I first found out about YCI when I was doing some on-line research regarding possible internship opportunities that would satisfy requirements for one of my courses. At the time I was pursuing an Honours B.A. in International Studies at York University, and one of the options for my degree was a professional internship placement for which we could gain credits.
Although YCI did not explicitly advertise professional internships on their website, I decided to contact them to find out more about their programs. They seemed very flexible in terms of input and leadership regarding the planning and implementation of their field-work projects. The emphasis on flexibility was a criterion that strongly appealed to me, and they were willing to provide references for my Professor once I had returned to school.
In a similar vein, the youth focus of YCI, as well as the various Latin American countries in which they operate was very attractive. My background is Portuguese and I had basic Spanish skills. Strengthening those skills by traveling to a Spanish speaking county was also important to me. It was a good fit; most importantly the Guatemalan project in Finca La Florida met all of the course requirements for the professional internship.
As well as being able to gain school credit, my time spent volunteering in Guatemala was extremely rewarding on a personal level. I made genuine connections with many of the community members, especially the young people that participated in the youth group that my fellow volunteers and I established. I even got a hair cut from one of the girls who wanted to be a hairdresser!
Regarding my fellow volunteers, I feel I made some life-long friends, and will treasure the relationships I fostered while on project forever. Looking back on it now, it was truly one of the best, and most profoundly enriching experiences of my life.
-Nelia Teixeira, Youth Ambassador, Guatemala Summer 2009