ven, 21 septembre 2012
Canada World Youth and Guests Gather at Memorial University to Recall Life-Changing CWY Experiences and Recruit Volunteers
St. John’s, Newfoundland, September 21, 2012 – A few former Canada World Youth (CWY) exchange program participants – all residents of St. John’s – got together last night at Memorial University of Newfoundland to talk with a group of 50 potential recruits about how their CWY experience set the tone for the rest of their lives. They were joined by program participants from Canada and Ghana who are currently volunteering in various organizations in St. John’s, as well as CWY host families, partners and personnel.
“We began organizing these CWY Talks, in different Canadian cities, during last year’s 40th anniversary celebrations,” explains CWY’s Alumni and Volunteer Coordinator Katrie Gagné, “as a way to recognize our many alumni all across Canada and around the world whom we consider to be a vital part of CWY’s history.”
Among its many programs, CWY offers an intensive six-month exchange program, Youth Leaders in Action, which encourages participants to develop leadership, communication and other life skills through active engagement within a host community. The program, established in partnership with organizations in Canada and abroad, brings together youth from Canada and other countries to contribute to sustainable community development projects, to live together and to learn from each other. CWY is the only Canadian organization to offer such a program.
Saad Rajput and his Ukrainian counterpart did their program in 2010-2011. In Netishyn, Ukraine, they worked on health policy with the Office of the Child, Youth and Family Services, and later, in Mission, B.C., they worked on environmental policy with the City. Rajput says the learning began while he was raising funds for his program, acquiring speaking and networking skills and the “essential art of persuasion”. When he arrived in Ukraine, he was surprised that the locals did not think of him as Canadian. “That completely changed when people got to know me,” he recalls. He found the program to be intense: “It sometimes felt like six days, sometimes like six years – you have disagreements with some, become friends with other and fall in love with many.” Saad had planned to do graduate work in politics, but after his CWY program, he decided to study pre-nursing. He is currently working as a crisis care worker with Bluesky and the Child Youth and Family Services of Eastern Health. “My CWY experience shaped the decisions I have taken since and I sense that it will continue to do so in the future. I’ll be a CWY member forever!”
The audience thoroughly enjoyed Brenda Woodman’s story since she did her CWY program 40 years ago – in 1972, the year CWY launched the program. Woodman, then 16, recalls how her CWY adventure began in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, and eventually took her to various parts of Canada and Mexico. The CWY program lasted one full year in those early days – participants travelled by train across Canada from the Atlantic provinces to Alberta, picking up participants on the way. Following her internship in Mexico, she studied languages and education in many places, including Spain, and earned three degrees. Brenda recently retired as an education administrator following a rewarding 30-year career, primarily as a teacher. She lives in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland with her husband of 35 years with whom she owns a 12-outlet franchise business which she helps manage. Her children and grandchildren live close by. “Life’s been good to me,” musses Woodman. “And I truly believe this is due in part to the fact that CWY helped mold my future, by letting me see how others live and by preparing me for the challenges ahead.”
Another “old-timer” was in the audience who had done his program 35 years ago in Indonesia. He told the group that he and other CWY Alumni are planning a get-together soon in Halifax.
Melissa Hickey did her program in 2005 – three months in Amherst, Nova Scotia, followed by three months in Camajuani, in the province of Villa Clara in Cuba. “It would be an understatement,” laughs Hickey, “to say that my CWY experience was life-changing! It was such an amazing eye-opener, introducing me to the world of travel, culture, wonderful CWY host families, friends who became and still are like family, as well as incredible volunteer opportunities which helped me become aware of some of the fields that I would enjoy pursuing as a career.” After her internship, Melissa visited 14 other countries in Central and South America. She just graduated from the College of the North Atlantic with a diploma in Adventure Tourism-Outdoor Recreation and is currently studying at Memorial University to earn a BA in Tourism Studies. “I’m passionate,” says Hickey, “about encouraging youth to travel and experience cultures from all over the world.”
The evening also provided an opportunity to learn more about the role played by CWY partner organizations such as St. John’s MacMorran Community Centre. Program Director Donna Connors explained how CWY program participants have been contributing for the past two years to the Centre’s activities which include after-school programs, teen and seniors programs, and an outreach house. CWY Project Supervisor Allyson Howse presented CWY volunteers – Edem Aikins from Ghana and Kim Buu (Glorious) Tran from Surrey, B.C. – who are currently working at the Centre. “CWY is one of the best partner fits we’ve had – they provide us with hands-on volunteers who correspond with our mission and provide connections and direct services to our community”, says Connors.
Everyone enjoyed networking after these inspiring presentations, and several guests expressed interest in getting involved with CWY. The next CWY Talks will take place in Charlottetown, PEI on November 7, 2012.
This post is also available in EN.
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