New Intern: Introducing Valerie

Valerie has recently joined YCI as the new Public Engagement and Outreach Assistant. This foodie and self-proclaimed music nerd has an Honours Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and European Studies from University of Toronto. Val looks forward to be involved in human rights education for development organizations. Between trying out new dishes and listening to new indie tracks, Val is cooking up her next travel adventure in some remote places. 

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How did you get involved with YCI?

As a graduate of the Post-Graduate Program in International Development Project Management at Humber College, I was often exposed to the work being done at YCI through their strong and complimentary relationship. Many previous students were largely part of the YCI alumni network, and would often come in and put on presentations of their volunteer experience with the organization, and how the skills of the program had prepared them or had been further developed. As such, I was interested in learning more on how NGOs operate, and decided to apply for an in-office internship in order to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of day-to-day operations of international NGOs.

What does your position at YCI entail?

In my role as Public Engagement and Outreach Assistant, I am responsible for reaching out to potential volunteers and young adults regarding our programs and opportunities for community engagement through recruitment fairs. I also prepare and arrange constructive activities and opportunities for our alumni volunteers, in order for them to stay connected with YCI. Administratively, I work on data analysis and updating reports, as we are reaching the end of our fiscal year. Furthermore, I have been largely responsible for managing and leading our Live Below the Line 2014 Campaign.

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

I think there is still a large lack of representation in regards to human rights issues around gender and access to education. I have found that there are a lot of great organizations doing really good work advocating for youth and youth rights, however, I find that there is still a gap in addressing specific needs that target different genders or ages. Whether it is through development or humanitarian work, we need to evaluate the underlying reasons that youth are unable to live out their full potential. Access to education for youth is a universal right, thus, the need to address these barriers, whether it be related to gender, social, economic or political, is vital.  Furthermore, I think one of the biggest issues facing youth globally, is the job market. It is getting evermore difficult for youth of different ages and various levels of experience, to be a part of the global market and develop their livelihoods.

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

I am a music nerd. I am constantly searching for new acts to check out or for great steals on ticket prices. I also love having great conversations over some great food! I try to make dinner dates with some friends, whenever I’m not busy running around from one work to the next. Checking out new restaurants and trying different dishes is always a great time! Other then that, I enjoy being outdoors, relaxing and planning future adventures with some friends.

– Valerie, Public Engagement and Outreach Assistant Winter/Spring 2014

YCI Intern: Introducing Raizza!

Raizza joined YCI as the new Social Media and Communications Intern last January. She is a Technical Communication student at Seneca@York and is completing her co-op placement. She’s sort of a techie/artist mix, dabbling in graphic design, photography, and web development. She hopes to utilize her skills in giving back to the community.


I was recently transplanted from the sunny Philippines to Canada, the True North. There are a lot of challenges a young person can come across being in a new country. For me, it was settling in and finding a job. I would have been happy getting any job to get “Canadian Experience”, yet I was told that going that way would be a waste of my studies and talents. So I went back to school. I stumbled upon Youth Challenge International during my search for a co-op placement. I wasn’t going anywhere with the employers on the school website, so I tried my luck in looking for an internship outside of school. That’s when I saw YCI’s ad in Charity Village, and the position suits the kind of experience I was looking for.

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, major in Advertising Arts, and I’m currently taking a post-grad certificate in Technical Communications at Seneca. Both programs are in the communications field, which makes me suitable for the Social Media and Communications Assistant position. I’ve previously worked as a Graphic Designer, Photographer, Technical Support Representative, and even as an ESL Instructor.

I’ve volunteered and worked with various non-profit organizations in the Philippines: I was with Red Cross at a young age, volunteered as a Junior Graphic Artist with my university’s network management services, worked with a marine biologist’s dolphin research, and worked for a local NGO for fishermen. I want to work with non-profit organizations because I believe in giving back to the community and making a difference by utilizing my technical and creative skills.

When I’m not at work, I still spend a lot of time in front of the computer, either playing games, reading news and articles, creating some designs. I like to read – a lot – even receipts and nutritional values on food items. I like going out for a walk with my husband. I also love photography, though I haven’t done anything creative lately. I’m still continuously honing my creative skills. Check out my amateurish photos here.

– Raizza Moldovan, Social Media and Communications Intern, Winter 2014

YCI Intern: Introducing Samara!

Samara joined the YCI team in Toronto as our Volunteer Program Assistant in January. Samara is completing her co-op placement at the University of Ottawa. She has one and a half year left in her undergraduate degree and then aspires to work in the International Development Industry. When you call YCI, 90% of the time, it’s Samara that picks up the phone! 

Samara Photo

How did you get involved with YCI?

Growing up in Kampala, Uganda I was exposed to the grave disparities that exist in the world, as well as the widespread poverty in the world. My childhood, therefore, taught me to be humble and to strive to make a difference in the lives of people all around the world. With a strong passion for international development, I have been involved with my community for as long as I can remember. Volunteering at seniors homes, with LiveGreen Toronto, Focus Humanitarian Assistance Canada, Amnesty International, Free the Children, and the World Partnership Walk. While most of my life and passion has been dedicated to volunteering, it was through my education at the University of Ottawa that I learned about the importance of youth, particularly youth development, in enabling future generations to achieve their utmost potential.

If it my belief that programs which strive to provide the present generation of youth with the tools, skills and education they need to succeed in their lives, will be key to alleviating poverty in many less-developed countries. By giving these youth an opportunity for self-development, the younger generation may rise up to the challenge of improving their own lives, as well as the lives of the future generations.

I discovered YCI through my co-op coordinator, as this is currently my co-op placement. After researching what YCI does, it’s goals and mission, I began to realize that I wanted to be a part of an organization that utilizes its time and expertise in bettering the lives of disadvantaged youth all across the world. However, what struck a chord with me the most, was that YCI’s programs are designed to work with disadvantaged youth, to give them the skills they need, but without imposing Western views, because it is important to allow the youth an opportunity to learn on their own, in order to make them more self-sufficient. Often times, NGOs go abroad with the intention of helping disadvantaged communities, without allowing them a chance to express their concerns. After all, these communities know their lives the best, and if we impose our own personal views on their way of life, we are only impeding their ability to achieve future success.

What does your position at YCI entail?

While taking on the role Volunteer Program Assistant with YCI, I work very closely with Amanda Armstrong, and manage the volunteer program. I am in charge of processing applications, setting up and conducting interviews, answering queries of interested and selected volunteers. Additionally, I prepare selection packages for volunteers, Orientation Guides, and conduct routine fundraising support calls with all of our selected volunteers. I am grateful for the opportunity to develop my skills related to program management and to learn to become more confident in the work that I do. It is always a pleasure to work closely with all the volunteers, to ensure that their experience with YCI is the best.

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

The biggest issue facing youth today, in my opinion, is the stigma associated with and the lack of ability to receive an education. In many less-developed countries, youth are unable to attend school due to widespread gender disparities, where women are encouraged to stay at home in order to help “run their families”, while men are encouraged to attend school in order to become the future breadwinners of their families. Each youth must be given an equal opportunity to learn and grow into well-rounded, knowledgeable individuals who are able to sustain their own lives while working to improve the lives of those around them. Here in Canada, we often take for granted the ability to receive an education, while youth in less-developed countries yearn for such an opportunity. I believe that it is our role as educated youths, to assist disadvantaged youth and provide them with the opportunity to prosper with a strong education in hand.

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

I have always had a passion for helping my community; therefore, it comes as no surprise that my field of study is International Development. As a strong advocate for positive change, I spend most of my time volunteering and serving my community as best as I can. I have been volunteering with LiveGreen Toronto for almost four years and have gained valuable knowledge about environmental sustainability in Toronto. I also have a great love for cooking and baking. If you ask anyone in my family, I am frequently watching the food network, to expand my knowledge on the culinary arts. As a vegetarian, I enjoy reading vegetarian foodie blogs, to educate myself on the possibilities of healthy eating and living. I am always scouring the Internet for new blogs and videos to watch. I also have the strong passion for reading and always have a book on hand, my favourite genres being: Adventure and Sci-Fi. Finally, watching TV shows and movies are two of my absolute favourite things to do. If I am not studying (which does not happen often) I am watching TV shows and movies galore. Some of my favourite TV Shows are: Once Upon a Time, Arrow, Heroes, Merlin, Sherlock, Downtown Abbey, and the list goes on. If you think that is all, unfortunately it’s not! I also have a passion for travelling and meeting new people. This summer I will be going to Bangladesh for one month to conduct a field research course with my University, and I am both nervous and thrilled for the opportunity to do so.

– Samara Bhimji, Volunteer Program Assistant, Winter 2014

New YCI Intern: Introducing Nida!

Nida has recently joined the YCI team in Toronto as our Public Engagement Assistant. Her passion for education and development has caused her to remain engaged in various community building activities. She feels her experience of leading her university’s Emergency Medical Services department made her realize the immense capacity that young adults have for facilitating change. Having moved recently from Pakistan, Nida hopes to continue harnessing youth potential towards positive community engagement. 

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How did you get involved with YCI?

As a strong proponent of youth engagement, I have participated in community projects for disabled children, young brick kiln laborers and adults with developmental disabilities. But it was my extensive experience of participating and later on, supervising an Emergency Medical System at my university that gave me great insight into youth as an essential element for development. Witnessing the team’s accomplishments and the students’ potential for positive change, has made me want to be a part of an organization experienced in directing youth into productive activities without disregarding the beliefs and traditions of the target community.

While my search for such an organization continued, I also happened to move from Pakistan to Canada. Here a friend (who now happens to be my colleague) felt my interests would be well matched at YCI. On her suggestion, I began to explore YCI for appropriate opportunities and I’m happy to have been selected to work with an enthusiastic team of professionals.

What does your position at YCI entail?

Working in the capacity of a Public Engagement Assistant, I am responsible for reaching out to potential volunteers and young adults regarding our programs and opportunities for community engagement through recruitment fairs and fundraising events. As a front- line contact, I help direct their concerns to the appropriate person in charge. Furthermore, I prepare and arrange constructive activities for our alumni volunteers ranging from career workshops to mentorship opportunities. Most of all, I cherish the exchange of ideas and the chance to interact with diverse individuals.

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

Given the multitude of problems facing the young generation, I would say the lack of education and contextualized knowledge is by far the biggest issue. Working with different students and communities has made me appreciate the concept of specialized knowledge and the impact it has on developmental projects. Educational systems must push the boundaries of learning so that upcoming generations can not only feel a close connection, and hence dedication, to the community they serve but also use available resources in an efficient manner.

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

Personally, I have always had a penchant for creating things. I have chosen to express my creativity through knitting, baking and recently painting. My most recent knitting project was a tapestry which has unfortunately been suspended but I hope to restart soon. While my exposure to art is limited to geometric patterns in Islamic Art, I look forward to polishing these skills in the future. I’m also an avid reader of mystery and suspense novels. Last but not the least, I enjoy traveling, meeting with people and learning about their cultures, customs and languages.

Nida Afaque, Public Engagement Assistant Intern, Fall 2013 


Staff Q&A: Introducing Kiran!

Kiran Alwani has recently joined YCI as the Volunteer Program Assistant. She has newly moved to Canada from Pakistan where she worked with underprivileged children and their communities as a Fellow at Teach For Pakistan. She graduated from Lahore University of Management Sciences in 2011 with a major in Social Sciences, and Anthropology and Sociology as her concentrations. During her undergraduate program, she was selected as 1 of the 7 students from across Pakistan as a Student Leader to meet prominent leaders in the United States and work with a diverse group of young individuals from different countries. Kiran also worked as a Leadership Facilitator with high school students in Bangladesh and is extremely passionate about working with youth. She has a strong interest in International Development, and is excited about working with YCI volunteers and supporting them as they prepare for their trips abroad!



1)     How did you get involved in YCI?

I am passionate about working in International Development, especially for children and youth issues. After my graduation, I did a fellowship with Teach For Pakistan for two years which gave me the opportunity to work with underprivileged children and their communities. I also worked with high school students in Bangladesh and conducted leadership, teambuilding and mentoring sessions with them to help them form earth clubs at their school, and design projects to make their country more environmentally friendly. Apart from this, I was a student leader and got to meet individuals from different countries and diverse backgrounds, and work on social development projects during my undergrad degree. These experiences strengthened my interest in youth development and the role youth can play in changing the world.

So when I moved to Canada recently, I researched different organizations that are working for youth development and YCI was amongst the top ones. I especially like the idea of connecting youth from developed and developing countries to work together to make a positive difference in the world, and hence be truly global and socially responsible citizens.

2)     What does your position at YCI entail?

As the Volunteer Program Assistant, I manage volunteer applications, conduct interviews, prepare project materials and orientation guides, and help with the selection process. I love the opportunity I get to connect with volunteers to learn about their experiences and see their passion to volunteer. I help prepare these motivated youth leaders for their trips abroad with fundraising advice and ensure that they are ready for their projects. It is exciting to learn about all the creative ideas our volunteers have and to share their enthusiasm for youth development.

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

In my opinion, lack of educational and economic opportunities are the biggest challenges we face as youth today. I believe that youth all over the world, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds, deserve access to excellent education and the freedom to create their own life paths. The aspirations of youth in both developing and developed countries are largely unmet due to limited educational and economic opportunities. Access to these is important to empower youth, so that they can participate actively in civic and social domains as socially responsible young individuals.

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

I love singing and listening to different genres of music. I used to host a radio show back in my days at university, and maybe I’ll get to do that sometime in the future! Besides being a huge fan of Dan Brown novels, I like to read all sorts of random articles in my spare time. I love watching tennis and am one of the biggest Federer fans you’ll ever meet! I also love traveling, meeting people from different backgrounds and exploring new cultures. I lived in Pakistan, and have been to Tanzania, Bangladesh, and the United States. I hope the list keeps growing as time passes!

Business World Meets International Development. YCI Welcomes Business Intern, Jason Lane

Jason Lane joins YCI staff at our Toronto Headquarters during this lovely summer. He comes to us from Alberta as a Business Administration student from the Canadian University College. Read his thoughts below about his experience so far as YCI’s new Business Intern.

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What Does Your Job at YCI Entail?

At YCI, I am in charge of finding new ways to recruit participants for our events, managing the online ad campaign, and I aid in other marketing and fundraising projects.

How Did You Get Involved with YCI? 

As a Business student, I am required to complete a 120-hour internship. Bryan Cox, Executive Director of YCI, told me about the opportunities available. The experience that I would gain from interning at YCI sounded far more useful and exciting than any other internship opportunities, and that is why I’m here today!

What Motivates You?

I am most motivated by success. It feels good to know that I have done something well, regardless of its significance. Other strong motivators are friends and family. They have great confidence in my ability and I like to ensure that their confidence is well placed.

Which Youth Issue Concerns You the Most?

In both developed and developing countries, I think education is a major youth issue. I believe that education is crucial for the development of our youth, and it is vital to improving our future. In developing countries the issue may be access to education, whereas in a developed country it may be lack of motivation to excel in school.

What Else Do You Do?

During the winter I enjoy cross-country skiing, weight training, and snowboarding. In the summer, my favorite things to do include golfing, running, and going to the cottage. Also, I am in my third year of a Bachelor of Business Administration degree. I love learning, so I am very excited to be continuing my education with a Master’s degree.

– Jason Lane, Business Intern (Summer 2013)

New YCI Intern: Welcome Ali!

Ali Jenkins has recently joined the YCI team as our Volunteer Program Assistant. Ali comes to YCI as a recent graduate of Queen’s University’s Global Development Studies program. Ali realized her strong interest in international development after a brief stint in Ghana at the young age of 16. Interested in gaining more substantive experience, Ali  spent 3 months last summer volunteering in Tanzania with an HIV/AIDS women’s group. Ali is excited to provide support to volunteers preparing to go overseas and is YCI’s resident fundraising guru! 

Ali on Safari in Tanzania. Look, zebra!

How did you get involved in YCI?

I first heard of YCI during the library days of my undergrad degree while researching volunteerism. I had already been to Ghana, working on a community development project, and  Tanzania, working with an HIV/AIDS women’s group. These experiences created my passion and intrigue in the role youth can have in collaborative development work. Peer-to-peer education and partnerships with youth-minded organizations abroad are the qualities that drew me to my position at YCI. I have been a volunteer abroad, so now I want to be a part of all the hard work that goes behind the scenes in preparing a volunteer for such a demanding, but incredible experience.

What does your position at YCI entail?

As  Volunteer Program Assistant, I get the exciting task of talking to new, passionate, and innovative youth everyday! Every day is different because each volunteer has a unique style of approaching their work as they prepare to travel abroad. I love showing volunteers that monetary constraints need not inhibit you from pursuing any experience -there is always a way! I am actively involved in the fundraising process for volunteers and love being the positive voice that reminds them that their hard work and exciting events will pay off. Each time I see the projects volunteers will participate in and their enthusiasm for positive change I secretly hope they’ll let me sneak into their carry-on luggage!

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

The youth issue that most concerns me is the lack of opportunity. Whether in Tanzania or Canada youth struggle to find economic opportunity. I am passionate about understanding context-specific solutions to issues that we see as global trends. Youth need access to educational opportunities, whether formal or informal, that apply to where they live and will help them succeed in the long-term.

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

Other than eating embarrassing amounts of sushi in my spare time, I am passionate about learning. Just because I finished my degree doesn’t mean I closed my mind and put the books away!  Presently I am reading Shereen El Feki’s Sex and the Citadel, which has a very interesting perspective on present day Egypt. I believe the more open-minded I am the better I will be in social development work.