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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.


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.


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.

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 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 –
Twitter – @KindnessToronto
Facebook –
Website –

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.


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.


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!

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.


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


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


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

Look out for more YCI networking events in Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and other cities across the globe in the future!

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.


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

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.


Join YCI Alumni, staff, board members, and friends for an evening of drinks, games, and fun!

As Youth Challenge International continues to grow, we are very excited about strengthening and expanding our network to connect like-minded people that share one thing in common – they believe in the power of youth to make positive change.

As we enter our 25th year, we hope you will join us to celebrate all of our accomplishments in global youth development, support our youth programs, and to mingle with passionate individuals in the industry.

Friday March 22nd | 5 – 9pm

Pacific Junction Hotel | 234 King St East

$15 for YCI Alumni

$20 for Friends

Please RSVP: 

*Finger food, ping pong, billiards, silent auction with great travel items, & more!


Growing up, we learned from our parents that there are certain things we must do in order to succeed in life; be a good citizen, get a good education, and attain a comfortable middle-class life.

Enter recession.

Suddenly, political, economic, and social pundits alike started to bandy about terms like “Lost Generation” and “Basement Rats”. Traditionally stable jobs are now a dying breed and full-time work is giving way to part-time jobs, the numbers of which are also rapidly decreasing. Our university friends are working in places that have nothing to do with their degrees and some are resigned to work in retail and fast food industries. These days, it turns out that going to university isn’t a guarantee to escape flipping burgers. It is easy to see why some young people drift from one minimum wage job to another, or have become disillusioned. Some have even become the dreaded basement troll of many a baby boomer’s house.

St Cuthbert's Mission (144)

Kendra leading a study skills workshop for grades 7-9 at at St. Cuthbert’s Mission in Guyana

Society’s usual answer to developing a career is to get more education.  However, that may not always be the best choice. Consider this – an employer has two candidates from which to choose. One has a Masters’ degree but no work experience and the other just has a B.A. but has work experience. In today’s job market, where the primary concern is with cutting costs and streamlining budgets, which candidate do you think would be more attractive: the one who has academic credentials and high salary expectations to pay back those education loans, or the one with actual real life experience and generally lower monetary expectations?

Getting real experience in a depressed job market can be difficult and highly competitive. However, the solution may lie in thinking outside of the box. Why not volunteer with an international NGO?


Dental Hygiene workshop for grades 1-3 students. Learning about the wonders of a fresh breath!

There are two main reasons why you should consider volunteering: engagement and livelihood development. Not only would you work with young people in countries ranging from Guyana to Ghana teaching them to become involved and develop a livelihood, but the experience will also allow you to do the exact same for yourself. The goal here is for you to become the author of your own life, both personally and professionally, which is good for your overall well-being, enabling you to reject disenfranchisement and rootlessness. It allows you to participate in the complicated yet exciting world of which we are a part. It provides work experience that looks great on your resume especially when your other option is to have a gap with nothing to show for the passing time. And most importantly, it provides you with the opportunity to meet new people, create new links, and generate new possibilities – opportunities that you could not have anticipated while thumbing the Xbox or dodging burger grease splatter.

Even in a world that faces continued recession for the foreseeable future, it is up to you to secure your necessities of life, which is what livelihood development is all about. No matter the job, employers are always looking for people that have key skills. So, how do you secure the experience that demonstrates leadership, team player abilities, and problem solving skills when jobs are scarce?  By volunteering.

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Encouraging people to borrow books from the village’s small library

While volunteering in Guyana, my work enabled me to develop and demonstrate a wide range of skills such as adaptability, flexibility, cultural integration, leadership, public speaking, writing, classroom management, teaching, problem solving, creativity, and understanding and participating in team dynamics.

Remember, employers want more than just your word that you have developed key work-related and life skills; you will need to demonstrate how you did so using pertinent examples from your life experiences. It is one thing to say that you are a flexible person but quite another to explain about your time in an Amerindian village teaching literature to high school students while managing a lack of supplies and a wide variety of learning disabilities.

So instead of being one of the lost generation, why not consider volunteering overseas?  Include volunteering in your life plan and in so doing, you will become more involved in the world and people around you while developing the skills needed to make your pitch in a competitive domestic job market.

Bonne chance!

St Cuthbert's Mission (48)

Kendra at St. Cuthbert’s Mission, Guyana

- Kendra Seignoret, Youth Ambassador, Guyana 2012

Robin Campbell is the first of 3 Global Action Grant winners that YCI is happy to present! The Global Action Grant program was started for Canadian Youth interested in creating innovative solutions to youth issues in development. As one of the selected winners, Robin will be awarded a $500 grant to fund the implementation of her micro-project to raise awareness about development issues in her community. Robin is a YCI alumnus, having spent 4 weeks in Ghana as a Youth Ambassador in 2010.

Robin in The Gambia

My name is Robin Campbell and I live in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, a rural community located an hour outside of Halifax. I am currently completing my Masters degree at Acadia University with a focus on international volunteerism. I personally have volunteered internationally in Guyana, Ghana (with Youth Challenge International!), Belize, The Gambia and Argentina. I also currently work for our local Regional Development Agency as their Development Officer-Volunteer Passport where I work to increase volunteerism and reduce barriers to volunteering in my county. One particular area of focus that I am passionate about is engaging youth in volunteerism; I feel very strongly about helping youth to increase their knowledge of community development and how to become active citizens in their community.

In my previous work position with the Town of Wolfville I formed a group of youth (aged 13-15) with the purpose of learning more about community leadership and how to become active citizens. Since starting the Youth Leaders Core in October 2012, the group has learned about community members such as the RCMP and the Canadian Military, and has completed a video making workshop about local community members, including the local newspaper, recreation department and local businesses.


As leader of the group, my hope is to engage youth in my community to be more aware of their own abilities to make change and make a difference in our world and in our community. We are a rural community and we tend to have fewer opportunities to learn about global citizenship. My hope is that this Global Action Grant will help the Youth Leaders Core learn about what is happening right here in Nova Scotia and how they too can become involved in international development.

During the months of February and March 2013 the group will be learning about international community development and will participate in a sequence of events that will then prepare them for creating their own community action project around international development and the global issues that are important to them.

The Project:

1st: We will have an evening of films with the Paradigm Shift Project and learn about various global issues through short films. The Executive Director and Founder (Rebecca Sweetman) of the Paradigm Shift Project will join us by Skype to talk to the youth about her experience as an international volunteer and why she started the Paradigm Shift Project. She will also be discussing with the youth how they can use social media as a way to create positive social change in their community.

2nd: We will learn about opportunities to volunteer internationally and learn about organizations such Youth Challenge International.

3rd: We will be going on a trip to Halifax (an hour away) to visit the Nova Scotia-Gambia Association and learn about development from Gambians who now live in Nova Scotia and learned health education through the Nova Scotia-Gambia Association. Then we learn about and hopefully meet Jakob Conrad, who started Twoonies from Toubabs, a fundraising campaign to raise funds for health education in The Gambia. He started this when he was 9 years old (just two years ago), and has since created a children’s book about his experience and was also awarded the QEII’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. Hopefully this inspires the youth leaders for their own action project, seeing someone their own age who has accomplished so much.

4th: Through these learning experiences, the youth will have the information they need to do their own action projects, whether it be in teams or on their own. They have learned the skills of video making, so maybe they will do this or perhaps they will start their own fundraising campaign. It’s up to them what they do!

Lastly: We will spread the word and share with the community our projects. We hope the youth will encourage their peers to become involved too. A community presentation will take place in March at our local Farmer’s Market (a popular gathering place on Saturdays). Press will be invited and the youth will share their experience and what their passion is now in international development.

With the Help of Youth Challenge International, We’re Going to Learn About International Development and What We Can Do Right Here, Right Now!

YCI loves getting updates from alumni on what new programs and adventures they become involved in and where they end up professionally. Lisa Gaudry volunteered with YCI in Costa Rica for 5-weeks in 2007. You can read about Lisa and how volunteering with YCI has spurred her on personally, academically and professionally in her previous blog post here: Lisa has recently returned from a CIDA internship in Rwanda and YCI is happy showcase this accomplishment.

Agricultural Co-operatives as a Vehicle For Positive Change: My Internship Experience in Rwanda

I recently completed a 9-month internship in Rwanda with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) through the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA). The focus of the project is to improve agricultural productivity, food security and gender equality in 15 agricultural co-operatives. In partnership with a local non-governmental organization UGAMA/CSC, I worked as the Gender Program Officer on behalf of CCA.

Rwanda - Land of a thousand hills.

Rwanda – Land of a thousand hills.

Rwanda is a small landlocked country inhabited by approximately 11.7 million people, and has the highest population density in Sub-Saharan Africa. More than 80% of the population relies on agriculture and related activities for their livelihoods. In rural areas, where the majority of the poor reside, agriculture is the main source of income and employment. Nearly 77% of the country’s population live below the poverty line and roughly 51% live in extreme poverty on less than $1.25 a day. According to the United Nations Development Programme, Rwanda remains one of the world’s poorest countries.

Women in Rwanda comprise 86% of the labour force in agriculture and animal husbandry. Additionally, they are responsible for household food security, supplying their family’s basic needs, ensuring the family’s wellbeing, and caring for the children. Despite their significant involvement in agricultural activities, women continue to have less access to resources and opportunities than men.

Rwandan society is characterized by a patriarchal social structure that underlies the unequal power relations between men and women, boys and girls. This has translated into male dominance and women’s subordination. Women work 14 to 17 hour days, reducing their ability to participate in additional income earning opportunities, capacity development, or decision-making positions in the community. They lack access to capital, assets and productive resources for farming and income generation, thus continue to face disproportionate constraints in relation to men in accessing the regular workforce. In their homes, they lack decision-making power in regards to income and resources. Furthermore, they continue to have lower levels of education and higher rates of illiteracy, also limiting their ability to participate in decision-making or governance bodies and committees.

After the genocide, women in Rwanda made up approximately 70% of the population. Today, this number is closer to 55% though still represents the majority, and roughly 30% of households in the country are female-headed. Although there have been numerous efforts and some key achievements, gender inequalities still exist in Rwanda and continue to cause problems especially in the lives of women. As gender inequalities hamper socioeconomic growth, gender equality is necessary for poverty alleviation.

Co-op rice fields

Co-op members working on soy bean crops

Co-operatives are used in Rwanda as an effective tool to respond to social and economic challenges causing poverty throughout the country. They are a key organizational form of community development that emphasize rural economic transformation, human resource development, promotion and development of the private sector, and poverty reduction mainly in rural areas.

In the CCA/CIDA project, agricultural co-operatives are formed and used to reduce poverty and bring women into the formal economy through employment and economic opportunities. As a democratic means of social mobilization, co-operatives have an active role in the healthy, gender-inclusive development of communities and societies. Numerous studies indicate that women are more often concerned with social development issues; therefore, women participating in co-operative movements become agents of social change thereby improving the socioeconomic situation of their families and communities.


Co-op rice fields

Although co-operative values are ones of self-help, mutual responsibility, equality and equity, they do not automatically translate into gender equality. They do however, provide a space for gender equality to be reinforced within these values; co-operative principles facilitate the implementation of broader equality and non-discriminatory agendas.

As part of the CCA/CIDA gender equality initiatives, I conducted a gender analysis in the 15 project co-operatives using focus groups as the primary research method to ensure an inclusive, participatory process. The focus groups provided a space for men and women from the co-operatives to express their concerns and share insight into the issues creating or reinforcing gender inequalities. This provided the project organizations with first-hand experiences and knowledge as to what should be addressed within the project and how. The purpose was to discover the practical and strategic gender needs and interests of the women and men in the co-operatives – which is crucial in terms of achieving gender equality – and gain a better understanding of how and to what extent the co-operatives’ activities impact women and men respectively, as well as in relation to each other. This enabled both men and women to articulate themselves despite structural inequalities within their society, and guide the co-operatives’ activities based on their needs and wants as opposed to having a project imposed on them. While acknowledging the differential impact of project initiatives on men and women, the results are being used to inform the development of the project to ensure that it is gender-sensitive and gender equitable at all levels.


Co-operative members’ meeting

Though there still exist inequalities in the co-operatives, such as men currently holding the majority of decision-making and leadership positions within co-operatives and having better access to extension services, some improvements toward gender equality have been made and continue to be made. For example, agricultural co-operatives in Rwanda have increased agricultural productivity; increased household food security; increased household incomes; increased employment rates; and have increased financial opportunities for the rural poor. They have also benefitted women directly in a number of ways, by providing: women with a space to network and form self-help groups as well as microfinance groups which gives them access to credit that they typically do not have through formal savings and credit institutions, especially as widows; access to training and information sessions to develop new skills; primary or secondary sources of income; increased literacy rates; and, perhaps most importantly, a space for women to express themselves and speak on their behalf, to have a voice. These are all stepping-stones toward achieving gender equality and reducing poverty.

While there is much focus on the role of women being in subordinate positions, it must be emphasized that initiatives such as co-operatives working toward gender equality do not seek to benefit women only. This particular project includes a specific focus on women, not necessarily as a special marginalized interest group, rather as a largely representative group, as gender equality cannot be achieved without efforts from both men and women to ensure sustainability.

Nyabarongo River

Nyabarongo River

Co-operative values in themselves are inclusive, do not discriminate and seek to work against structural inequalities rooted in socio-cultural norms at community and household levels. In many areas, the nearest institutions to the poor are the local co-operatives, therefore, strengthening their overall capacity and gaining an increasingly better understanding of gender equality in providing equitable opportunities for both men and women, will further promote positive changes. As co-operatives are essentially a tool for sustainable social and economic development where people are grouped together working toward a common goal using shared resources, ensuring gender equality as part of the process will therefore reduce poverty more efficiently. Though these changes are often a lengthy process, whether they happen for small group of people or only for one person at a time, they make a world of difference.

- Lisa Gaudry, Youth Ambassador, Costa Rica 2007

YCI had a great year in 2012 and sent 115 amazing youth volunteers and interns overseas to work with local staff and local volunteers in our host communities. Thanks to the hard work and innovation of both international and local youth volunteers, YCI was able to make significant contributions towards creating positive change in communities in Ghana, Tanzania, Costa Rica, Guyana and Guatemala. In honour of this achievement, YCI would like to recognize 3 exceptional volunteers; one local volunteer from Tanzania, a local volunteer from Ghana, and an international YCI volunteer.

YCI is proud to present the Co-Winners of the International Volunteer of the Year award: Erin Scott and Alicia Perry!

Alicia and Erin2

Alicia and Erin in Tanzania

Alicia Perry

Alicia’s positive personality and enthusiasm enabled her to work well with her fellow Canadian YCI volunteer (Erin Scott), the local Tanzanian volunteers, and YCI staff while in Morogoro. Her easy-going, positive, friendly and accommodating personal qualities made her a valuable team player in organizing and implementing program activities. Her open communication made it easy to know what was on her mind and she was always just as eager to get insight from staff and local volunteers for input into program ideas and plans.


Alicia worked hard to come with the best lesson plans for the many workshops and sessions she participated in, and she was always dedicated to ensuring the other participants were able to get the most out of them as possible. She recognized that the learning process for some of the programs’ participants varied, thereby making it difficult for some of the well-planned activities to work as planned; however, Alicia would never give up and continued to try new approaches and incorporate available resources.

In addition to her work with YCI in Morogoro, Alicia’s compassion and desire to contribute to the community in Morogoro lead her to illustrate her global citizenship in an amazing way. Through sharing her personal experiences with her friends and family back home in Canada, she facilitated the collection of donations for the 117 HIV-positive children in Faraja’s Home Based Care program. This enabled Alicia and Erin to purchase clothing, toys, books, and food that were then distributed at a special Play Day.

Erin Scott

Erin demonstrated excellent qualities of global citizenship and youth leadership during her time as a Youth Ambassador in Morogoro. Her flexibility, maturity and team-work skills were crucial in accomplishing the project goals and objectives. Erin’s ability to positively deal with situations and challenges, as well as her strong communication skills, ensured there was a good group dynamic among YCI staff, with her co-volunteer (Alicia), local volunteers, partner organization staff, and community participants.


Erin’s dedication to engaging with and immersing herself in the community led her to try to learn the local language so she could communicate and interact more with the community. She worked hard to make sure the beneficiaries of the many workshops and programs gained as much information as possible. Erin took particular care to always have a more interactive and participatory approach in the program activities she led and participated in; she worked very hard at ensuring that she interacted with participants to get feedback and hear more from them during workshops and information sessions.

Erin is an excellent leader, yet equally as good at letting others lead and helping to develop their leadership skills. Her respect and consideration for those around her, as well as her dedication to community and youth development make her an exemplary YCI volunteer.

Youth Challenge International is pleased to welcome Carly Court to the YCI headquarters in Toronto as the new Volunteer Program Assistant. Carly is a YCI alumnus, having spent 5 weeks in Guatemala in 2010 where she worked on a youth development eco-tourism project in La Florida, as well as participating in the activities of an organic farm collective. Carly is a recent graduate of McGill University, where she completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Development with a double minor International Relations and Hispanic Languages. Welcome to the team Carly!

Carly in Guatemala

Carly in “downtown” La Florida, Guatemala

I first became involved with YCI in 2010 when I took a year off school to volunteer abroad.  I lived and worked with the campesinos of Finca La Florida, Guatemala, for five mindful and thought provoking weeks.  There, I was exposed to the successes and difficulties that come with collective living, as well as the fascinating dichotomy of hope for the future in the face of extreme poverty.  Volunteering with YCI offered me the unique opportunity to experience both the things I had learned about in school as well as the things that I had never imagined I would be exposed to. I am excited to be working as the Volunteer Program Assistant because I believe in the value of volunteerism, I believe in the power of youth working with youth, and I appreciate everything that I was able to take away from the project. After months of speculation, volunteering with YCI confirmed my passion for the development field, and motivated me to get back to school and finish my degree in International Development Studies.

My position as the Volunteer Program Assistant intern comes with a wide range of responsibilities.  My main objective in this internship is to work closely with Amanda, the Volunteer Program Coordinator, to ensure that our exceptional volunteers are placed on the project best suited for them, and see to it that they are properly supported in their fundraising and pre-departure endeavours. I work, more or less behind the scenes, throughout the entire process of the volunteer’s experience with YCI.  I process applications, interview applicants, help place them on the appropriate project, make selection calls, and provide them with fundraising support.  I have only been active in this internship for two weeks thus far, but I have already learned a ton about the administrative aspects of a not-for-profit organization.  So far, my favourite aspect of the internship is the inter-personal aspect of the interviews.  We have had some really awesome applicants who are now going to be some amazing volunteers!

My interests outside of work include, but are not limited to, the consumption of delicious foodstuffs, travel, dance, snowboarding, gallery hopping, pop-culture trivia, and general loafing (especially with my cat).


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