Reaching out from Edmonton
I grew up in Red Deer knowing it would never be big enough to match the size of my ambitions, so I came to Edmonton to study at MacEwan University. I wanted a way to meet new people and do something that would leave an impact in the global community. When I looked around I was surprised how many initiatives, like Project HOPE, were led by students. Project Hope was a program managed by the Students’ Association that raised money towards developing infrastructure in Latin America, that the team would personally help build. In the summer of 2010 we decided that Project HOPE needed to facilitate more for our community so we founded a not-for-profit organization. We incorporated Project HOPE’s mission of bringing cultural exchange and community development to Latin America and took initiative to promote awareness in our own community, creating a new youth-led organization for Edmonton, the Ceiba Association.
Since then we have received support from local organizations like MacEwan University, the Boys and Girls’ Club of Edmonton, and Change for Children Association, not to mention the countless inspired Edmontonians who volunteer. This has enabled us to raise $80,000 and travel to Nicaragua to build a secondary school in a remote region with minimal access to the outside world. The school has already benefitted hundreds of Nicaraguan youth and helped to secure the region’s future. We’ve also started a program called ‘Painting for Change’ that encourages activism through art for youth in Edmonton. World renowned Nicaraguan muralist Rafael Tellez Lazo joined us to paint murals with youth around the city, teaching them about leadership and international issues in the process.
Being in Edmonton has been such an essential part of Ceiba’s success that I can’t imagine it being sustainable anywhere else. The more we do, the larger our community of partner organizations and volunteers get. It’s an exciting, vibrant place that’s just the right size for an organization like ours to grow. This city has helped make Ceiba what it is, and we are honoured to display Edmonton’s image internationally as a place with kind, generous people who care about our global community. Everywhere I go in the world I encourage people to visit Edmonton, and once they have they always come back. Between the arts, the culture, and the people, there’s always something happening. And that’s what makes Edmonton so great—what’s happening here.
Caitlin Jackson is one of the founding chairs of the Ceiba Association and a graduate of MacEwan Arts and Cultural Management program. When she’s not making a difference around the globe, she likes to take in Edmonton’s rich theatre scene and explore the trendy 104th street area.