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YCI is pleased to present our third Global Action Grant winner, Kanentakwas David. The Global Action Grant program was started for Canadian Youth interested in creating innovative solutions to youth issues in development. Read on as Kanentakwas answers some questions about who she is and how she will be using the $500 grant to fund the implementation of her micro-project to raise awareness about development issues in her community.
Q. Can you please give a short self-introduction of yourself?
A. My Names Kanentakwas ( Ga-Nuht-Da-Gwaz) means picking pines. I am from the Mohawk Territory of Akwesasne. I recently graduated from college and I am now studying at Carleton University and working at the Adolescent Treatment Centre on my reserve. As I have been involved in many youth related activities in the last few months, I have learned more about other Indigenous communities across Canada and have become more familiar with reconciliation and cultural identity.
Q. Please explain “What’s your issue” that you want to address with your grant and “what are you going to do about it”.
A. This past summer I went on a trip to Algonquin Park on a cultural exchange with an Algonquin elder and other trip goers. This trip was comprised of Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth from across Canada. I was oblivious to the many issues other first nation communities went through and how much non-Indigenous youth actually knew about Indigenous peoples within Canada. This brought me to brainstorm a way to help break down the walls between Indigenous – Indigenous and Indigenous – non-Indigenous peoples of Canada. Reconciliation is what I want to work on. I think it’s important that people of Canada are educated on the first peoples of Canada and that the first peoples of Canada learn about how not every Canadian citizen has a history that started in Canada but that it can be traced further back and farther away. I am going to organize a conference for youth of all different backgrounds that will help break down these barriers. Having a cultural exchange of the different teachings and histories with each other will prove to be very beneficial in achieving this goal.
Q. How does the project you’re implementing in Canada promote global community development awareness among Canadian youth? How does their project connect to a broader international development issue?
A. The goal of this youth conference is to share different cultures between Indigenous and non- Indigenous youth. There will be a speaker from the Anishnabek Nation who will help youth learn their teachings, as well as a speaker from Chippewa Nation who will teach youth their history and teachings. Having Non-indigenous youth attend is very important so that an exchange in culture can happen between the participants. By having speakers from outside the community we are helping to break through barriers with youth that don’t get the chance to travel and learn about the different nations and people around the community. This Conference will help develop a connection and a clearer understanding of youth within and outside of the community. Many problems between two different cultures begin with ignorance and not being educated about that group of people. By surrounding ourselves in a respectful cultural exchange we help people become aware of the peoples of Canada and contribute to development in the community itself.
Q. Tell us how YCI’s Global Action Grant is going to help you achieve/complete your project.
A. YCI’s grant will help me gather youth to a place where cultural exchanging will happen. This project will have the chance to bring teachers from other places within Canada to teach youth about the different cultures within this great country.
As an individual who just recently graduated from university, I had put little thought into what I wanted to do down the road – in 10 years time; 5 years time; or even what I wanted to do next month! I had completed one of the toughest and most character-building chapters of my life, and all I wanted to do was live up the time I finally had to myself.
Only after a summer of light travelling, working, and relaxing did I started thinking about that eventuality known as the future. It was then that I realized I didn’t have a game plan; no road lay before me. I knew it was all up to me – I had long ago grown out of the age when other people planned my life for me, and I needed to do something about it.
I thought back on my interests that I focused on while in school, and realized that a pattern began to emerge in my last few semesters of my undergrad. I, unlike many of my peers, did not know what I wanted to be “when I grew up” and so my undergraduate degree began to look like a mosaic; I took courses that I thought were interesting, thought-provoking, challenging, diverse, and fun. I realized that I had developed a strong interest in international development, gender, human rights, and the issues that surround these when they become intertwined. With that in mind, I began the process of asking myself what I wanted to do with this knowledge.
I decided on applying to graduate school and looking for meaningful work and volunteer experience. The work experience I was lucky to attain: that is where Youth Challenge International comes in! I am currently learning so much about what it takes to be a part of a development organization, and what kind of role I eventually want to take in this diverse field. For school, I decided on graduate programs related to international development – specifically those that tie in many comprehensive courses and faculty so that I can continue to keep my education diverse and creative. I realized after my time off from university (which was much needed!) that I enjoy the learning process, I enjoy the challenge that school provides, and I thrive on research and discovery. Plus, with my love of travel and curiosity for people and places the world over, this path seems like a step toward being able to one day live and make a place for myself outside of Canada.
I am also looking for ways to make myself useful as a volunteer. Anyone can tell you that a strong education is a great asset, but without meaningful experience, you haven’t got a leg to stand on. As the only member of the YCI team who has yet to go on a volunteer trip, I am looking to try my hand at some volunteer experiences right here in Canada – after all, you need to know where you’ve been before you can know where you’re going!
- Sarah Tuckey, Administrative Assistant
If you’re interested in graduate programs in International Development, check out these select links:
For more information on volunteer experiences in Canada and abroad, check out: