In the fall of 2008, I volunteered with Youth Challenge International (YCI) on a ten week project in Ghana. My time in Ghana with YCI helped me to fulfill the internship requirements for my postgraduate International Project Management diploma. As a volunteer in Ghana, I helped to write a gender policy manual for YMCA Ghana; I also worked with youth and implemented workshops on subjects such as gender awareness, good citizenship, and HIV/AIDS awareness.
The experiences that stick with me the most from my trip to Ghana are my lunchtime discussions with youth workshop participants. It was most interesting to learn their opinions about the workshop, about YCI, and what they thought was needed to implement a successful workshop and a successful project. They would ask me about what I was doing in Ghana and what my motivations were for doing it. They wanted to know how my volunteer work and YCI’s work would benefit them in the long run. Through these conversations, I learned that youth in Ghana have a vision for their country, and they deeply desire to participate in achieving it.
It is now three and a half years later, and I feel that my experience in Ghana has prepared me well for my current position in Research and Project Development at the Foundation for International Development Assistance (FIDA). FIDA is an organization that works with rural farmers in Haiti to help them improve their own lives and improve food security through agriculture, literacy, and cooperative training. I began volunteering with FIDA just one month before the earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, and was hired on soon after. My job allows me to do amazing things like writing proposals for new projects, monitoring and coordinating projects in Haiti, and managing the organization’s social media channels. I have had the opportunity to experience Haiti in both an emergency environment and in its very slow but steady recovery.
One of the things that I love most about working with FIDA is their truly participatory approach. This is an organization that understands the desire of Haitians to be heard and to be engaged. In a time when many world leaders are calling for greater participation of Haitians in their own development, FIDA is leading the way. We don’t improve the lives of beneficiaries; we partner with them so they can improve their own lives. This requires us to acknowledge poor Haitian farmers for what they can do, and to listen to what they have to say. This is a lesson that I first learned from those youth workshop participants in Ghana. Now I am part of helping to spread that lesson throughout Haiti. It is now two years after the Haiti earthquake, and through FIDA, I have the opportunity to contribute to rural Haitian farmers improving their own lives and helping the country to feed itself again.
–Val Busch, Youth Ambassador, Ghana 2008