|Help YCI Go the Extra Mile with Aeroplan!
Youth Challenge International (YCI) has launched it’s second Go the Extra Mile Campaign in partnership with Aeroplan! Donate your extra Aeroplan Miles to YCI and help support YCI’s youth development programs. YCI has one-month- May 20 to June 18, 2013- to raise our target goal of 500,000 miles and Aeroplan will top up 10%.
How to donate my Aeroplan Miles?
Donating your Aeroplan Miles is easy! Click HERE to donate online now!
What are you going to do with my Miles?
Donated Aeroplan Miles will be used for staff travel to partner locations in order to implement ongoing monitoring and evaluation activities. YCI will also use Aeroplan Miles to enable outstanding young volunteers to travel overseas to donate their time to help build communities and leaders through global youth development.
Go the Extra Mile Fun Facts
Thank you for donating you extra Aeroplan Miles!!
Ali Jenkins has recently joined the YCI team as our Volunteer Program Assistant. Ali comes to YCI as a recent graduate of Queen’s University’s Global Development Studies program. Ali realized her strong interest in international development after a brief stint in Ghana at the young age of 16. Interested in gaining more substantive experience, Ali spent 3 months last summer volunteering in Tanzania with an HIV/AIDS women’s group. Ali is excited to provide support to volunteers preparing to go overseas and is YCI’s resident fundraising guru!
How did you get involved in YCI?
I first heard of YCI during the library days of my undergrad degree while researching volunteerism. I had already been to Ghana, working on a community development project, and Tanzania, working with an HIV/AIDS women’s group. These experiences created my passion and intrigue in the role youth can have in collaborative development work. Peer-to-peer education and partnerships with youth-minded organizations abroad are the qualities that drew me to my position at YCI. I have been a volunteer abroad, so now I want to be a part of all the hard work that goes behind the scenes in preparing a volunteer for such a demanding, but incredible experience.
What does your position at YCI entail?
As Volunteer Program Assistant, I get the exciting task of talking to new, passionate, and innovative youth everyday! Every day is different because each volunteer has a unique style of approaching their work as they prepare to travel abroad. I love showing volunteers that monetary constraints need not inhibit you from pursuing any experience -there is always a way! I am actively involved in the fundraising process for volunteers and love being the positive voice that reminds them that their hard work and exciting events will pay off. Each time I see the projects volunteers will participate in and their enthusiasm for positive change I secretly hope they’ll let me sneak into their carry-on luggage!
What do you think is the biggest issue facing youth today?
The youth issue that most concerns me is the lack of opportunity. Whether in Tanzania or Canada youth struggle to find economic opportunity. I am passionate about understanding context-specific solutions to issues that we see as global trends. Youth need access to educational opportunities, whether formal or informal, that apply to where they live and will help them succeed in the long-term.
Outside of work, what are some of your favourite things to do?
Other than eating embarrassing amounts of sushi in my spare time, I am passionate about learning. Just because I finished my degree doesn’t mean I closed my mind and put the books away! Presently I am reading Shereen El Feki’s Sex and the Citadel, which has a very interesting perspective on present day Egypt. I believe the more open-minded I am the better I will be in social development work.
In honour of National Volunteer Week (April 21st-27th), the staff at Youth Challenge International would like to recognize and celebrate the efforts of our volunteers, and bring attention to the remarkable work that they do both on our overseas projects and in their communities here in Canada.
YCI’s volunteers are so much more than free help. They are the core element of YCI as an organization and the driving force behind our programs. In the office, our interns are treated as colleagues. On the ground, our volunteers are recognized as ambassadors for change and are entrusted with the responsibility to develop and implement YCI’s international programming.
“I absolutely loved the local volunteers. Omar was an absolute treat to be around – very positive, very supporting, and so so so helpful. Nathra was super involved, super engaged, wanted to learn as much as possible. They taught us as much as we taught them.” – Gloria Eid, Tanzania 2012
By now, the personal merits of volunteering are well known: volunteerism is a useful tool for young adults to develop new skills and gain professional work experience. What is less frequently acknowledged is the impact that volunteers make on the projects and programs that they work on. In 2011 alone, YCI volunteers helped empower a total of 22, 966 youth and community members. YCI volunteers combine hard work, passion, and innovation to drive positive change in communities all over the world, and for that we would like to say, THANK YOU! We could not operate on such a high scale without your help.
But, not only do we want to thank our volunteers, we also want them to brag a little about their accomplishments. Check out CIDA’s I Am Making a Difference Campaign in recognition of National Volunteer Week and be sure to share how you’re making a difference on Facebook.
-Carly Court (Volunteer Program Assistant) and Amanda Armstrong (Volunteer Program Coordinator)
Marlee Jordan has wonderful timing. As the first recipient of the “Go the Extra Mile” Scholarship, she shares her thoughts and reflections about her wonderful experience in Ghana just in time for the 2nd Annual Aeroplan “Go the Exra Mile” Campaign.
Everyone has a happy place, somewhere in their mind that they hope to have the privilege to go someday. For me, that place was somewhere in Africa, where I would have the opportunity to educate youth on issues that are important to their livelihood. After a lot of hard work and preparation, I was able to do just that.
Being awarded the “Go the Extra Mile” scholarship allowed me to travel to Ghana and take part in a 3 month project with Youth Challenge International where I was able to take the lead in developing, facilitating, and monitoring educational workshops, which aimed to equip youth with the knowledge and skills pertaining to core issues facing youths today. As well, my fellow volunteer Leigh Matassa and I worked with partner organizations to build a foundation for the collaboration of youth groups in the area, and assessed the needs of current projects. I also had the wonderful opportunity of organizing an International Women’s Day celebration to acknowledge the rights and successes of women in Ghana and worldwide. Collectively, these experiences have enriched my worldview, and have helped me develop skills that will take me further in my academic and professional goals.
Personally my placement with YCI in Ghana has meant more to me than just working and living overseas. I strongly believe that everyone should take the opportunity to learn about another culture and see how others live. It empowers you to work harder to positively contribute to the lives of others. Not to mention, I’ve had the chance to take in some amazing sights, sounds and tastes in Ghana. However, the most rewarding aspect of my placement was interacting one-on-one with some very inquisitive youth and the most unforgettable aspect has to be the friendly nature and hospitality of Ghanaians. There is no doubt that my memories in Ghana will continue to nurture my personal and professional choices as this opportunity has taught me a great deal about myself and has helped me acquire skills in the International Development field. Without the generous donations of Aeroplan Miles, I may not have been given this chance. “Go the Extra Mile” Scholarship helped kick-start the first leg of my journey and I can’t wait to see how many more miles I will travel as this journey continues.
- Marlee Jordan, Youth Ambassador, Ghana 2013
Coming soon in May 2013: 2nd Annual Aeroplan “Go the Extra Mile” Campaign where you can donate your Miles to other exceptional young leaders like Marlee.
Jon Burns and Kevan Osmond were selected as winners of YCI’s Global Action Grant for Kindness Connect, a web platform they are creating for volunteers and community organizations alike. Their goal is to remove barriers to volunteering and get more people ‘up on their feet’ doing good work for great organizations.
The past two months have been a whirlwind of activity. Building the Kindness Connect web platform has run much like your typical software development project, but with one notable exception. We began with ideas: big ones, little ones, far-fetched ones, and easily attainable ones. With all of the ideas in front of us it was time to prioritize by thinking about how each could turn into a useful feature. The result was a list of core requirements that would make up Kindness Connect.
The next step was to thoughtfully sketch each feature into web design mock-ups. This was when the real grind began. Taking sketches and making them come to life is a lot like taking a sheet of music and using an instrument to bring a song to life. In our case, the sheet of music is the design sketch, the instrument is computer programming code, and the song is the web platform.
However, this hasn’t been a solo mission, which brings us to our notable exception. At the beginning of the project we set a rule that this would be a collaborative effort. We weren’t going to build it alone. True to this rule, we’ve been meeting with community organizations across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). These organizations have provided us with invaluable feedback on their workflow, difficulties they face, product suggestions, and so forth.
We’re happy to announce that the technical development of Kindness Connect is almost complete and we’re moving onto a milestone that we’ve been looking forward to: putting Kindness Connect in the hands of the public. This milestone is really important for us. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate what we’ve been building, connect with users, and amass some real world usage.
We’re fortunate to have the support of some great organizations in the GTA who have agreed to help us with this public testing phase. We’ll also be looking for individuals in the area to evaluate from a volunteer perspective.
The community has been a great source for generating ideas for Kindness Connect. Frequently in random meetings and conversations people have shared their ideas by saying “wouldn’t it be cool if” or “have you thought of” and often these ideas have made their way into development.
We are grateful for such input and equally grateful to YCI for selecting us as the recipients of the Global Action Grant. We feel as though we have been warmly welcomed into YCI’s fantastic community and would like to extend an invitation to the YCI community to provide us with further suggestions. Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line, introduce yourself, and share any ideas you might have at firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s simple: if you have ideas, we’d love to hear them.
Thank-you to YCI for your support and to the YCI community for keeping us inspired.
- Jon and Kevan
Diana Chiodo has recently joined YCI as the new Public Engagement Intern. Diana is a graduate of Ryerson University’s Politics and Governance program and continued her studies with a specialized Food Security Certificate program. She is taking courses in project management at the University of Toronto and hopes to soon become a designated Project Management Professional. Diana became interested in international development and food politics from her studies and experience in a Canada World Youth program where she spent 6 weeks in Kimende, Kenya supporting local environmental group KENVO. Diana is passionate about youth engagement, and creating healthy, sustainable food systems. She is excited to take on the challenges of being the new Public Engagement Intern.
I first heard of Youth Challenge International at an environmental career fair and was immediately drawn to YCI’s focus on building skills in youths. Personally, I was interested in the Youth Innovator program because of the specialized projects in supporting local partners abroad and opportunities to build work experience in an international setting. YCI challenges youths to think critically and act as leaders to drive social change and to me, that’s empowering. My position at YCI entails maintaining good relationships with existing alumni and organizational partners and to build new opportunities to reach out to more youths. The cool part of my job is to facilitate YCI’s alumni programs, which brings together like-minded people with a passion for youth and development.
I am responsible for monitoring and analyzing public engagement opportunities that we are currently undertaking and finding new opportunities so that I can strategically plan events for the summer and new school year.
My interests in international development stems from my desire to influence social change and bring about equities in society. It’s why I was attracted to studying politics in the first place. However, I became tired of hearing about international facts & figures from textbooks and set out to see how development works firsthand. I have been influenced by my experiences in Kenya and in New Orleans, helping to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina and also making global initiatives local. In every experience I have been a part of, the magic of strong communities and youth driven initiatives are what inspire me as I build a career in international development. I am passionate about health and youth livelihoods and the possibilities for building entrepreneurship within sustainable agriculture.
During my spare time, I love watching movies, practicing hot yoga and spending time outdoors. I was born and raised in Toronto and although I love the buzz of city life, I relish escaping to some lush green lands! My new favourite escape place is taking a boat through Georgian Bay in Penetanguishene. I’m a huge natural beauty health enthusiast as well and have had good success in making my own natural lotions. They smell so delicious; you usually have to fight off the temptation to eat them. Maybe one day I’ll market them!
The entire team here at Youth Challenge International is very excited to announce our inaugural charity climb fundraiser event: The Kilimanjaro Climb to Give Thanks.
This event will take place over Canadian Thanksgiving from October 12 – 19, 2013, and has been organized with the goal of raising $100,000 for YCI’s youth development programs.
We’re proud to offer the opportunity for up to 30 individuals to travel with us to The Republic of Tanzania where they will trek the 5,895m up Mt. Kilimanjaro to reach the summit, Uhuru Peak. As Africa’s highest mountain and the highest freestanding mountain in the world, Mt. Kilimanjaro offers a great challenge for climbers and a unique opportunity for YCI to raise awareness about our youth development programs.
YCI believes that young people have a central role to play in their development and directly engages youth in creating solutions to the challenges they face. Currently, we have youth development projects in four different locations throughout Tanzania, and we continually recruit talented Canadian and international youth volunteers to collaborate in partnership with the local youth in these locations to achieve innovation and development results. Last year, our volunteers reached over 5,600 youth in Tanzania, providing access to valuable resources and education to support improved access to livelihoods, health, and leadership opportunities.
Bryan Cox, YCI’s Executive Director, is excited to offer any individuals with a passion for adventure and philanthropy the opportunity to participate in this remarkable event. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity that will help change young peoples lives. “After working with young people for the past five years I have found that young people want one thing; the opportunity and the tools to succeed, not a handout”. Bryan said “I am looking forward to leading this challenge with committed people from across our global community”.
Youth Challenge International is pleased to welcome Somera Muzaffar to the YCI headquarters in Toronto as the new Social Media and Communications Intern. Somera comes to YCI with a broad range of volunteer experiences. She has done everything from volunteering as a tutor, research assistant, grief counselor, to even a special events intern. The only thing remaining on Somera’s volunteering-to-do-list is volunteering abroad. Somera is a recent graduate of University of Toronto, where she completed a Bachelors of Science in Psychology, Political Science and Sociology. Welcome aboard Somera!
I am thrilled to take on the role of the Social Media and Communications Intern at YCI. Within this role, I am responsible for generating content for the YCI blog, YCI facebook page, and YCI twitter account. This position entails both creativity and research. I get to be creative by writing youth-friendly tweets that span a variety of topics. Everything from Thanksgiving to pop culture, and relevant International Development news is fair game. Considering I am a novice when it comes to tweeting, I have to say that it’s quickly become one of my favourite tasks. As well, the research component of this position is very engaging. When generating social media content, I read various newspapers, blogs, and surf travel websites for the latest travel tips.
So, how did I first learn about YCI? Well, I met YCI’s former intern, Christopher Sharpe at a university summer job fair. I sent him an email soon after and he was kind enough to connect me with Amanda Armstrong (Volunteer Program Coordinator) for an information interview. It was this chance meeting with Chris that brought me to YCI. So, what’s the take home message here? Never shy away from networking.
My interest in international development and particularly YCI derives mainly from how impressed I am with youth who exercise agency to improve their lives and the lives of others. From the young baker in Romania who runs a bakery to supplement her parents income to the many YCI volunteers raising vast amounts of money for their volunteer projects. I am motivated by such people. And to this day, I’m still motivated by my High School teacher sharing the Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime”. This proverb is very relevant to my goals since I not only want to help people, but I want to help people sustain self-sufficiency.
When I’m not working, I enjoy watching movies, skiing terribly, walking aimlessly around Toronto, hanging out with my niece and obsessively reading celebrity blogs.
On Friday March 22nd, we hosted our 1st Spring Social networking event to bring together Youth Challenge International alumni, staff, board members, and friends in celebration of our youth development programs and the incredible people involved with YCI. The evening was a blast for everyone. Attendees enjoyed mingling with a networking bingo game where they met people who had been on safari, rode a camel, visited Kaeiteur Falls, and stood on Umbrella Rock. A travel-related silent auction raised over $800.
Now in our 25th year, we are excited about strengthening our alumni network and bringing together like-minded people that have a passion for youth and international development. What we quickly came to realize as we called the 400+ Toronto alumni to invite them to this event, is that a lot of YCI alumni have moved on from Toronto and live all over the world from Chile to Dubai to Australia and everywhere in between. YCI’s alum are leading successful lives with very exciting careers in international development, travel, adventure, and more. Two alum with whom we have recently reconnected with have started their own travel companies, Angus Murray and Rick Snowdon.
Angus Murray, 1990 Guyana Alum, is the founder of Live Out Loud Adventures, an environmentally responsible and socially conscious trek adventure company that operates in Tanzania, Ecuador, Canada, and Nepal (Mt. Everest). On May 21, 2008, Angus became the 50th Canadian to summit Mt. Everest! http://www.liveoutloudadventures.com/
Rick Snowdon, 2006 Grenada Alum, is the founder of Spirit of the West Adventures, a kayak adventure company that provides fun, safe, and ecologically sound kayaking experiences in BC. As a freelance writer, guide and photographer Rick has travelled around Canada and around the world. http://www.kayakingtours.com/
Thank you to everyone that attended and supported the 1st YCI Spring Social! As we continue to grow, we are continuously expanding our network of young leaders and people who believe in positive change around the world. Our newest upcoming initiative is YCI’s Kilimanjaro Climb to Give Thanks, which we hope you will join us for. Find out more at http://www.projectpage.info/yci-kilimanjaro
Look out for more YCI networking events in Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and other cities across the globe in the future!
This blog was originally posted on March 10, 2013 on http://emilyroyer.wordpress.com/ by YCI volunteer Emily Royer.
This past Wednesday was Ghana’s 56th Independence Day! Independence Day is a National Holiday so with the day off work I was finally able to explore the huge market that Accra has to offer. Independence Day celebrations included school children marching, flags everywhere (the Ghananian colors of red, yellow and green are painted on virtually every tree and little stall possible), fireworks, and a day of general relaxation for locals. I, on the other hand, was on a mission. Before coming to Ghana I was told by many people to pack lightly as there are so many fabrics to buy here and talented tailors who can sew virtually any design you show them. I imagined a whole new wardrobe at my fingertips. Unfortunately, time has flown by and it was only this past week that I was able to actually go shopping for fabrics. Makola market is one of the biggest markets in Accra and has an entire area dedicated to fabrics. If you turn down a narrow alleyway you walk through a long line of fabric shops. Every kind of fabric you can imagine with bright colors and bold patterns lives in this narrow alleyway. This is not a productive place for an indecisive soul with a touch of ADD. After wandering through a number of stalls and draping every color of fabric over myself, I was finally able to pick two fabrics which I am hoping to have made into dresses. Stay tuned on how those turn out!
On Thursday, myself and Alex (another Canadian intern working with the Ghana YMCA from the Greater Toronto YMCA) travelled to Takoradi to participate in the All Girls Summit that the YMCA was putting on for International Women’s Day. Takoradi is a booming town along the West coast of Ghana and is the center for oil and gas in Ghana. The 5 hour bus ride from Accra was very picturesque – luscious green trees, rich orange soil, and the expansive ocean. Upon arriving in Takoradi, we were met by the acting Regional Secretary for the Ghana YMCA Western Region, Nana. Nana is a young guy who has a lot on the go – he is the acting Regional Secretary, he is taking an accounting course, he is the lead singer of his church choir, and much much more. He welcomed us with incredible hospitality, taking us on a mini tour of Takoradi and inviting us to his home for dinner where his mom cooked a delicious (non-fried!!) meal. On the way to dinner we had to make a pit stop to talk to one of the speakers for the All Girls Summit. The speaker is a Chief (part of the traditional government) for a town in the Central Region and we were lucky enough to get to look at her photo album from her coronation. The coronation was a beautiful celebration full of color and tradition. The Chief is also a savvy business woman and owns and manages a Fan Ice (my favorite ice cream snack) distribution centre. As Fan Ice is my favorite treat, I was very very excited.
The following day, the All Girls Summit took place at the YMCA Takoradi Vocational School. The vocational school is an all-girls school that is the equivalent educational level to high school and students learn skills in sewing and catering alongside necessary curriculum like math and English. Two YCI volunteers have been in Takoradi for the past two months designing and implementing development workshops and they organized a fantastic event to celebrate International Women’s Day. Three female guest speakers (including the Chief, the principle of the vocational school, and a professor) talked about their experiences and gave advice to the room of girls to be confident and determined, find positive role models, and believe that they can be successful. After a delicious lunch (prepared by the girls who take catering classes) the two YCI interns gave a presentation on entrepreneurship. I was very impressed with their presentation. Although everyone speaks English in Ghana, there are times when it feels like we are speaking completely different languages. Especially when speaking to a large group, the speed we talk as foreigners, our accents, and the way we construct sentences means that sometimes a lot gets lost in translation. Watching the girls conduct the Entrepreneurship session, I was reminded of classes in University where my professors had heavy accents and no matter how much I wanted to listen and learn, it was very difficult to stay engaged. The YCI volunteers had a lot of patience while conducting their session and were able to engage the girls despite the language barriers. After the program wrapped up, I had the opportunity to test a marketing tool that I created – a questionnaire/template to generate articles and testimonials about the program that can then be easily used for the Ghana YMCA website, newsletter and Facebook page. The template was well received and I believe people generally understood the goal of the tool. I received some great feedback that will contribute to the overall marketing and communication strategy.
As for the name of this blog post: As I get more comfortable in Accra and Ghana and am developing a routine, I find myself forgetting that I’m in Africa. There is a lot that I love here – the fresh mangos (Mom you would LOVE them), the beaches, the friendly people… That being said, there are some things that truly make me appreciate how lucky I am at home. Ghana is rationing both power and water, so power outages have become more and more consistent with the power being off more often than it is on and water rationing means that running water is a treat rather than the norm. Although my place is quite clean, I came across a massive cockroach in the kitchen and huge spider in the washroom the other day. This is all part of the experience and I’m learning to take the good with the bad!
- Emily Royer, Youth Ambassador, Ghana 2013