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: 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.

Alumni Update and New Intern: Welcome Carly!

Youth Challenge International is pleased to welcome Carly Court to the YCI headquarters in Toronto as the new Volunteer Program Assistant. Carly is a YCI alumnus, having spent 5 weeks in Guatemala in 2010 where she worked on a youth development eco-tourism project in La Florida, as well as participating in the activities of an organic farm collective. Carly is a recent graduate of McGill University, where she completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Development with a double minor International Relations and Hispanic Languages. Welcome to the team Carly!

Carly in Guatemala

Carly in “downtown” La Florida, Guatemala

I first became involved with YCI in 2010 when I took a year off school to volunteer abroad.  I lived and worked with the campesinos of Finca La Florida, Guatemala, for five mindful and thought provoking weeks.  There, I was exposed to the successes and difficulties that come with collective living, as well as the fascinating dichotomy of hope for the future in the face of extreme poverty.  Volunteering with YCI offered me the unique opportunity to experience both the things I had learned about in school as well as the things that I had never imagined I would be exposed to. I am excited to be working as the Volunteer Program Assistant because I believe in the value of volunteerism, I believe in the power of youth working with youth, and I appreciate everything that I was able to take away from the project. After months of speculation, volunteering with YCI confirmed my passion for the development field, and motivated me to get back to school and finish my degree in International Development Studies.

My position as the Volunteer Program Assistant intern comes with a wide range of responsibilities.  My main objective in this internship is to work closely with Amanda, the Volunteer Program Coordinator, to ensure that our exceptional volunteers are placed on the project best suited for them, and see to it that they are properly supported in their fundraising and pre-departure endeavours. I work, more or less behind the scenes, throughout the entire process of the volunteer’s experience with YCI.  I process applications, interview applicants, help place them on the appropriate project, make selection calls, and provide them with fundraising support.  I have only been active in this internship for two weeks thus far, but I have already learned a ton about the administrative aspects of a not-for-profit organization.  So far, my favourite aspect of the internship is the inter-personal aspect of the interviews.  We have had some really awesome applicants who are now going to be some amazing volunteers!

My interests outside of work include, but are not limited to, the consumption of delicious foodstuffs, travel, dance, snowboarding, gallery hopping, pop-culture trivia, and general loafing (especially with my cat).

IYIP Blog: Nicaragua in 10 Pictures

Clare Esler, YCI’s CIDA IYIP in Nicaragua has been working with ANIDES since March. She has been taking lots of pictures and for this blog entry is sharing 10 of her favourite photos from work and play in Nicaragua. Enjoy!

Facilitating a watershed workshop with 6th and 7th graders in the watershed community.

Observing one of ANIDES’s gender workshops for the first time.

Presentation and workshop on watersheds with youth promoters.

Receiving 4 cats to take care of for 1 month in my tiny apartment!

Not all work and no play, here I am swimming through Somoto Canyon with some friends in North Nicaragua.

Visiting Pueblo Viejo and mountainous rural Nicaragua for the first time.

Working in green mountains!!!

Visiting and speaking with one of the youth who will participate in our (ANIDES) 5 year program. This is his cabbage crop.

Visiting a women’s indigenous weaving cooperative in a peaceful mountain community.

Enjoying a Matagalpa Sunset from my back step.

-Clare Esler, Environment Project Officer, CIDA International Youth Internship Program, Nicaragua 2012

IYIP Blog: A day /week/month in the life of a CIDA Intern

Clare steering a meeting with students who are supporting Anides with the diagnostic project.

Being an intern for a small, under resourced grassroots environmental organization is not always as exciting or thrilling as one might think, or as I thought before arriving in Nicaragua. Initially, the words, “grassroots,” “under resourced,” “small,” and “environmental organization,” all took on a certain charm. They all formed to create a very novel picture in my head and I don’t think I knew what they implied until arriving and sinking my teeth into my work. At times, it can be boring, run of the mill, Monday to Friday, 9-5 office work. Development work is a waiting game. It’s a money game. It’s a creative game – my experience has become “what can I turn this internship into to make it the most rewarding experience?” Another question I have contemplated is “how can I contribute to Anides in a sustainable and long term way?” This is obviously a challenging task as I am only here for seven months, but I thought there must be one; partnership development. It was a challenge at first. I would have to dive into the pool of organizations that are aligned with Anides’s vision and mission….and that pool is very large.  What an overwhelming task!

I started out doing a lot of reading and looking at the numbers. What kind of money are organizations bringing in or where are they receiving their funding from?  The more I narrowed it down, the more fun the task became. I ended up learning more than I thought I would, analyzing the way an organization had designed their website, for example. Was the information accessible and was the right information presented? I have become a very good judge of an organization and their marketability. The task became easier as the organizations that knew how to get the most important information across, were the ones I ended up choosing.

Presentation and workshop on watersheds with youth promoters.

From there, the next task seemed slightly daunting and intimidating, a cold call. Since Anides did not necessarily have an “in” or connection with these organizations, I would have to write an e-mail stating my case and what kind of partnership I was looking to forge. I honestly think that what has caught some of these organizations’ attention has been the mention of a “Canadian government sponsored internship.” I guess if that will be my leverage, then so be it. These are organizations that either my supervisor has always passed by, not even thinking of ways they might be able to support Anides or ones she has been dying to get even a meeting with, but has been unable due to a language barrier. I am happy that I can be the one to support, after all that is part of what I am here to do.

My initial expectations have been turned upside down and my perspective has really had to shift. I have had to go from thinking “what can this internship do for me to, what can I bring to this internship?” The seemingly boring and slow days or weeks, it turns out, are quite meaningful in the grand scheme of things. They are where the nitty gritty is planned and thought out and where idle minds develop creative ideas. They are the build-up to the most fulfilling tasks which are spent day after day in the field conducting focus groups and surveys. It is when you have a project in which you become emotionally invested, that the seemingly menial work turns into fun, creative-bursts of ideas- kind of work. I have become a report and proposal writer, facilitator, strategizer, designer, analyzer, surveyor and creator among many things.

Development work is paper work!!

If you had to ask me to synthesize this experience at this point into one phrase, I would say it has been like receiving a fresh slap in the face, and a voice that accompanies that slap says “ Wake up Clare and welcome to the world of development.”

-Clare Esler, Environment Project Officer, CIDA International Youth Internship Program, Nicaragua 2012

As previously noted on the YCI Blog we have 8 IYIPs in the field. They have all written a blog post detailing the beginning of their placements and are now in the second half of their internships. Check back often to find out what they are up to now!


Alumni Update: Hello to our new intern, Liesl!

YCI has another intern in our office. Say hello to Liesl Harewood, a former volunteer in Ghana. Liesl was born in Guyana, but lives in Barbados and has been going to school in Canada. Here’s what she thinks of the YCI office so far:

Liesl, at the YMCA Vocational School in Takoradi, teaching them the difference between Barbadian and Bajan. A lesson we got during her first week in the office.

My first experience with YCI was when I was actually a Youth Ambassador to Ghana.  I had the distinction of being the first non-Canadian to be selected on the program and I was fortunate enough to get one of twenty scholarships that were available at the time in celebration of the organisation’s 20th anniversary.  I cannot believe that was two years ago – yet YCI has still remained a great part of my life.  There were seven of us out in Ghana at the time: 3 in Takoradi a t the YMCA Vocational Institute (where I was) and 4 in Koforidua and we have all managed to keep in touch with each other over the years. In fact 2012 has kind of been my YCI reunion year having met up in person with 2 of the other volunteers so far – one in Ottawa and one in Toronto. Now that I’ll be working at YCI for another 6 months, I am sure I will be able to see some of the others that are around.

But apart from my other volunteers and friends, it has actually been great to meet in person a lot of the YCI staff who I’ve grown familiar with via emails over the years: preparation for my volunteer experience in Ghana, online training, newsletter updates and then my interview for this role. The YCI staff has come alive!

So far it has been very hands on – with scheduled training sessions with different staff members about the various tools and programs linked to YCI. I know that without a doubt it’s going to be a busy 6 months and I will learn a lot not only from a development and NGO management perspective, but also from a Human Resources Management perspective, which will be useful as completing this internship will fulfill my co-op work term requirements and put me one step closer to obtaining my CHRP designation.

Our daily staff lunches together have been interesting and hilarious: a great way to get to know my new colleagues. I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can, but also contributing to the programs. I can already feel myself thinking “that looks like an interesting program … maybe after this I could go work on … “ – yes, I can’t shake this YCI feeling!