I had the privilege of volunteering overseas with Youth Challenge International in Kenya in 2007, and again in 2010 in Ghana. I was initially drawn to YCI due to their mission and values as an organization, the local youth-driven projects they were involved in, their focus on charitable fundraising and their support from CIDA.
As a young person not long out of university and with only a small amount of professional job experience, my first overseas volunteer project to Kenya in 2007 provided me with an opportunity to gain international work experience, to utilize my university background in health sciences, to increase my cross cultural knowledge, and to improve my people skills.
Shortly after I returned to Canada from Kenya, I began employment as a Human Resources coordinator in a company of 120 employees. I can confidently say that my project in Kenya equipped me with skills that I used on a daily basis in a professional work environment, including project management and financial management skills. Perhaps most importantly, I further developed my ability to be sensitive to the cultural differences amongst a diverse group of employees.
In late 2009, I decided that I wanted to combine my undergraduate degree in health sciences with my love of working with people and decided to pursue a career in nursing. Shortly after, I found out about YCI’s Youth Innovators January 2010 project in Ghana, which focused on advanced HIV/AIDS education for Ghanaian teachers. I applied and was thrilled to be chosen as one of five Canadian representatives on this special project.
I again had the opportunity to immerse myself in a new culture, work with other fantastic Canadian and international youth, and to develop myself both personally and professionally. My experience in Ghana also further solidified my decision to become a nurse, and I will begin my Bachelor of Science in Nursing at McMaster University this September. I hope to participate in an overseas nursing placement before graduation, as my experiences with YCI have given me the confidence and skills to work anywhere in the world.
I am continually impressed by the opportunities and support that YCI provides to youth. My experiences volunteering with YCI have been fundamental in my personal and career development and have made me a more active and engaged citizen. I would highly recommend YCI, which allows youth to have opportunities for personal and professional growth, while also supporting important youth-focused international development projects around the world.
-Alison McQueen, YCI Youth Ambassador, Kenya 2007 & Youth Innovator, Ghana 2010
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