An Inside Look at the Volunteer Prep Process

Getting Involved with YCI

2009 was quite the year! I returned from my whirlwind adventure studying Public Health in Brisbane, Australia, where I enjoyed temperatures in the high 30s, the sun, the Aussie accents—coming back just in time to be greeted by an icy Toronto winter. I had gone to Australia and accomplished my goal, and was fully equipped to take on the world of Public Health! Well, not really—I realized early on in my program that there was still so much left to learn.

My program was quite diverse and attracted students from all across the globe, each with their own expertise and insight into the areas of international health and development. Some worked with the WHO, Medecins Sans Frontiers, World Vision and other NGOs. The insights they offered both in and outside the classroom made me realize the amazing benefits of working in the field. There was something that just couldn’t be taught in a class alone. When the time came to return to Canada, I had a few goals in mind, with volunteering overseas at the top of my list.

So how did I end up getting involved with YCI? Well, I began to research overseas opportunities that would allow me to use some of my knowledge base in a practical way. I had heard of YCI and decided to see what opportunities existed that met my personal interests. And there it was—the Ghana Youth Innovators project for January 2010. It was perfect! They were looking for individuals with an interest in public health. The project would focus on working with the Ghanaian community promoting HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives. This was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss.

Supporting the Project

Woohoo! Applications and interviews behind me, I heard the news that I had been accepted!!! But now what? With three months to my departure, how do I get the word out, to give people a chance to be involved and support the project? Did somebody say fundraiser?

I am fortunate enough to have a great group of people around me involved in various elements of the arts: dance, hip-hop, R&B, jazz. . .the list goes on! A few calls later, I had a team of artists, a date and a venue. Now all that was left was the name. What was this night really about? I wanted to give people an opportunity to both learn about and support the project, as well as to educate and inspire youth regarding HIV/AIDS prevention. With this is mind, the event was called: IGN!ITE – Impact Ghana Now! Inspiration Through Education.

IGN!ITE was a great success! In total, 120 people came out to join the festivities and over $2000 was raised for YCI. For two hours, we filled Safari Bar and Grill with live music, raffles and great dance performances.

Photos from IGN!TE

So What’s Next?

With the fundraiser behind me, all that’s left is to start packing! In less than two weeks I’ll be on my way. A 13-hour flight awaits me and I still don’t completely know just what to expect. I have no doubt there will be bumps along the way as I interact with a new culture, embrace a new living environment and engage in such a vast project. But I am excited nonetheless! I’m excited for the opportunity to work with other people who share a similar passion, to travel to a beautiful country, to meet new people, to volunteer and to be able to offer my skills and learn some new ones in the process. I can hardly wait!

-Jessica Danquah, YCI Preparing Volunteer, will be headed to Ghana this month with the Youth Innovators project

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