The Multicultural & International Program and Services (MIPS) runs an annual fall retreat, particularly aimed for students of color to create a safe space to discuss pertinent issues and topics such as identity, personality, and culture. Through organized activities and honest dialogue, the retreat aims to increase awareness of both our individual selves and others whilst encouraging us all to be allies for one another.
It was certainly both an emotional and exhilarating experience for the thirty-plus group of students that made their way to Camp Friendship in Annandale on Friday, the 14th of October. Once there, the combination of crisp air, autumn leaves, and adorably named wooden cabins (Irish Rose, Nightingale, and Blue Bird) only added to what was going to be an unforgettable weekend.
Now officially and affectionately christened ‘KPR’ by the attendees of the retreat, the fantastic trio of Kim Munoz, Pa Lor, and Roslyn Udairam ensured that those present were comfortable to share and open up their hearts without fear of judgment. All that was disclosed remains in the highest confidentiality, thus giving people the courage to voice the issues that were previously seldom discussed. Tenzin Seldon, a first-year nursing major at St. Kate’s says, ‘I have so much respect for those that shared their personal stories and struggles to all of us.’ It reminded me that vulnerability is not a weakness and that we all go through similar situations in our lives.’
Of all the wonderful and thought-provoking activities, ‘The Mask We Wear,’ was, in particular, a very personal activity that revealed our human tendency to appear stronger than we really are. ‘It reminded me that,’ Seldon continues ‘vulnerability is not a weakness and that we all go through similar situations in our life.’ However, by constantly wearing a mask, we unnecessarily weigh ourselves down by constantly portraying an inauthentic version of ourselves.
Whilst the retreat touched upon some hard-hitting subjects, there was also time to unwind and act goofy. Camp Friendship certainly lived up to its name as the sharing of personal anecdotes sparked newfound connections and confidence. Everyone is welcome to attend the regardless of sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious affiliation or gender. As an icebreaker, attendees were to perform a dance move as they introduced themselves with laughable results; these ranged from dabbing to disco and other weird movements that could pass for dance in today’s world. Another highlight was the movie night as we laughed, some louder than others, watching the antics of the Stangle brothers in ‘Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.’
Pa Lor, one of the organizers of the retreat had this to say about the event, ‘I hope that students will be able to create and build community from the retreat, find a sense of connection to at least one other student, and realize they are not alone that there are so many individuals who want them to succeed and do well. I also hope through the retreat, students can become more aware of MIPS and recognize that our office is here to support them in many ways. The retreat was created as, and still remains, a space for students of color to connect and a safe space to talk about issues surrounding the topics of race, identity, and allyship. Rarely do we have the opportunity to bring down the barriers we create between ourselves and others and allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to have these discussions from a point of authentic listening and learning. The MIPS retreat allows for and encourages this space to organically blossom between students.’
All in all, the MIPS retreat is a unique opportunity to gain a deeper insight into one’s self whilst being surrounded by a community of brave and resilient people of color. If the opportunity arises, grab it and be transformed.