Welcome back to Amanda Stephens!

I’m back! It’s hard to believe it’s been a year. Last July (as in 2009) I was madly trying to accomplish a lot of transition at YCI. We were developing a whole new way to prepare volunteers through a new pre-project learning program. The new program would allow preparations to take up less time and be more accessible to volunteers across Canada and the US. Volunteers could focus on getting to their project location and receive the relevant training they needed on arrival to hit the ground running. It’s great to see how progress has been made over the last year and that the transition has been a smooth one.

Meanwhile, last July we were wrapping up our old way of doing things and finishing up with the last 4 pre-departure sessions that took place in Toronto. It was a busy month and I was gaining weight by the week! It was pretty wild to be facilitating training sessions being 9 months pregnant but all the volunteers were very kind to me and my limitations at the time. Here I am with a custom group from Memorial University in Newfoundland who were on their way to Pemba in Tanzania. I’m the pregnant one at bottom-right.

MUNHOPE student group with Amanda at pre-departure in July 2009

Time has just flown by. My daughter Inara was born on August 16th, 2009 so she just turned a year old a week after my return to work. It was wonderful to spend the year with her and watch her grow. It’s amazing how much living takes place in our first year of life and it felt like a privilege to be her main supporter. While I miss her everyday – especially while I’m walking out the door – it’s also very exciting to be back at work.

For one, I have time to drink coffee in the morning and eat my lunch at a reasonable pace! I’ve also traded up splash pads and swings for lots of engaging and adult conversation. We work at a rapid pace around here but it’s lovely to have the time to get to know all of the hard-working and dedicated preparing volunteers. It’s also wonderful to hear about alumni experiences in the field and the meaningful contributions that are being made to ongoing youth programming in different parts of the world. I’m excited to be in touch with our overseas partners and field staff. It’s great to be back working alongside Lauren and everyone else. Lauren did an awesome job of being the main YCI contact to all of our volunteers and I’m happy to take over those communications as she’s dedicating her time to university relations and domestic programming. There’s been a lot of change at YCI in the last year and I’m still getting up to speed with new processes, new programs, new volunteers and staff. We’re currently doing lots of planning around the year to come and it’s shaping up to be a busy one. I’m also doing some planning of my own – thinking 17 years ahead to when Inara will be 18. It will be her choice of course but I’ll definitely be encouraging her to participate on one of YCI’s projects in 2027!

Amanda and Inara

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