How I arrived at YCI…

I consider myself very lucky to be the summer student intern at Youth Challenge International. As an international development student at McGill University, I’m fortunate to be working for a youth international development agency; I get to see how an international development organization actually works! The work that YCI does is simply astonishing. My interest in international development and affairs has just deepened. However, it took me a long time to get here.

My interest in international issues began in high school. I was curious about the world and just wanted to know more about it. For most of high school, I was an executive member in Interact Club, a high school version of Rotary International. Our biggest project was hosting the first 30 Hour Famine event at our school. The work leading up to the event was… challenging. With the help of devoted teachers, my fellow Interact members and I worked diligently to organize event and construct a fun itinerary. All the work was worth it! It was a huge slumber party but without the pizza. But I think the turning point for me was when I took the grade 12 politics class; it was one of the best courses I’ve ever taken. It taught me why changing the world matters.

Nonetheless, it wasn’t until I arrived at McGill that I realized that you could actually study international development. With the combination of Political Science and International Development studies, I’m constantly engaged in world affairs. Although it can be very exhausting and at times, demotivating, I’ve absolutely enjoyed it! Like many other academic institutions, McGill was full of student organizations that promoted and advocated for various causes. However, STAND caught my eye.

STAND (a student anti-genocide coalition) advocates for the eradication of genocide. The STAND chapter at McGill focuses on the ongoing Darfur crisis. One of the things I immediately noticed about the organization was that it was completely student run. Of course, this shouldn’t have come to me as a surprise. (Hello… you ARE in university!) But I guess the reason why I was surprised was because in high school, I was so used to seeking the permission of the sponsoring teacher. The students couldn’t do anything without their approval. That’s not to say that STAND McGill runs around campus doing anything it wants but it certainly doesn’t have as many restrictions as a high school organization. This is another reason why I like YCI so much. I sometimes feel like I’m part of a student organization except it has a really cool office. The atmosphere feels young, energetic and committed.

This summer I wanted to work at a place where I can be productive and helpful. But I was out of luck – I searched high and low but I couldn’t find anything I was interested in. So I decided… why not volunteer? Although I wouldn’t get paid, I could still be productive and helpful. So I e-mailed a bunch of NGOs and thankfully, Jessica e-mailed me back! I started volunteering at YCI for a few hours a week in May. This is when I was told that YCI was looking for a summer intern. Although I applied for the position, I wasn’t holding my breath. As a student at McGill, I know how competitive these positions can be. But luckily, I got the position!

So far I’ve learned that YCI is not only a youth oriented but also youthful! I’ll write back in a few weeks to tell you about how it’s all going!

Ahila Poologaindran, Summer Intern

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