Youth Challenge International (YCI)
is a youth-centred, non-profit, non-religious, non-governmental organization
A non-governmental organization is a legally constituted organization created by natural or legal persons that operates independently from any government. The term originated from the United Nations , and is normally used to refer to organizations that do not form part of the government and are...
focused on international development
International development or global development is a concept that lacks a universally accepted definition, but it is most used in a holistic and multi-disciplinary context of human development — the development of greater quality of life for humans...
issues. It aims to equip developing country
A developing country, also known as a less-developed country, is a nation with a low level of material well-being. Since no single definition of the term developing country is recognized internationally, the levels of development may vary widely within so-called developing countries...
Youth is the time of life between childhood and adulthood . Definitions of the specific age range that constitutes youth vary. An individual's actual maturity may not correspond to their chronological age, as immature individuals could exist at all ages.-Usage:Around the world, the terms "youth",...
with skills and resources to contribute positively to their communities as well as engage Canadian youth in international development and social justice
Social justice generally refers to the idea of creating a society or institution that is based on the principles of equality and solidarity, that understands and values human rights, and that recognizes the dignity of every human being. The term and modern concept of "social justice" was coined by...
issues. Over 200 Canadian youth volunteer overseas annually with YCI.
The organization’s mission is to “build the skills, experience and confidence of young people to effect positive change in their communities”(3).
YCI’s operations and programming is rooted in 4 core principles:
- Youth Involvement: Youth take active decision making and leadership roles in YCI’s projects
- Volunteerism: The spirit of volunteerism as central to, and a key force motivating YCI’s work
- Partnership: Working with local, youth-led or youth focused organizations
- Youth Capacity Building: YCI seeks to help both youth and youth development organizations build the capacity to work autonomously as effective change agents in their respective communities
YCI operates on the belief that truly effective aid must have an explicitly youth focus – economic and social development outcomes cannot be improved without youth-specific programming. Youth represent a large share of the Global South’s
The term Third World arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned with either capitalism and NATO , or communism and the Soviet Union...
population structure with 1.3 billion young people aged 12 to 24 now living in developing countries. As the largest cohort of developing country youth in history, this group now makes up well over half the population of most developing countries. A critical challenge facing this population is youth unemployment, compounded by the HIV/AIDS crisis, gender inequality
Gender equality is the goal of the equality of the genders, stemming from a belief in the injustice of myriad forms of gender inequality.- Concept :...
and disenfranchisement. Taking into account these factors, YCI’s program rationale focuses on targeting these issues to promote positive youth-focused change in the developing world.
Typically, YCI operates programs in countries characterized as politically stable, less developed countries that have an existing development relationship with the northern
The north–south divide is a socio-economic and political division that exists between the wealthy developed countries, known collectively as "the north", and the poorer developing countries , or "the south." Although most nations comprising the "North" are in fact located in the Northern Hemisphere ,...
partners of YCI such as Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...
. Organizations that YCI has collaborated with include: Youth Challenge Guyana in Guyana
Guyana , officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, previously the colony of British Guiana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America that is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana was a former colony of the Dutch and of the British...
, Reto Juvenil International in Costa Rica
Costa Rica , officially the Republic of Costa Rica is a multilingual, multiethnic and multicultural country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east....
, Youth Challenge Australia
Youth Challenge Australia is a non-profit organisation founded in 1991 that sends young Australians on international community development projects in Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Guyana, Guatemala, Vanuatu, Mexico and India...
Vanuatu , officially the Republic of Vanuatu , is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some east of northern Australia, northeast of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea.Vanuatu was...
, ZANGOC and Faraja Trust in Tanzania
The United Republic of Tanzania is a country in East Africa bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south. The country's eastern borders lie on the Indian Ocean.Tanzania is a state...
, YMCA-Ghana in Ghana
Ghana , officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located in West Africa. It is bordered by Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south...
, Association for Adolescent Development and the Program for Adolescent Mothers in Grenada
Grenada is an island country and Commonwealth Realm consisting of the island of Grenada and six smaller islands at the southern end of the Grenadines in the southeastern Caribbean Sea...
, and Emmanuel Development Association in Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...
. All of YCI’s partners are fully autonomous non-profit organizations with an indigenous board of directors and local staff. An international complement of field staff joins this base to help deliver field projects in each country. YCI’s long term development goal is to assure that each partner has the stability and capacity to develop a greater regional role in designing, managing and evaluating important development, health and conservation projects, along with increasing the participation of local youth and community stakeholders
In addition, YCI has built relationships with other Canadian organizations including most recently, YMCA Canada and YMCA GTA as well as Club 2/3 and Oxfam Quebec, developing collaborative programming in both Ghana and Benin
Benin , officially the Republic of Benin, is a country in West Africa. It borders Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. Its small southern coastline on the Bight of Benin is where a majority of the population is located...
Youth Challenge International was born as a charitable organization in 1989. Inspired by the UK-based Operation Raleigh
Raleigh International is a UK-based youth and sustainable development charity that aims to help people of all backgrounds and nationalities to discover their full potential through their work to improve communities and protect the environment....
(1984–1988), Canadian alumni from this project, along with new volunteers and sponsors in Canada, organized to send a group of Canadian youth to Guyana to work with Guyanese youth on community identified projects. In 1990, YCI sent 40 young Canadians, who, side by side with 40 Guyanese youth, worked on major community projects in conservation, infrastructure and health. Also, during its inaugural year, YCI partnered with the Adventure Club of the Soviet Union, sending a team of Canadian and Russian youth to the Arctic to participate in community service activities and conduct scientific research.
In 1991, a similar program to the one in Guyana was also launched in Costa Rica. The following year, the mutual successes of these programs eventually lead to the establishment of autonomous organizations in both these countries. Around the same time, Australian alumni from the original Operation Raleigh, initiated Youth Challenge Australia to provide similar opportunities to Australian Youth.
In 1997, the Youth Challenge Organizations; Youth Challenge Guyana, Reto Juvenil Internacional (in Costa Rica), Youth Challenge Australia, and Youth Challenge International (based in Canada), decided to form the Youth Alliance Council. These organizations now function autonomously, financially independent from one another, but meet on a yearly basis to participate in co-operative decision making and joint planning for the member organizations.
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, YCI has continued to increase the number of countries it operates in and has sent over 2,500 volunteers abroad, partnering with over 15 countries. It currently operates in Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, Benin, Guyana, Costa Rica, Grenada and Vanuatu. In addition, as of 2006, YCI has been working to engage Canadian youth in global development issues domestically, promoting awareness and advocacy through the functioning of its Volunteer Action Teams.
In 2009, YCI launched its American partner Youth Challenge America.
The ideal YCI volunteer candidate is aged 18-35, interested in international youth development, motivated to make positive change, seeking an international team-based experience and available for 5 to 12 weeks. Since there are programs throughout the year, volunteers have different options in terms of dates. YCI programs are structured to be team-based; youth volunteers will live and work with fellow Canadian youth or youth from their host countries.
A main component of YCI is selecting individuals to volunteer overseas on various projects. Although the process is not competitive, volunteers are selected on their own merits. Past travel, work, education, volunteer experience as well as skills and interests are taken into consideration when deciding where to place an individual. Candidates must undergo a phone interview, during which an YCI Volunteer Program staff member will help the candidate to determine which country he or she is best suited for. There is both a pre-departure learning curriculum and in-country orientation to help prepare and equip volunteers with the necessary tools and skills to complete successful placements.
YCI Board Members
Stephen Brown – Chair and President
Management consultant with Deloitte Consulting
Mark Towhey – Vice-Chair
President of TOWHEY Consulting Group Inc
Kevin Thomason - Secretary
Paritosh Gambhir - Treasurer
Senior Manager at KPMG
Policy and Advocacy Advisor at CARE Canada
Lawyer and Partner with Borden Ladner Gervais
Consultant at DECODE
Vice President of international programs for the International Rescue Committee (IRC)
Sr. Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at the C.D. Howe Institute