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Marlee is YCI’s first “Go the Extra Mile” Scholarship winner, and is now one month into her 3-month project in Koforidua, Ghana. She’s sent us an update on her time so far and how she’s been adjusting to life in Ghana. Read on!
I’ve just passed the one month mark of my stay, yet it feels like it was just a couple weeks ago that I landed in Ghana’s hot, tropical climate and saw my first sight of where I would be living for the next three months. Preparing for this trip seemed as straightforward as getting all the necessities for packing, organizing travel documents, and mentally preparing for what my expectations were at the time.
However, I’ve learned that the best way to plan is doing exactly the opposite; learning to adapt to your environment and adjust your expectations accordingly. My degree in Criminology and interests in human rights, the state of children in developing countries, and the legal aspect of both are what compelled me seek volunteering opportunities like the ones that YCI offers. Being a newcomer to the international development field I thought that such an opportunity would allow me to gain experience and find out where my true interests lie.
So far my volunteer partner, Leigh, and I have taken the lead in developing workshops on substance abuse for youth in junior and high schools in Koforidua. With the help of the YMCA peer mentors, this month we’re tackling entrepreneurship and then sexual reproductive health after that. Working with the youth has been rewarding in many ways; from building up our confidence to talk in front of large groups to developing the relationships by interacting with the students one-on-one. We have faced challenges as well, but we are realizing that one of the most important parts of this work is learning from those challenges and improving ourselves and what we are doing.
As for living in Koforidua, by now we are quite familiar with the town and have become self-sufficient in daily life. Whether our day involves heading to the internet café to work, the market to buy lunch and other goods, or visiting landmark attractions like the beautiful Boti Falls, we have it covered with the help of the many hospitable Ghanians we have met. There is still so much of Ghana to see but we are taking full advantage of the experience, and of course the sun!
- Marlee Jordan Youth Ambassador, Ghana 2013
“Inspiring Development: Ideas Unleashed” was the theme of the student-led International Development Conference of 2013, held at University of Toronto Scarborough on February 9th and 10th.
YCI was honoured to be invited to conduct a workshop on youth development issues for both days. The workshop, entitled Building Communities & Leaders Through Global Youth Development, was lead by YCI’s Volunteer Coordinator Amanda Armstrong and co-facilitated by YCI’s program development assistant Kristy Tomkinson.
Approximately 45 participants, including professionals, university students, and high school students, took part in YCI’s workshops, and around 200 people in total attended the conference. It was a great opportunity to have an open dialogue and discussion about current issues facing youth around the world and the various strategies that can be employed in addressing those issues.
As part of the workshop, participants were asked to discuss in small groups, the following questions:
Why is youth development important?
Why should we invest in youth?
What role can youth play in international and/or community development?
Below are some of the key ideas that emerged from the group discussions:
A large population
The path to success
The most vocal about their opinions
More open to change
Less cynical than adults
Not afraid to voice their opinions
More ability to empathize and connect with each other
Passion and energy
A sense of social justice
Youth are lacking…
A public voice
Economic, mental, health, and educational empowerment
Help to face numerous obstacles
Keep people motivated
Be highly involved within their communities
Confront the legacy of the past
Network and communicate
Provide solutions and opportunities
Meet the needs of their peers
Mobilize their skills
Innovate and adapt
Take new risks
Indeed, youth have the ability to recognize, discuss, and strategize solutions to the various issues facing the youth population globally. This is why, at YCI, we believe in and are passionate about the dynamic energy and leadership potential of youth to drive positive change within their communities.
YCI was very excited to have been invited to the IDS Conference, and we look forward to attending similar events in the future!
My name is Rachelle McGrath and I am a Youth Challenge International (YCI) innovator working in Zanzibar, Tanzania. The project I am working on is 10 weeks in duration, and I am currently at the end of the 3rd week. My project focuses upon developing useful monitoring, evaluation, and reporting guidelines and workshops for the Zanzibar NGO Cluster on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control. In order for the guidelines to be useful, which is the ultimate goal, they need to be very succinct and clear because some member organizations operate predominantly in Swahili. This is proving challenging considering the breadth of information that I will need to synthesize.
Prior to my project with YCI, I completed a Master’s of Public Health. In a classroom setting my peers and I would talk about global health, development, and monitoring and evaluation. Many of my peers already had significant international experience, and I always felt a little dwarfed. The things that I was studying theoretically my peers already had direct experience with. I couldn’t wait for when I was finished my Master’s degree and would actually begin work in the field. YCI provided just such an opportunity and I eagerly took it. Although I am still early on in my project, it has confirmed my belief that experiential learning further enriches classroom knowledge in a manner not possible by other means. While I had learned about numerous things that may be encountered on such a project – language barriers, cultural miscommunications, time constraints, and culture shock – it is really a different type of learning to experience these things firsthand.
As far as my first impressions of life in Zanzibar go, I am glad to be in a location where time isn’t so strictly structured! The weather is extremely hot and humid, but it doesn’t bother me as much anymore. It’s also a bit of an adjustment to be so used to living in a familiar situation where I would take things for granted – safe and clean drinking water, reliable electricity, hot water, air conditioning, most people speaking the same language as me, and not being a visible minority – that I can’t take for granted here.
Finally, the individuals I have meet here (YCI volunteers and staff, partner organization members, my house family, my fitness class peers, and fellow travellers) have been amazing. I am excited to continue working on my project, and I really hope that I will be able to help create something positive and sustainable.
- Rachelle McGrath, Youth Innovator, Tanzania 2013
This week marks the 23rd annual International Development week! Each year, the first week of February sees events, workshops and activities that celebrate international development and foster greater education and awareness of development issues. The theme of this year’s IDW is “I am making a difference” and in the spirit of this, YCI is happy to invite you to our IDW event this Friday, February 8th.
Volunteers Building Prosperous, Sustainable Communities
Panel Discussion – What is the impact of Canadian volunteers in building sustainable communities?
Time: 5:30pm – 7:30pm
Location: Oakham House, Ryerson University, 63 Gould St., Toronto ON
International Development Week is an opportunity to explore how Canadians are making a difference in the developing world. Some of the most personal contributions to the fight against global poverty are those made by volunteers. Each year thousands of Canadian volunteers venture overseas to share their skills and improve lives. They live and work side by side local counterparts, striving together to build stronger, more prosperous and sustainable communities.
To celebrate International Development Week, CESO, Crossroads International, Cuso International and Youth Challenge International are hosting a reception and panel discussion to explore the impact volunteers can make to help build stronger communities. From improving public transportation systems to empowering women, from building employability and entrepreneurship skills to supporting communities to sustainably manage their natural resources, volunteers are making a difference.
Please join us this International Development Week. Whether you are a returned volunteer yourself, or curious about whether overseas volunteering might be right for you, this event welcomes everyone to an evening of sharing and celebration.
To find out more and to register, please visit: http://idw13.eventbrite.ca/
YCI had a great year in Tanzania in 2012; the local staff and volunteers worked with 36 international youth volunteers on projects to bring positive change to their communities. In honour of those local volunteers, YCI is proud to recognize one outstanding Tanzanian volunteer: Norbert Shayo.
Tanzanian Volunteer of the Year award to Norbert Shayo.
Norbert became involved with the YCI program in Morogoro, Tanzania, in January 2012 and has been a regular volunteer with the program since June. Norbert has added immense value to the Morogoro program, working to facilitate each volunteer group and assisting them throughout every step of their projects. Norbert has been involved in lesson planning, supplies purchasing, teaching, and translating. He is always eager to lend a hand and is not one to stand on the sidelines. Norbert has also displayed considerable insight into the educational system, health care system, gender issues, culture, and other areas of the Tanzanian social fabric. This knowledge, as well as his in depth understanding of HIV issues specific to Tanzania and Morogoro, has been a considerable asset to the Morogoro branch of YCI.
Norbert has not only been involved in YCI activities, but is also very engaged with YCI’s partner in Morogoro, the Faraja Trust Fund, especially with it’s Home Based Care department (HBC). Faraja is an organization in Morogoro that helps AIDS affected individuals, and HBC is one of it’s many faucets run by volunteer counsellors and health care workers. In May, YCI Volunteers formally started the HBC Ambassadors program, which focuses on Positive Living skill building and helping the children and youth to build peer education skills so that they can be a resource and a role-model in the community. Norbert quickly took on the role of translator/co-facilitator for this activity and continued offering support and classes twice a month until October. Norbert showed remarkable dedication and creativity in supporting this group and is a fantastic role model thanks to his ever-positive attitude. Even though YCI has completed it’s program in Morogoro, Norbert has full intentions to continue with the Ambassadors program without the continued support of international volunteers.
Norbert is very ambitious individual with high hopes for his future. His ultimate dream is to open up a self-sustainable school in which school fees, supplies, and meals would all be paid for by income generated by the school farm and shops. In order to make his dream a reality, Norbert plans to start school in February to study Occupational Health and Safety in Dar Es Salaam. The money that he receives from his Volunteer Award will be put towards this venture.
It’s been two weeks since I have left my comfortable home in Toronto, Ontario, to pursue my passion of working in the field of international development. My five years of studying what Development is, how it came to be and the major theories behind how exactly things can be solved has brought me to this point. Ghana. I had heard it was one of the most vibrant countries in the world; known for its friendly faces, beautiful beaches and of course, the Azonto. Ghana has exceeded my expectations so far.
I knew that once I arrived and started planning and implementing the various projects on substance abuse, entrepreneurship and sexual reproductive health it would be nothing like I had imagined or even practiced in the classroom. I was right! Every day has been a new undertaking. My partner volunteer Marlee and I have completed a manual on Substance Abuse in Ghana for the YAG (Youth Advocates Ghana) to use for future outreach, as well as started conducting workshops in junior and senior high schools. What we thought would be a small class of 20 or 30 turned out to be nearly a whole school! Nerve racking at first, we dove in with open minds and the support of our YMCA peer mentors.
By the third workshop my confidence had grown and the kids made us feel more then welcome. It has been overwhelming at times being the object of stares and laughter, however the hospitality in Koforidua is outstanding. Whether it is running around the corner to grab some fresh mangos or walking through the city to explore the market, Ghanaians are always glad to help or just stop for a quick chat. I think I can get used to this place.
- Leigh Matassa, Youth Ambassador, Ghana 2013
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!
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).
Youth Challenge International has embarked on our University/College Winter Tour 2013.
YCI staff will be spending the next three weeks out at several volunteer and summer job fairs at Universities and Colleges across Ontario and Quebec. We’ll be there talking about our many overseas volunteer opportunities, so whether you’re a YCI alumni or just someone interested in making positive change on an international development project, be sure to come stop by our booth!
Here’s the scheduled events YCI will be at for the Winter Tour:
University of Guelph Inter(act) Volunteer Fair:
Tuesday, January 22, 10:00am – 3:00pm
Glendon College (York University) Employment Fair:
Wednesday, January 23, 10:30 am – 1:30 pm
Humber College (North Campus) Summer Job Fair:
Thursday, January 24, 10:00am – 2:00pm
Queen’s University Global Passport Program:
Monday, January 28, 2:00pm – 6:00pm
Humber College (Lakeshore Campus) Summer Job Fair:
Thursday, January 31, 10:00am – 2:00pm
Wilfred Laurier University (Brantford Campus)
Monday, February 4th, 2:00pm – 3:00pm
Monday, February 4th, 10:00am – 2:00pm
University of Toronto, Scarborough (UTSC)
Tuesday, February 5th, 11:00am – 2:00pm
Tuesday, February 12th, 11:00am – 3:00pm
The end of December 2012 was the end of not only the year, but also YCI’s partnership with the Faraja Trust Fund in Morogoro, Tanzania. YCI has partnered with Faraja since 2005 to support its mission as an HIV/AIDS and community focused organization. From starting out with only three volunteers when it was founded in 1991, Faraja has grown into a vibrant institution with over 100 volunteers including peer educators, home care nurses, credit advisers and life skills trainers. Since partnering with YCI, Faraja has engaged in programming activities including preventive HIV/AIDS education, HIV/AIDS care and counseling, income generation support for out-of-school youth, encouraging neighborhood women’s associations and providing access to legal and human rights support.
Check out the latest (and last!) newsletter from Morogoro written up by our YCI Youth Ambassador volunteers here: Newsletter Morogoro Dec 2012
Robin Way has recently joined the YCI team as the new Social Media & Communications Intern. Robin comes to YCI as a recent graduate of Queen’s University Global Development Studies MA program, where her research focused on migration and development, with additional focus on xenophobia, refugee rights, gender and development and youth education. Robin realized her strong interest in international development when she spent 4 months in 2009 interning in Lamu, Kenya, with an HIV/AIDS women’s peer-education organization. After spending a year working with the youth mentoring organization Big Brothers Big Sisters in her home town of Edmonton, Robin decided to return to school to complete her Master’s degree. Through Queen’s, she was able to return to Africa in 2011 to conduct fieldwork research with African refugees and intern with the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town, South Africa. Upon finishing school, Robin made the move to Toronto this past summer and is thrilled to now be working with YCI!
As someone who is brand new to Youth Challenge International, I can say that I am very excited to be joining the YCI team! Two of the things I am most passionate about – international development and youth engagement – come together in an amazing way in the work that YCI does to promote Youth Development. Youth are so important in all facets to the future of all that is encompassed within “development”. This generation of youth is the largest in history and they are key players in the pursuit of social justice and development. I believe in educating and engaging youth so that they are interested in and aware of how this globalized world is connected. To see youth coming together from both local and international communities and engaging in civil society and demanding social justice is one the most amazing things!
I’ve only been at YCI for a month, but already I’ve learned so much about managing social media content (like this blog!) and strategies for contacting, consulting and communicating with our volunteers and supporters. The ability for social media to reach individuals and communities across the globe and to link them together in a common space is an amazing tool; I am so happy to be facilitating this bridging for YCI’s youth development mission!
When not at the office, I love travelling to different places; so far my only main trips have been to Kenya, London (England), India and South Africa. I’m from Edmonton, Alberta, which just a short trip away from the Rockie Mountains (my favourite place it the world!), therefore, I love being outdoors camping and hiking in the mountains. While in South Africa I fell in love with surfing, though I’m not very good at it, and I also like practicing yoga, listening to music and running.
Oh, and I’m also a bit of a news junkie – I love keeping up to date on the latest Canadian and international political news!