Alumni Update and Intern Introduction: Kristy Tomkinson

In honour of International Volunteer Day on Wednesday December 5th, YCI would like to spend some time this week to recognize the importance of our volunteers by showcasing some of our alumni and their stories. 

First up is Kristy, who previously volunteered with YCI in Guyana in 2006 and is now joining the YCI team as the new Program Development Intern! Before joining us in the Toronto office, Kristy spent 8 months in Mombasa, Kenya, through the Aga Khan International Fellowship, where she interned with the Madrassa Resource Centre Kenya on an early childhood education programme. Previous to that, she was in Suzhou, China where she taught English with the Suzhou International Foreign Language School. Kristy is very excited to once again be involved with YCI. Welcome Kristy!

Kristy's YCI Blog Photo

The Hokey Pokey never fails! – Taken in Bumbani District, Mombasa, Kenya

How did you get involved in YCI?

I first heard of Youth Challenge International when I was waiting to speak to my program counselor at University of Guelph, in the International Development Studies department.  I saw a poster that asked me “Are you up for the challenge?” At the time I had been trying to figure out ways to go abroad to get real life experience in International Development.  I was aching to see life on the ground and actually be a part of the change at the local level.  So at that moment, I was definitely up for a challenge.  Weeks later, I was accepted into the Guyana program where I spent 2 months in Port Kaituma with 9 other volunteers.  Our main tasks were to develop and facilitate Youth Life Skills Week at the local school, design and facilitate community-based workshops on health, and distribute information on HIV/AIDS within neighbouring Amerindian villages.

Little did I know that this once in a life-time experience would lead me down a path to focusing on children and youth issues within International Development.  Since then, I have worked with First Nations youth, taught ESL in China to university and elementary students, and supported an Early Childhood and Development NGO in Kenya.  My passion for children and youth development has only strengthened and I now find myself working alongside YCI again, continuing along that path I paved six years ago.

What does your position at YCI entail?

I am the Program Development Intern at YCI’s Toronto headquarters.  I am mainly responsible for supporting the CIDA funding renewal for the upcoming call for proposals.  Funds from CIDA mainly support YCI’s volunteer programming in Tanzania and Ghana.  I am thrilled to gain more experience in proposal writing and I am learning a lot about the ‘ins and outs’ of CIDA guidelines and procedures.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing youth today?

I have always been an ardent believer that education is the most important issue facing the developing world.  Throughout my work and research with children and youth, I’ve come to discover that a sense of worth and confidence, paired with a specific skill set, can make all the difference in the world for our next generation of leaders.  Ultimate poverty is the absence of self-worth.  Through mentoring, friendship, skills-building, leadership training, and other educational opportunities, we can find what it takes for a child or young person to say, “Wow, I didn’t know I could do that!” – and that is the very first step in realizing the potential of young people on our planet.

Outside of work, what are some of your favourite things to do?

Above all else, camping is my passion. And I don’t mean parking a car in a designated spot near an already set up fireplace, within walking distance to heated showers and modern toilets – I’m talking about the backcountry kind.  Whenever I get a long weekend, I pack up my provisions (including my husband and my dog), rent a canoe (if we’re canoeing), and take off to Killarney, Algonquin, or the French River, and spend the days and kilometers hiking or paddling.  For me, it’s the greatest escape and an amazing way to appreciate our country and Mother Nature.

Random Fun Fact: I was proposed to near a set of rapids during at 30 km paddle down the French River!

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