Hidden Traffic Rules

By: Ting-Yu Wei

To know what the local rules are is critical for a newly arrived traveller. In developing areas, these rules can be unpredictable or implicit. One must learn from experiences. Here is my story.


“You did not take your passengers to the destination and you charge me for the full amount?!” I stared at the fare collector of the tro-tro and questioned him.

I had been on the bumpy road for hours. This was the third vehicle that I was on. My first taxi was inspected by the police, which dragged the time. The second tro-tro crashed with a taxi and everyone, luckily unharmed, had to wait for another transfer. The fare collector of that tro-tro had returned the full fare to us. Now the third one announced that they were not going forward anymore. This journey should have been a straightforward one and under three hours. I should have been at my destination by this time.

The tro-tro crash

The tro-tro crash

Another passenger took me with him and found another tro-tro going towards our destination. However, the collector of the previous vehicle appeared and demanded the full fare of the ride. I had the fare ready, however I did not think that I should pay him as the tro-tro had failed to get us to the destination. He was busy collecting money, yet firmly blocked me from boarding the next tro-tro. I tried to reason with him, yet he did not respond.

The fourth tro-tro was about to depart. If I missed this one, I would have had no idea how long it would take for the next one to come. Irritated and tired, I handed over the seven cedis to the previous collector and re-stated my previous question; was he still making me pay even though he had not taken his passengers to their destination?

He let me pass. I settled on the seat and turned my stare to him again. The next moment, I found him paying the three-cedi fare to the fare collector of the tro-tro we are on.

I took a deep breath. I misunderstood his behaviour. In this case, I did not have to pay more for this ongoing tro-tro, as I originally suspected. Later on, I confirmed the rule with our local program coordinator. In Ghana, oftentimes, if one tro-tro fails to take the passengers on, they pay another tro-tro with the fare for the remaining journey to send the passengers to their destinations. Yet sometimes, they would return the full fare as the collector of my second tro-tro did after the accident had taken place. Regardless of which action is taken, people take responsibility and do their best to send you to the right place. Honourable people, the Ghanaians.


It takes time to realize how things are being done locally. There may never be a standard procedure to deal with these incidents. There is always space to learn. Living in a foreign land, we encounter people who behave differently from what we are accustomed to. Any tiny bit of difference in perspective could cause misunderstanding, as both sides perceive things through different lenses. Be respectful, be receptive, be observant and be introspective in these encounters. You will find yourself not only able to connect with the locals you work with, but will also come to see yourself in a truly universal context.
Looking into the world, be wide and open-minded
Ting-Yu Wei is a YCI Youth Ambassador who worked in Ghana in August 2014.

To learn more about YCI’s Ambassador Programs in Ghana, Tanzania and Costa Rica, check out our program calendar.

Volunteer of the Year 2013 Awardees

In 2013, YCI sent 80 exceptional volunteers to Costa Rica, Ghana, Guyana, and Tanzania over the course of the year. Together, this dedicated group of young people contributed over 37,000 hours to our international programs.

YCI values our youth volunteers who have demonstrated outstanding performance and skills, upheld our values as representatives of YCI, and for being continuously involved in their local communities.  In recognition of these achievements, YCI is proud to present three awards this year: the 2013 International Volunteer of the Year award to Jessica O’Reilly; the Local Volunteer of the Year Award to Omar Mohammed Bakar; and, the Runner-Up award to Kayleigh Gaspari,

Jessica joined YCI during the summer of last year to volunteer in Guyana. Not only was it Jessica’s first time travelling outside of Canada, but also it was her first time on board a plane!

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Jessica at Kaieteur Falls

In Guyana, Jessica worked with students at a small education centre, conducting life skills session on self-esteem, communication skills, career guidance and  IT classes. Jessica made strong bonds within the community, attending three weddings in the Guyanese community.

Since returning to Canada, Jessica has become involved with many different organizations and continues to make a difference. She helps students with learning and behavioural disabilities at Trent University Oshawa and is part of a Pen Pal program where University students are paired with elementary students.

Aside from her school-related volunteer work, Jessica took the initiative to contact, Restoring Hope International, the foundation that built the educational centre she worked with in Guyana to let them know about her experiences at the centre. The Foundation was so impressed with Jessica that she spoke at the foundation’s annual fundraiser in New York last October.

Right now, she’s back in school at Trent University Oshawa, but she also sponsors two children that she taught at the educational centre. Now that’s dedication.

YCI also recognizes inspirational young leaders from the local communities that we serve. We’re proud to present the Local Volunteer of the Year Award to Omar Mohammed Bakar from Zanzibar.

Omar first became involved at YCI as a participant of the Emerging Leaders program in 2012. Omar was incredibly dedicated to the program and joined as a local volunteer after completing the Emerging Leaders program.


Omar is a valuable asset in Zanzibar and has had a tremendous impact on every volunteer; supporting all YCI volunteers with advice, adjusting to the local community, and translation. He also goes out of his way to be a friend to volunteers, show them around, and to share cultural experiences. And of course, volunteers love him. Aside from his friendly nature, the Emerging Leaders program would not have been successful without his translation and facilitation assistance.

Omar is a very dedicated leader in his community and serves as an inspiration to the Emerging Leader participants along with the YCI volunteers. He likes to share what he has learned, not just from the Emerging Leaders program, but also from the volunteers who come from different backgrounds.

This year, we’re also pleased to honour and present the runner-up for the Volunteer of the Year, Kayleigh Gaspari.

Kayleigh was part of a custom project in Ghana with the IVEY Business School Sustainability Club. She is a strong and independent person, taking on additional responsibilities over the course of her placement to host extra entrepreneurship trainings to youth organizations that needed additional support. Kayleighy was able to develop and make clear, coherent and professional formal presentations while conducting eight workshops during the Micro-enterprise conference she and her group organized.


Kayleigh is described as always ready to take initiative and stood up for every challenge that came her way. She is an inspiration to entrepreneurs who are encouraged by her examples.

So there you have it, our inspiring volunteers who have made differences in their own way. Become a YCI volunteer to make a difference yourself.

YCI’s Volunteer of the Year Nominations are Open!

YCI’s annual Volunteer of the Year Awards are held in recognition of youth who have demonstrated exceptional performance and skills while volunteering on YCI’s international developmental programs and have continued to be actively involved in  volunteer activities in their local community.

YCI would like to continue this tradition of acknowledging and appreciating the hard work and dedication of its volunteers by inviting you to send your nominations for our eighth YCI Volunteer of the Year award. This year, we are calling for two sets of nominations, for both exceptional international and exceptional local volunteers.


  1. The candidate must have volunteered overseas with YCI within the past year January 1, to December 31 2014. (This is for both Canadian and local volunteers)
  2. The candidate must demonstrate active and continued involvement in community volunteer activities
  3. The candidate must demonstrate characteristics of global citizenship—including respects and values diversity, and the willingness to act for equity and sustainability

Nominations can come from anyone within the YCI stakeholder community (e.g., YCI volunteers, local volunteers, alumni, local partner staff, YCI field staff, local Board Members). You can nominate more than one person. A combined team of YCI staff at HQ, board members and alumni volunteers will make the final selection for the Volunteer of the Year Award.

To nominate an individual, please choose the appropriate category and submit short answers (max. 50 words per question) to the following questions by January 31, 2014 to intern@yci.org:

1.     Category: Local or International volunteer

2.     Relationship of nominator to the nominee

3.     Describe the impact of the nominee’s contribution while on project with YCI

4.     Describe the impact of the nominee’s contributions at home in their local community

5.     How has the nominee shown demonstrated integrity and professionalism?

6.     How has the nominee been an inspiration for others?

Appreciating our Volunteers this International Volunteer Day!

YCI would like to thank all its volunteers for their dedication to volunteerism and recognize them for their deep commitment to youth development. The work we are able to do in Central America, South America, and Africa would not be possible without the passion and hard work of our wonderful volunteers.

A big thank you to all the volunteers below for their active global citizenship as participants on YCI projects this past year:

Abbi MacDonald, Abeer Saeed, Abigail Feagan, Afua Helena Kojo, Alec Lynch, Alyssa McDonald, Amber Lloyd, Andrea Sabelli, Aurora Herrera, Bhabi Lal Neupane, Bhreagh Bauer, Candace Westman, Catherine Torelli, Christine Hunter, Connor Lyons, Crystal Campbell-Frost, Danielle New, Dylan Bub, Edward Forster, Emily Royer, Emma Luker, Hyuma Frankowski, Ian Chow, Jessica Jackel, Jessica O’Reilly, Jiaqi Chen, Jordan MacKenzie, Justeen De Ocampo, Kaleigh Killoran, Kathleen Wang, Kayla Kozan, Kayla Szlovicsak, Kayleigh Gaspari, Kevin Kim, Kingston Fan, Kristel Torrellas, Leigh Matassa, Linden Deathe, Madhab Prasad Bastakoti, Maralyne Narayan, Marc Woons, Margaret (Meg) McCarthy, Marie-France Chasse, Marlee Jordan, Matt Lam, May El Ali, Meredith Radke, Moon Ghimire, Najme Kishani Farahani, Natasha Nakashuk, Neginah Darya, Ngoc Nguyen, Olivia Marshman, Olivia Vihant, Rachelle McGrath, Rajan Basi, Rasna Sherchan, Rebeccah McKinnon, Robert Rankin, Ruby Sniderman, Samantha Skinner, Shalisha Samuel, Shanna Sunley, Sheryne Lorde, Shivani Achrekar, Stephanie Hanson, Stephanie Liauw, Tamara Webber, Tomas Whillans, Veronique Morel, Vicky Au, Yurii Malakhov, Zhen Lu

Special mentions to Carly Court, Kristy Tomkinson, Linden Deathe and Mara Pratt who went abroad with us for a second time this year, and to Lisa D’Alimonte who represented YCI overseas for the fourth time! We truly salute your passion and your deep commitment to make a global impact.

To honour our volunteers on this International Volunteer Day, we are organizing a Celebrating Volunteerism event tonight in collaboration with OCIC. The event will feature stories of YCI’s global leaders. Read more details here and click here for the profiles of our amazing speakers.

See you there!

– Kiran and the YCI team

A BIG Thank You to YCI Volunteers!

In honour of National Volunteer Week (April 21st-27th), the staff at Youth Challenge International would like to recognize and celebrate the efforts of our volunteers, and bring attention to the remarkable work that they do both on our overseas projects and in their communities here in Canada. 

PicMonkey Collage1

YCI volunteers in Costa Rica & Ghana

YCI’s volunteers are so much more than free help. They are the core element of YCI as an organization and the driving force behind our programs. In the office, our interns are treated as colleagues. On the ground, our volunteers are recognized as ambassadors for change and are entrusted with the responsibility to develop and implement YCI’s international programming.

“I absolutely loved the local volunteers. Omar was an absolute treat to be around – very positive, very supporting, and so so so helpful. Nathra was super involved, super engaged, wanted to learn as much as possible. They taught us as much as we taught them.” – Gloria Eid, Tanzania 2012

“During my time with YCI, we taught English, computer classes; organized gender equity, HIV/AIDS and substance abuse workshops; as well held youth employment and leadership summits with roughly 400 people attending each.” – Erin Trippel, Tanzania 2009/ Kenya 2010
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YCI volunteers in Ghana, Tanzania, & Ethiopia

By now, the personal merits of volunteering are well known: volunteerism is a useful tool for young adults to develop new skills and gain professional work experience.  What is less frequently acknowledged is the impact that volunteers make on the projects and programs that they work on. In 2011 alone, YCI volunteers helped empower a total of 22, 966 youth and community members. YCI volunteers combine hard work, passion, and innovation to drive positive change in communities all over the world, and for that we would like to say, THANK YOU! We could not operate on such a high scale without your help.

But, not only do we want to thank our volunteers, we also want them to brag a little about their accomplishments. Check out CIDA’s I Am Making a Difference Campaign in recognition of National Volunteer Week and be sure to share how you’re making a difference on Facebook.

-Carly Court (Volunteer Program Assistant) and Amanda Armstrong (Volunteer Program Coordinator)