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!
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