capitalist economies. 

Inequality can exist along a number of different axises: income inequality, racial inequality, gender inequality etc. 

What I’ve been thinking about lately is how easy it is for those in privileged positions to ignore the realities of those who are less privileged. My existence is extremely privileged, especially in a Bangladeshi context. Despite a desire to understand my own privilege, I still think a full understanding often eludes me.

I’ve said it before in one of my previous blogs, “we are not Bangladeshis living in Bangladesh, we are Canadians living in Bangladesh.” 

In my little world of Victoria, I don’t have to confront the same issues that I do in Bangladesh. I live in an area where there are few homeless people, where everyone has adequate nutrition, where there is peace… Where on the whole, things are going okay for people. I don’t mean to say there are no problems, but on the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (food,water, shelter, air etc.), people are mostly covered.

In Dhaka, we often talk about “the bubble.” It encompasses four neighbourhoods (roughly) in Dhaka where the wealthy live (Gulshan I and II, Baridhara, and Banani). While these neighbourhoods are far from the Hollywood hills, there are nonetheless an area where the wealthy are able to group together and live in relative isolation from the problems plaguing Dhaka. They can afford cars and drivers who will take them where they need to go, and they can shelter themselves from the realities of the Dhaka. 

Even though we don’t live in the bubble, we do live in a bubble. Not just in Dhaka, but in many parts of the world, including Canada. 

We continuously allow ourselves to be bubbled in. In essence, our money allows us to buy comforts. Sometimes the comforts are nice clothes or fancy soap – things with relatively few consequences. Other times though, our position allows us to find comfort, to find refuge and escape from things that we really ought to confront more directly. 

This purchased reclusion allows us to go on with our daily lives and ignore the plight of those around us.

The same could not be more true of First Nations Communities in Canada. Because reserves are, by nature, segregated areas, it is so easy for non-indigenous Canadians to ignore their plight. We lack interaction with each other and that drives ignorance and apathy. It’s one thing to hear that communities around Canada don’t have access to clean drinking water, but along with all the other news and statistics, it gets lost in the noise and it is easy to ignore. I have to privilege to ignore it because it does not directly affect my life. 

There are many other ways we ignore people and segregate ourselves: gated communities, business lounges, first-class sections, private vehicles, tall office towers, fancy restaurants…

All of theses spaces allow us to ignore the realities around us… To isolate ourselves in our privilege. 

It is becoming more common to talk about digital segregation too. Facebook and Twitter feeds share the things we like, the things that are familiar to us. We see news articles that support our view. If we are into shopping, we see new products. If we are into fancy cars, we see the new models on our feeds. But what about the things we don’t like ? The things that are awkward or the things that make us uncomfortable ? We don’t see them and in so doing, we ignore an entire dimension. 

In Dhaka, I see the same thing is happening to me. Sure, I am exposed to things that are different from my life in Canada. And I think that I probably don’t fully understand how my time here will affect my life going forward. But what I do know is that this city makes me uncomfortable. I don’t mean because of the heat, but because of the suffering and injustice that actively takes place in front of my eyes. 

Each day, we pretty much walk the same route to and from work. As a result, we often encounter some of the same people en route. There is the man who sleeps on the bamboo scaffolding along the sidewalk, his bones as visible as his discomfort. By the walled-in school, an elderly woman sits on a piece of plastic against the concrete wall, her eyes faded, her hand raised to me. The poverty can be devastating. 

The garbage. The smell. The dogs. The floods. The air. 

Yet, my good fortune allows me to escape it all. Not permanently, but largely. Not always, but a lot of the time. We have a nice apartment. We eat at nice restaurants. We don’t have to faire face à la realité. We can ignore it and we ignore it a lot. In fact, I’d say it’s probably our number one passtime in Dhaka. 

We often eat-out in restaurants along Bailey Road. Here, a number of women, children and disabled people congregate in above-average numbers. It’s often overwhelming and we generally try to get off that street as fast as possible. Sometimes, I think to myself “My god! What the (insert curse word) is wrong with us? Shouldn’t we all stop what we are doing right now and help them right now!? Where is the urgency?! 

But we don’t act, we run back to our bubbles.

“To be white, or straight, or male, or middle class is to be simultaneously ubiquitious and invisible. You’re everywhere you look, you’re the standard against which everyone else is measured. You’re like water, like air. People will tell you they went to see a “woman doctor” or they will say they went to see “the doctor.” People will tell you they have a “gay colleague” or they’ll tell you about a colleague. A white person will be happy to tell you about a “Black friend,” but when that same person simply mentions a “friend,” everyone will assume the person is white. Any college course that doesn’t have the word “woman” or “gay” or “minority” in its title is a course about men, heterosexuals, and white people. But we call those courses “literature,” “history” or “political science.” This invisibility is political.” 

― Michael Kimmer

People often say, “I don’t like politics” or “We shouldn’t talk about politics.” But who are the people that can afford to say such things? I know I could probably pass my entire life without considering politics, but it is privilege that enables such statements. As a CAPI group, we’ve talked a lot about what solidarity means. I think it means saying, YES, I see you. I see what you’re going through, I will listen to your story and I will not accept it. It’s a commitment to seek justice and to stand up and fight for what is right. We have to do more. I have to do more. Nobody needs to prompt us. When people say or do things that are wrong, we have to call them out. Bad jokes, comments and actions are really easy to make and often even easier to ignore, but for the communities that they affect, they can be devastating.  

“Responsibility I believe accrues through privilege. People like you and me have an unbelievable amount of privilege and therefore we have a huge amount of responsibility. We live in free societies where we are not afraid of the police; we have extraordinary wealth available to us by global standards. If you have those things, then you have the kind of responsibility that a person does not have if he or she is slaving seventy hours a week to put food on the table; a responsibility at the very least to inform yourself about power. Beyond that, it is a question of whether you believe in moral certainties or not.”

―  Noam Chomsky


Joel Toorenburgh – Blog 5: Expecting English

**Disclaimer: The following is personal blog based on my individual experience in Dhaka, Bangladesh.**


Questions motivating this blog… 

Why is this meeting in Bangla? Why am I working in a country where I don’t speak the language? Why won’t they speak English? Why should they speak English? Is it fair to expect them to speak English? Aren’t there so many good reasons why they speak Bangla? Shouldn’t I speak Bangla? Isn’t that impossible? 


I’ve noticed when people answer the phones. Or when they give their phone numbers “zero one eight two three four three zero four eight eight”… On billboards too. One reads “Fried Chicken.” In fact, it’s almost everywhere: signs, websites, meetings, articles – you name it. It’s there. 


A few years ago, I started questioning why English was my native language. The best answer I could really come up with had to do with Wolfe outmanoeuvring Montcalm on a field in Quebec way back when. New France fell and years on, the English became hegemonic in Canada.

It was once said that “The sun never sets on the British Empire.” Today, the sun never seems to set on the English language. If the British started it, the Americans kept it going. It’s necessary for travel and business in many parts of the world. And it can connect people in tremendous ways… 

But, on the other hand, it’s also a massive privilege to be a native anglophone. Most native English-speakers do not speak another language and they don’t really have to, but shouldn’t they anyway? In the United States, only 1 in 5 can converse in a second-language. This despite the fact that by 2050, the US will have more Spanish-speakers than Mexico.

When I finished high school, I wasn’t really aware of language politics or any of the problems associated with English. I lived in Victoria and as its name implies, English dominated and language politics were notably absent. After high school, I started college and decided to take French as an elective. I figured that since I had spent most of my schooling life learning French, it would seem pretty foolish to just abandon it half-way through. After all, I hadn’t sung about pizza or le petit poisson for nothing. Though many – if not most kids – do abandon French in Canada after finishing high school. 

In college, I was lucky enough to have a teacher who really engaged me in learning. We studied Camus’ L’étranger and Voltaire’s Candide. And the enjoyment I got from these books pushed me to keep going. Eventually, I became more and more comfortable, and I started to feel a sort of ownership over French. As a student of political science, it gave me a new perspective on Canadian politics. But mostly, it made me realize how privileged native anglophones are and how arrogant they can sometimes be – not just in Canada, but around the world. 

Today, I consider myself as a bit of a lingophile. I love learning languages because, in my view, it isthe gateway to culture and understanding. My interest in language has allowed me to explore things from a different perspective. It allows connection, colour. 

❝You can never understand one language until you understand at least two.❞

‒Geoffrey Willans

But that doesn’t mean that there are no problems with the way I use and expect English. When I was accepted to intern in Bangladesh, I knew from the beginning that it would be important to learn the language. I bought some books and tried to study as much as I could before leaving. But on arriving, I found myself ill-prepared. The Bangla language contains numerous characters and I had dedicated most of my study time to this script. Even though I can read just a bit, I regret learning the script because it has necessarily diverted my attention from more practical, everyday expressions. 

Now, more than three months in, I am getting more and comfortable with many aspects of the language: bartering, greeting, giving directions etc. Colleagues at work often comment on how well our Bangla is coming along and are generally impressed with what we have learned. 

Though there is still an expectation that our conversations will be in English, that they will speak my language. 

And I forget that this expectation is rooted in my privilege. I write this blog as an exercise for myself. I have benefitted from a number of privileges in life and it’s important to be reminded as to what that means. So for example, I have found myself frustrated at hour-long meetings that fully transpire in Bangla. I nod along or grasp at words even though I don’t understand most of it. Since we arrived in Bangladesh, these things have come up more than once. When we lost our laptops in June, we had to explain to the police over and over againwhat had happened. These communication failures are abundant.

❝ I know all those words, but that sentence makes no sense to me.❞

– Matt Groening 

Of course, it’s always easier to blame someone else than to actually examine the problem meaningfully.  

Bangladeshis speak Bangla in Bangladesh because it’s Bangladesh, not Engladesh. It should seem pretty obvious, right? 

And we, the privileged anglophones, often choose not to speak a second language, whereas in many cases those who cannot speak English are without choice. We should greatly appreciate the level of English that is spoken because it regularly makes our lives easier. I recently spoke with a colleague at RMMRU who already has an excellent mastery of English. He tells me that it is not possible to get C1- or C2-level English training in Dhaka. The British Council and other institutions do not offer English courses at this level. At the same time, if he wants a job at anykind of international institution, he must know English. For us, it’s a simple default, a box already ticked. For him, it’s an on-going struggle, especially at the higher levels of learning. 

English can serve to connect people and make life much easier: on my trip to Singapore, we saw how this can function. Singaporeans speak Mandarin, Tamil, and Malay. I see the merits of a cross-cultural language, but I also cringe at the imperialistic nature of English which nowadays I see as so entangled in American hegemony. It’s one reason I’ve always admired South Africa’s linguistic policy where the country’s eleven languages all have equal status. English can help to bridge the gaps between the different communities, but it doesn’t mean we should give up trying to speak to another person’s tongue.

❝If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.❞

‒Nelson Mandela

Language isn’t just about communication. Language is identity and it is culture. It deeply influences the way we operate and how we see the world around us. It helps us make sense of where and who we are. So, to impose English is essentially to impose a way of thinking and being.

That Dhaka does not surrender to this…

That meetings are held in Bangla…

And that I struggle in conversations and communication… 

Well that’s just the way it should be. And despite my personal frustrations, I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Joel Toorenburgh – Blog 4: The Voice

“There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
“I feel this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.”
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What’s right for you–just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.” 

— Shel Silverstein 


From a very young age, my brothers and I attended a private Christian school. We didn’t come from a particularly wealthy family, but my parents always felt they wanted to do this for us. They grew up going to Christian schools and so they figured it would benefit us. It took me a while to realize this growing up, but most kids my age didn’t go to private schools. There were public schools and private schools, and private schools were expensive. And the kids who went to my school were, on the whole, exceptionally wealthy. 

In Canada, I found there exists a specific story about the middle-class and its universality. It’s supposedly a class that we all, as Canadians, belong to. I seldom talk about wages and salaries as it seems impolite to do so and well, I feel like we are all middle class so what is there to talk about? I find people are often embarrassed by wealth and many rich people would deny or downplay their wealth. 

Habitually after Christmas vacation, as is common among school-age children, I would take a strict inventory of my presents. I remember distinctly when I was twelve, one of my friends got a Play Station 3. The PS3 had just been released and retailed at more than one thousand dollars. And his parents had just bought it for him – nonchalantly – among other things! When compared with my new socks, chocolate, nail clippers and CDs – which my parents struggled to afford – a PS3 seemed like total insanity! How could they afford that?!I never really wanted a PS3 – itwasn’t my style –  but I remember being very aware of how expensive it was and how its value compared to what I received. 


“As soon as you stop wanting something, you get it.” 

— Andy Warhol 


As I got older, this disparity resurfaced time and time again. Friends would take trips to Hawaii, Mexico and Disneyland. And I would travel to Surrey or to Cowichan Lake. Classmates would return to school in September with brand-name clothes, new shoes and fancy school supplies. And I would return with a mix of handy-downs, consigned clothes, and Wal-Mart purchases. Kids played organized sports after their piano lessons. And I watched TV after walking the dogs and playing with my street friends. Some lived in upscale Oak Bay, others in gated Gordon Head or near the school in Saanich. And I lived in a one-bathroom duplex in Langford – far from both the school and the city-centre.


“Are these things really better than the things I already have? Or am I just trained to be dissatisfied with what I have now?” 

— Chuck Palahniuk 


I mean this to be no indictment of my parents or the choices they made. In fact, I think my childhood was generally quite good. My parents did their best and there were countless times where I was spoiled absolutely rotten, but at the end of the day, it never quite measured up materially to the others at my school. If I was spoiled rotten, then they had already turned back into soil. 

This endless comparison-making and insatiable thirst for things, things and more things is deeply rooted in our capitalist society. I admit I suffered from it for many years, especially during my youth. And I must continuously audit myself and try to weed out this pointless greed.


“To be content with little is difficult; to be content with much, impossible.” 

— Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach 


By the time I graduated from high school, I remember being really upset with this inequality. In the last years of high school and the early years of college, as one’s mind begins to mature, I became more and more aware of the problems plaguing our society and our world. So much of it came down to inequality. University presented complex economic scenarios and case-studies in different countries, but it really is pretty simple… Why should one person live a life of serenity and luxury while another toils and suffers to simply stay alive?  

Before even arriving in Bangladesh, we had numerous conversations about our privilege and position. Sometimes, these differences are easy to see… sometimes they are more difficult. At times I don’t pay attention to them or perhaps I deny that they exist. As a student of a rather liberal university, these topics became quite central. And I am glad that they did because I began to realize how much of my life I had gone without ever questioning these things… After all, I live in Canada. It’s a free country, and everyone is equal, right? 

Today, I find myself confronted by me. I am who I am and I’ve become what I’ve become… That is not to deny my capacity for change or agency, but here I am – part nature, part nurture. Arriving to Bangladesh might mean physically transporting me to another country, but mentally, I find am still just a result of the culture I’ve matured in. I am used to certain things being a certain way. French bread, fancy cheese, good beers and so on… I like being outside in the fresh air. Swimming, I love swimming, especially in nice cold clean lakes with the mountains around…These privileges have surrounded me my entire life. Coming to Bangladesh, I knew I would have to adjust. And on the whole, we have…but we don’t live like Bangladeshis… We live like Canadians in Bangladesh. We find places to eat that remind us of home. We live in a safe apartment with good water, electricity, and internet. We plan regular trips to go out of the city – just for fun… because we can… 

And what a privilege it is… 

I tell myself: it is beyond my control; the problems here are too great and too deep. I am but one person. 

I make myself small and I make excuses. 


“Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. ” 

— Paulo Freire


Narratives and assumptions are formed around all kinds of people in lower socio-economic positions. They exist in both Canada and Bangladesh. In Canada, I’ve heard people say that people are too lazy… if only they would go and get a job. In Bangladesh, I’ve heard it said that many of the street people do drugs or sniff glue and so I shouldn’t give any money. Maybe some are lazy, maybe some do sniff glue… but does that legitimize turning a blind eye? I’ve heard blame used to discharge pain and discomfort. 

I come out of Pizza Hut to the street and having spend an exorbitant amount of money on pizza, I meet a young child on the street begging for money… 

I finish eating two burgers (because the first one was so good) at Mr. Burger and again, I see a young child leaned against a lamppost staring into the distance, dirty and malnourished… 

I go to the grocery store. We buy four Snickers bars and a Toblerone for our bus ride to Cox’s Bazar a.k.a. vacation town for those who can take vacations. I feel deeply ashamed as I walk down the street holding not one, but five chocolate bars. Elderly women lay along the dusty street… 

Every time I spend money, I make a choice – an active and informed choice. And without fail, each time I choose for myself. I treat myself. I reward myself. 

It’s funny because my whole “adult” life, I’ve always actively opposed things like slave-labour, or child-labour. I’ve always believed the wealthy should pay “their fair share.” I’ve always wished that transnational corporations would pay employees a fair wage. But do I pay my fair share? 


“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.” 

— John Lennon 


There are no easy answers. Everyday, I need to negotiate between making myself happy and doing what is right. I need to be hard on myself because I deserve to feel that. It should be uncomfortable. “You think you’re uncomfortable?!” 

Zachary and I often talk about how we don’t like to be physically touched by people on the street. Again, it makes us uncomfortable. But do these people really wanna be where they are? Do they really want to grab me to beg for food or money? And wouldn’t I do the exact same thing in their situation?  

I want to live in a world with much less inequality. That can seem like a daunting task, but don’t we all bear a responsibility to make it happen?


“Be the change that you want to see in the world.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

Joel Toorenburgh – Blog 3: The Difference a Day Makes

**Disclaimer: The following is personal blog based on my individual experience in Bangladesh.**

When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost. 

– Billy Graham

Sometimes, things happen in life that we don’t understand. Once upon a time, Zach and I came to a sudden and horrid realization: we had neglected to take our shared backpack along with us. It had been left behind in a CNG taxi. The backpack contained both of our laptops including some invaluable files (pictures, stories, personal work) and other items. This fateful moment ushered in a panic that can only be described as “fight or flight.” Indeed, we fought and we ran hoping to find the CNG and reclaim our belongings. Such a state – where one loses all self-awareness – is fleeting. After some time in said stupor, we realized that we had to come to terms with the inevitable. With more two hundred thousands CNGs in the city, it was most likely that we would never see these things again. 

Fighting all desire to crawl into a ball and cry like a school-aged child, we decided that it would be best to go to the police station and make a report. In all honesty, the process was frustrating and long. The loss we felt was significant and my patience was lower than ever. We did our best to be polite, but we really just wanted to go in, make the report, and leave. Things don’t always go the way we want them to. 

Once we returned home, I entered into an unproductive mental state, feeling anger, depression, and frustration. We did what we could to keep ourselves distracted, but the evenings alone made it painstakingly clear what was missing. The WiFi went out that week and we were left disconnected, depressed and most devastatingly, without any distraction from reality. 


Time heals all wounds, unless you pick at them.

– Shaun Alexander


It’s perhaps cliché to say it, but in my experience, the idea that time heals all wounds has rung true. The pain feels acute and unbearable at first, but with time we come to terms with it, we find other things to think about, we adapt and move on. Perhaps, it’s inherently wired in us as humans to do this. It keeps us moving forward and looking ahead. With time upon us, our lives moved on. We made up the lost work. We found new distractions. We tried to make the past the past.


Out of difficulties, grow miracles 

– Jean de la Bruyère 


Weeks later, we found ourselves struggling to understand a voice on the other end of the phone. Eventually, we understood. It was the police. The police? Why?! We called a friend and asked them to speak with the officer for us. Eventually, and amazingly, it was confirmed that our laptops had supposedly been brought to the station. Afraid of more emotional damage, we cautioned ourselves to stay calm and manage our expectations. The next day, we would go and see what they had found. 

We entered into the police station greeting the investigating officer and the head of the department. They kindly seated us. We identified ourselves, and re-described the items we had lost. Eventually, a man emerged from a backroom with the backpack in hand. My soul danced. We examined the contents and everything was as it should be. The items were returned thanks to the tremendous kindness of the CNG driver  – a stranger – who went out of his way to return the items to us. The police seized his CNG for a day depriving him a day’s wages. 

Humans are capable of both terrible and terrific things. Everyday, we are bombarded with stories and realities of both. Once and a while, some one does something so wonderful that it overpowers all the terrible for just a moment. 

I find myself in that moment. I hope it lasts. 


No one has ever become poor by giving.

– Anne Frank 


Joel Toorenburgh – Blog 2: What does one really know?

In my first blog, I share some reflections about my experience and the benefits of stopping and listening.

Joel Toorenburgh – Blog 1: Introductory Podcast (interviewed by Emma De Vynck)

Name: Joel Toorenburgh

Date: 29 April 2016

Location: University of Victoria

Title: Introductory Podcast

Summary: Introduction to Joel and his placement with RMMRU 

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