Think. Eat. Save: Reduce Your Footprint – World Environment Day

 Happy World Environment Day! WED 2013

In case you hadn’t heard, yesterday was World Environment Day! Here is a recap of what it’s all about and how you can get involved.

“Think.Eat.Save: Reduce Your Foodprint”

World Environment Day is a yearly event aimed at being the most widely celebrated day for positive environmental action around the globe. The celebration began in 1972 and is used as a tool by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to create worldwide awareness of the environment, and encourage political attention as well as positive action. Activities in support of this day occur globally throughout the year, and climax on June 5th.

Through World Environment Day, the UNEP seeks to “personalize environmental issues and enable everyone to realize not only their responsibility, but also their power to become agents for change in support of sustainable and equitable development.” World Environment Day provides a chance “for people from all walks of life to come together to work toward a cleaner, greener and brighter outlook for themselves and future generations.”

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This year’s theme focuses on food waste and food loss. Think.Eat.Save. Reduce Your Foodprint is the new campaign launched by the UNEP and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), in collaboration with a growing list of partners from both the public and private sectors, to give attention to, and create solutions relevant to developed and developing countries alike.

According to the FAO, every year 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted – this is equivalent to the amount of food produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. Similarly, 1 in every 7 people go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die from hunger every day.

Food Waste: A Shame for Humankind and the Environment

We cannot ignore the challenge of food waste. Approximately one third of all food production fails to make it from the farm to the table. According to the UNEP, global food production occupies 25% of all habitable land and is responsible for 70% of fresh water consumption, 80% of deforestation, and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, therefore making food production the largest single driver of biodiversity loss and land-use change. This is not only a massive hunger problem; this is a massive environmental problem. Food waste is a tremendous drain on natural resources, causing severe negative environmental impacts. When food is wasted, so are all the resources and inputs used in the production of that food.

In developing countries, food loss can be attributed to inadequate storage facilities and lack of information on proper storing techniques, low investment in food production systems and poor infrastructure, pests, and inefficient supply chains. In developed countries, a substantial amount of food is wasted at the consumption level. For example, food is thrown away by households as well as by retailers in the food and beverage industry and subsequently rots in landfills, releasing large, unnecessary quantities of methane – a powerful greenhouse gas – causing detrimental effects to the environment. Significant amounts of food are also lost as a result of buyers being insistent on cosmetic perfection for retail.

Think.Eat.Save encourages you to increase your awareness of the environmental impact related to your food choices and guides you to make informed decisions that will allow you to witness the power of collective decisions {that you and others make} to reduce food waste, save money, and minimize the environmental impact of food production in order to force food production processes to become more efficient. Making informed decision can mean selecting foods that have less of an environmental impact such as organic foods, and buying locally so that foods are not flown halfway across the world thereby reducing emissions. Similarly, choosing fair trade products helps to support sustainable production with higher social and environmental standards.

Addressing the enormous waste in today’s food systems will not only curb the hunger gap, but will also improve the wellbeing of those who are most vulnerable. As actors in the global food chain, we must act to promote environmental sustainability and socially equitable food systems, which will reduce our environmental footprint and help to ensure that everyone has enough to eat.

Change the Way You Think About Food

So, what are you doing for World Environment Day?

For more information:

 ~ Lisa Gaudry

Youth Challenge International Alumni of the  Costa Rica 2007 program and an active member of the Young Writers/Speakers Program

Half the Fun

Carly Court was a volunteer in Guatemala with YCI in 2010 and then returned to the Toronto office in January 2013 as YCI’s Volunteer Program Assistant. She recently arrived in Mwanza as a Youth Innovator to support YCI’s partners. Read about Carly’s experience in Tanzania by following her blog The New Smart.

“Travelling alone. As a girl. In East Africa.

If you want a genuine reaction when you are informing people about your upcoming travel plans, open with the latter statement.

Shock value aside, there are considerable challenges and rewards that come with working alone as a YCI Innovator. This is especially true when working in a city that is new to both yourself and the organization you are representing. YCI’s programming is still relatively recent here in Mwanza, as there has only been one YCI volunteer here before me. Partnerships with local organizations are still fresh and developing. Speaking of developing, my YCI in-country Program Manager and I are still learning how to navigate Mwanza’s dala-dala interpretation of public transportation. So far, all things considered, I have encountered many challenges- from coordinating and scheduling trainings, to finding someone to hang out with during my time off. But one of the true joys of travelling and volunteering abroad is turning challenges into adventures, and adventures into rewarding experiences and memories

Carly's on-field blog 1

Mwanza, Tanzania

Alumni Update: Heather Pederson

YCI loves getting updates from alumni on what new programs and adventures they become involved in and where they end up professionally.

Heather Pederson has volunteered with YCI twice, first in 2008 on a 10-week project in Ghana and then on one of YCI’s first youth innovator projects in Tanzania for 4-weeks. Now Heather works for the BC Centre for Disease Control as part of the ASPIRE project. Read on to learn more about the ASPIRE project’s ‘When a Mother Lives‘ video and how Heather is continuing to create positive change on a global scale.  

The ASPIRE project (Advances in Screening and Prevention in Reproductive Cancers) takes a community-based approach to cervical cancer screening that is tailored to low-resource settings. The goal of ASPIRE is to reduce the global burden of cervical cancer, while building capacity in local communities. In Uganda, cervical cancer represents 40 per cent of all cancers making it the most common among women. In countries like Uganda that lack routine cervical cancer screening, many women go undiagnosed until they are in the late stages of the disease.

In many countries, women lack access to proper health care due to poor infrastructure, scarce resources, and fewer trained professionals. ASPIRE’s work to address cervical cancer in Africa will result in widespread benefits to families and communities in Uganda. We are also bringing back knowledge from this experience that we hope to be able to apply here in British Columbia.

- Dr. Gina Ogilvie, ASPIRE Founder and Medical Director, BC Centre for Disease Control

“When a Mother Lives” is a film by ASPIRE that provides a concrete, sustainable and practical step-by-step process to address the burden of cervical cancer in Uganda. The story is told from the experience of the women in Uganda involved in the program, and can be viewed at www.aspireafrica.ca. Funding for the video was provided by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR). The ASPIRE team works in partnership with the BC Centre for Disease Control, BC Women’s Health Research Institute, BC Cancer Agency and BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre.

Kindness Connect: Recipients of YCI’s Global Action Grant Winners Take Website to the Next Level

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.

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Kindness Connect - Jon (left) Kevan (right)

Our Progress
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.

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Jon and Kevan hosting a workshop at the University of Waterloo’s Leadership Starts Here Conference

Next Up
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.

Kindness Connect's Map Search: a tool for finding opportunities in a user's area

Kindness Connect’s Map Search: a Tool for Finding Opportunities in a User’s Area

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.

Community
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 info@kindnessconnect.com. 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.

Happy volunteering!

- Jon and Kevan

Email – info@kindnessconnect.com
Twitter – @KindnessToronto https://twitter.com/kindnesstoronto
Facebook – www.facebook.com/KindnessConnect
Website – www.kindnessconnect.com

YCI’s First Spring Social- A Huge Success!

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.

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Sarah and Joanna, two Costa Rica alumni enjoying a game of pool

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.

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Stephen Brown (Chairman of the Board) with Julie Harris (Alumni)

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/

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Gabriela, Jessica, Lauren, and Nucci, former YCI staff

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It’s all smiles for Carly Court (Volunteer Program Assistant) and Amanda Armstrong (Volunteer Program Coordinator)

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Bryan Cox (Executive Director) and Stephen Brown (Chairman of the Board)

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!

Volunteers Building Prosperous, Sustainable Communities

Have you ever wondered why you should volunteer? Or perhaps, wonder what kind of impact “little old you” can have on a person and on a community? The answer is: plenty. And those impacts can be felt both globally and locally. In short, by volunteering, you are helping to build prosperous and sustainable communities at home and abroad.

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As an international volunteer, there are many impacts that you can and will have on a community. The immediate short term effects come from the skills you contribute. For example, when I volunteered in a Guyanese village, I taught in the high school and provided remedial math and English classes. My short term impact, therefore, was providing education that otherwise would not have existed that semester.

As for the long term effects, they have the possibility to be far reaching. Your work can have a domino effect in someone’s life – you can help someone develop the tools they need to improve their daily life and that of their family. In doing that, you are enabling them to not only increase their monetary intake but also their contribution to local society because they are better skilled citizens. More capable citizens enable a community to provide improved services and be more reflective of the community’s needs. A community that is better at responding to the needs of its citizens generally leads to a populace being healthier and more educated, law-abiding, innovative, and hopeful – all of which are important to having a prosperous and sustainable community. But it starts with you sharing your skills with those who, through the randomness of life, were unable to have access to those skills any other way.

Health and social studies

Health and social studies

Volunteering does not only have a beneficial impact on communities in the Global South – it has an impact in your local community as well. The act of volunteering and giving of yourself has a positive impact on your sense of well-being and increases your feeling of engagement in the world around you. As such, it enriches your sense of purpose in life. In inspiring others, you inspire yourself. You develop an appreciation for others and your understanding of how a community functions and how different ways of thinking can mean the difference between being stagnant and achieving growth. Volunteering also develops your repertoire of skills that makes you attractive to those hiring for both international volunteer work and paid work at home. That range of skills you develop while a volunteer enables you to do your part in making your community both sustainable and prosperous.

Superhero and Evil Doer - learning about conserving and wasting water

Superhero and Evil Doer – learning about conserving and wasting water

Some people think that they have nothing to offer to a volunteer organization, but you’d be surprised at the impact you can have. In the Guyanese village in which I volunteered, some of the boys asked the male volunteers to play a game of soccer. Being a soccer player, I invited myself into to the game, much to the boys’ surprise. Over the next few weeks, we played a number of times, even at school. Eventually, the girls I was teaching wanted to play as well! So just by simple skills such as a talent for kicking a ball and a willingness to put yourself out there, you can inspire others to new thoughts and to change. Encouraging flexibility in attitudes opens up vast possibilities for a community. Volunteering with an organization at home has also allowed me to contribute to making my community a successful one. For example, just by supporting new immigrants and teaching English, I am part of what equips them with the tools to be productive members of their new society which means our community as a whole will prosper.

- Kendra Seignoret, Youth Ambassador, Guyana 2012

Global Action Grant – Update from Robin Campbell

Wolfville Youth Leaders Core Group

Our group has been working hard to develop our youth action project. Over the past month we have met some very exciting and inspiring international development leaders!

On March 2, 2013 we travelled to Halifax, Nova Scotia (an hour away) to meet with the Nova Scotia-Gambia Association (NSGA). Their Executive Director, Muhammed Ngallen, shared his story of what it was like to grow up in The Gambia and we learned about the life-saving initiatives the NSGA is doing in The Gambia. Jakob Conrad then joined us, an inspiring young man who started “Twoonies from Toubabs,” a fundraising initiative he started at just age nine (he is shown in the picture talking to our group). He helped inspire our youth on how something simple can have an extraordinary impact. He showed us that young people can truly make a difference. His mother, Cathy Conrad, who is the Chair of the Board of Directors for the NSGA, joined Jakob and she also helped the youth to understand how they can make a difference.

wolfville youth leaders

Then on March 6th, we had a great Skype meeting with Rebecca Sweetman, Executive Director of the Paradigm Shift Project. She shared with us how she started the organization and how making documentary films and using media can make a change.

Our group has been so inspired by these leaders. The group has decided to develop a short-film/video on plastic bag use and waste, and how youth in their area can help to reduce the impact on our environment and how this will help locally and globally. Over the next month we will be working on creating this video. At the end of April, we are going to hold a showing of the film in our community and use this opportunity to raise money for an international development organization.

As the leader of this group, I am so thankful to everyone who has helped and inspired the youth for their project; and I am especially proud of our group for their project choice and their passion to make a difference here in rural Nova Scotia. Thank you, Youth Challenge International, for making this possible.

- Robin Campbell, Global Action Grant winner and Youth Ambassador alumnus.