It may be “from the archives,” but pre-departure sessions are actually part of YCI’s recent history. In fact, this month marks the first anniversary of the launch of YCI’s distance pre-project learning program.
For more than 15 years, volunteers headed to YCI project locations first flew to Toronto to participate in an orientation session. These sessions lasted two to five days in length, and featured workshops on intercultural effectiveness (with support from the Centre for Intercultural Learning), group dynamics, health and hygiene, gender and international development, amongst other topics. Program Manager, Amanda Stephens, wrote this blog post about what a day of pre-departure might look like.
While pre-departure was a great way for volunteers to meet one another, learn more about YCI, speak with alumni mentors and practice faciliating workshops, it came at a high cost—volunteers from all over Canada were required to fly to Toronto prior to their project, which increased their individual fundraising goals substantially. And with the launch of our new partnership, Youth Challenge America, it became clear that the cost was too high for volunteers to fly to Toronto prior to flying to their destination country.
In July 2009, YCI hosted our last Toronto pre-departure for a large group of volunteers participating in projects in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Tanzania and Ghana.
Now, prior to their projects, volunteers participate in an intensive online pre-project learning program. They are able to meet, connect and talk to one another through online learning sessions. They are also required to complete pre-project learning modules and answer reflection questions to demonstrate their learning. A long-time favourite of the Toronto pre-departures, the Alumni Speaker’s Session, remains a core component as well—volunteers are able to login online and view presentations in realtime and ask any questions they may have.
Once volunteers arrive at their destination, they participate in an in-country orientation hosted by the partner organization and YCI field staff. In 2010, YCI is continuing to develop and refine our pre-project learning program, in order to ensure volunteers are equipped to meet their project goals and hit the ground running when they arrive in-country.