Alumni Update: Matt Leslie

Matt trading hats with a friend in Arusha.

It’s been about 6 months since I finished my 6 week volunteer placement in Arusha, Tanzania and every day I think about my experience.  My time in Arusha was fantastic and definitely changed my life.  I challenged myself to try something completely new, I made friends in a foreign country and I changed as a person.  I experienced so many things that I am still processing the events of my placement.

Throughout the six weeks I experienced culture shock and homesickness and by the end of the placement I was excited to return home.  I missed my friends and my family and all the modern conveniences that come with living in Canada.  I packed up my souvenirs and all the gear I was returning home with, I said many goodbyes, and throughout all of that I was still more excited to go home.

It wasn’t until I was in the airport in Dar es Salaam that it really hit me.  I was leaving Tanzania, and I was going to really miss it.

Getting home was great, I was surrounded by family and friends, could have hot showers whenever I wanted and had reliable electricity ALL day.  It was difficult at first to adapt.  I had so many stories to tell and wanted to spend all of my time talking about Arusha, but my friends and family also had summers of their own with many stories that they also wanted to share.  For a couple of weeks I went through a small disconnect (reverse culture shock), and felt like I didn’t fit in any more at home.

Over the last 6 months, I told all of the important stories with all of the important people in my life, I sorted my photo albums and I reflected on what that experience meant to me and how I will use it in my life.  It was a long and slow process, and even now I still find myself randomly remembering the minute details of the trip.

This past weekend, I met up with the three other volunteers who I spent my summer with in Arusha.  We spent 6 weeks with each other, and after returning home our lives caught up with us and while we kept in touch we spoke a lot less frequently.  That mini reunion was fantastic.  Almost immediately we fell right back into step and refreshed each other’s memories about Arusha.

I know that I will continue to reflect on Arusha, share my experience and plan my return trip.  Spending a summer in Arusha was a fantastic experience that allowed for a lot of personal growth and will continue to impact my life for a long time to come.

-Matt Leslie, Youth Ambassador, Tanzania 2011

To see more of what our Alumni have been up to, check out the Alumni Update section of blog. 

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International Men’s Day

On Saturday November 19th, Youth Challenge International (YCI), in partnership with local and international organizations celebrated International Men’s Day for the first time in Arusha and Morogoro, Tanzania. International Men’s Day is an event held in 60 countries worldwide that focuses on men’s and boy’s health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models.

In Arusha, YCI, The Umoja Centre,  Support for International Change, UMATI, Initiative for Youth Organization and Global Service Corps hosted the event at the Mbauda Open Market Ground from 11 am to 3 pm. This free event was aimed to promote men and boys as positive role models and to educate the community on the role of males and females in health, education, family life, violence and life choices. All members of the public were welcome to attend the performances, games, and educational activities of the exciting day.

Umoja Student Dramas at International Men's Day

Watermelon Eating Contest

To celebrate International Men’s day in Morogoro, volunteers, along with our partner organization Faraja Trust Fund,  held a soccer tournament on with 8 local teams. To participate in the tournament each team had to come to two information sessions on male sexual and reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, gender roles and good governance. At these sessions we challenged their knowledge of HIV/AIDS and gender roles. Furthermore, we encouraged them to be more active in their communities and challenged them to make a better Tanzania for not only themselves but their children and future generations. After a tense shoot, team “MORO KIDs” won – congratulations to the team!

Let the Soccer Tournament Begin!

In addition to the soccer tournament, there were a variety of other activities on the field this morning.  YCI and Faraja provided an on-site HIV testing centre, a DJ with music and dancing throughout the day, and drama group performances on the key objectives of International Men’s Day.

Duncan and Makho holding an IMD Training Sessions

It was a great event with over 500 youth and other community members coming together to acknowledge the roles and responsibilities of men and boys in creating a brighter future for all Tanzanians.

Thank you to all the international and local volunteers, YCI staff, partner staff and community members who helped to make International Men’s Day a success in Arusha and Morogoro!

-The YCI Tanzania Teams in Morogoro and Arusha

For more volunteer blogs, check out our Travel Diary category. 

Meet the latest team in Tanzania!

Welcome aboard to T11-6A, the latest team who arrived in Tanzania on July 11th! The four-person team headed to Arusha last week to start volunteering with our partner the UMOJA Centre. T11-6A is piloting our first project in Arusha and we are excited to follow the team and see how their project progresses!

Photos from orientation week in Dar-es-Salaam & Arusha:

Orientation in Dar-es-Salaam

Lunch in Arusha with Program Manager Sally

In Arusha at the YCI Office

Matt, Domatila, Marilyn, Jessie and Sureet

Q&A: Cheryl Turner, Tanzania Country Manager

We would like to send a warm welcome to Cheryl, who started work with YCI in Tanzania at the beginning of April. Cheryl comes to YCI from the US Peace Corps as Director of Programs and Training in Cambodia. Cheryl has tons of valuable experience working with youth development and volunteer programs; we are excited to have her on board! Read on to find out what motivates Cheryl and how many African countries she has visited. 


What does your job with YCI involve?

As the Country Manager, I am responsible for managing all aspects of the YCI Program in Tanzania.  I get to work with the staff at each of the three project sites – Zanzibar, Morogoro and Arusha – to develop interesting and valuable opportunities for our Volunteers to support the work of our partners on the ground.  I also keep finances and logistics flowing smoothly, stay in touch with other youth development organizations working in Tanzania and provide local support to other YCI programs.

How did you get involved with YCI?

I am new to YCI, although I have been involved with youth development and volunteer programs for a long time. My last job was Director of Program and Training for the US Peace Corps in Cambodia,  where I established Education and Youth Development programs there, supporting over 100 American Volunteers over a four year period.  With YCI, I look forward to continue my work facilitating international cooperation and youth development.

What’s your inspiration?

I am constantly amazed at the resiliency of people living in some of the poorest parts of the world.  I admire the hopes and dreams I see in the youth I have met in my work, and their ability to find joy in the simplest things – a hand-made toy, a good joke, a thunderstorm on a hot day.  Traveling around the world, I inspired and reassured by how much the people I have met have in common.

What motivates you?

I have been very fortunate in that I have been able to work with so many excellent Volunteers over the years.  I am always excited when I can provide a little bit of extra support or a new idea or approach to a Volunteer who needs some help.  I help them stay motivated, and then they motivate me with their renewed energy and creativity.

Which youth issue most concerns you?

I think unemployment is the biggest issue facing youth today.  In so many countries, there are not enough jobs and opportunities to keep young people feeling like they have a role to play in society.  Even those with good professional skills often have to leave their communities to find employment.  I think the key to development is finding ways for youth to be engaged as positive leaders in their own families and communities.

What’s ahead?

Wow.  I don’t know.  Isn’t that the fun part?

Seriously, I just arrived in Tanzania three weeks ago.  I still have so much to learn about this country and its cultures.  Moving the YCI office to Dar Es Salaam, starting a new program in Arusha, implementing programs in a broader variety of sectors, sharing this new experience with friends and family back home, meeting new local and YCI Volunteers – it’s all ahead!

What else do you do?

I like to stay up on the latest movies and music.  I am working on being a better photographer.  I’m trying to learn Swahili.  I’d like to visit every country in Africa (I’ve only visited 14 so far).