How Young Canadians can get Involved in International Development and Diplomacy

A blog post written by Sareema Husain

I was 19 when I attended Ship For World Youth (SWY for short), a unique cross-cultural exchange program that aims to provide youth with the opportunity to enhance their leadership skills in an increasingly globalized world. When I got the call from the SWY exec committee stating that I had been selected, I was just gotten home from another 10 hour shift at Canadian Tire. After getting into the countries top journalism school (and what I thought would be the absolute perfect program for myself), I dropped out after 2 semesters, disheartened by academic pursuits I once took on with zeal. Instead, I was passing the days working miscellaneous jobs in my suburban town outside of Toronto, erroneously trying to find meaning instead of creating it.

The drudgery of the curriculum, lack of social connections and a few mental health ticks led to school feeling like one giant drag. As the days went on, I began to view postsecondary education less like an opportunity and more like something I had to quickly wrap up so I could get on with real life. During SWY, I had the opportunity to speak to folks from eleven different countries about their schooling systems. I learned that every Kenyan player on the national rugby team had a Masters. When asked how she handled the stress of school and work, my Kenyan friend, Camille, simply stated “you’re born a warrior”. I think of how easy it was to share my mental health woes and boycott deadlines last year and wonder if a Kenyan student would ever dare do the same. “You don’t do something you’re passionate about in Kenya” Camille says, “you do something practical”. But in Japan it’s the opposite. I am surprised when my Japanese friends tell me they are in school for literature and philosophy. They tell me it doesn’t matter what they study because at the end of the day, they know they are going to work for a company. The conversations continue and my interest in cross-cultural exchange blossoms.

Upon returning from SWY, I was reminded that education is an investment and therefore, I decide to go back to school for Political Science and Cultural studies. I graduate during the height of the pandemic and my path since then has been a wonky one indeed. I think you miss out on a lot of character development if you’re not found crying into your pillow as a fresh graduate, wondering how many more job rejections you will have to face until you finally land that golden gig. But I’m a tad bit wiser than I was a year ago, and I now know there is no such thing as a “golden gig”, let alone golden school, career, etc.

I received my big break when I got accepted into the International Youth Internship Program (IYIP). Finally, I could combine my love for cross-cultural exchange and human rights while gaining experience in the field of international development! I was a Private Partnerships Intern for the Regional Bureau of the World Food Programme(WFP) in Nairobi, Kenya. Due to the pandemic, this position was remote. My main task was to support the bureau’s effort to increase WFP positioning in the private sector, whether it was through conducting research about potential partners or assisting in communication and advocacy efforts.

It was uncommon for my managers to have a remote intern, so they created new projects that engaged my leadership abilities. I built an Operational Needs Analysis project alongside another intern. We met weekly to construct questions that would help the Regional Bureau understand what was happening on the ground in the country offices and uncover innovations that were already at play and could be upscaled. I was also given the opportunity to write an internal article about a new partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, for which I conducted lengthy research about food systems and how WFP is interweaving such strategies into private sector partnerships within the region of East Africa.

The richest learnings came from the trainings, provided by both UNA Canada and the Regional Bureau (Nairobi) at WFP. Interns were able to gain great insight from guests panelists during virtual panels hosted by UNA Canada, guests who had careers in diplomacy, government ministries, UN agencies and Canadian Non-Profit associations. I was also able to learn from my fellow cohort through organic conversations alongside formal presentations; UNA facilitated a session where interns were able to share their challenges and success stories in incorporating cross-cutting development themes into their work. This rendered complex themes of gender equality, environmental sustainability, and democratic governance easily digestible, as we were able to see how they are being implemented and actionized within UN organizations around the world.

I am thankful for this opportunity and feel lucky to have been acquainted with many inspiring people in such a short amount of time. The parts I loved most were sparklingly human; laughing with my supervisor about dating norms in Nairobi vs. Toronto, chatting with a fellow intern about post-graduation stress, meeting the IYIP cohort in Montreal and playing tour-guide, attending a virtual Human-Centered design course, and learning and appreciating the context that shaped my colleagues lives and career outcomes.

To conclude, I’d like to emphasize a mantra that has given me much solace during the ups and downs of the last year: Life happens in seasons. Yes, I’m writing this blog post as a IYIP alumni but I wish to share the lesser moments as well, such as when I received my degree and felt no sense of accomplishment, only imminent anxiety about the slim job prospects in my horizon and the accumulating debt beneath me. I don’t mean to make this sound like one of those bravado LinkedIn posts that state “Applied to 999 jobs, finally got one, don’t give up!”. The transition after graduating university or college is difficult, and it takes time and patience to release internalized narratives that have conditioned many students, myself included, to feel like they are perpetually falling behind. If I could go back, I’d tell myself to be patient. It’s ok to cry and eat Ben & Jerrys when you’re feeling anxious or stuck. Careers rarely move upward in a straight line; they ebb and flow and wind their way through time, rarely making sense in the moment. Make peace with this. Most importantly, seek out community. They are essential to keep us going, especially through turbulent times. Like in SWY, my internship was a reminder that the informal program is just as important as the predetermined agenda; barriers and misconceptions are overcome as you talk to fellow humans, minds are widened over coffee chats and your favourite colleague can easily turn into a life-long friend. To deepen mutual understanding and embody international cooperation, one can simply start by talking to the stranger beside them.

Are you a youth or student interested in getting involved in diplomacy or international collaboration? Here are some tips:

• Attend cross-cultural exchanges. When you experience a different culture, you gain a deeper understanding of yourself and those around you—deepening your knowledge of foreign cultures and strengthening international relationships. Enroll in a semester abroad or check out Canada’s French Immersion Program

• Learn languages. Folks who work in the UN must know two of the six official languages well enough to conduct official work in them.

• Seek experiential learning opportunities while in school, such as co-ops, internships, and field studies.

• Apply for the next cohort of IYIP and gain personal and professional competencies that will prepare you for an international career

• If you want to work for the UN, think about the specifics. What do you want to do day-to-day? Do you see yourself working in an office or on the field? Think about what you want to be contributing to an organization and than build as much experience as you can to carve out a thematic niche for yourself, whether its in gender, food, technology, etc.

• Do not limit yourself to just UN internships. Apply for internships with international organisations, embassies & permanent missions, government agencies, think tanks, research institutes, and development agencies. It’s all about beefing up your CV and gaining transferable skills.

If you want to learn more about any of the above or simply want to connect, feel free to reach out to me via email or on LinkedIn!

 

 

Want to get involved with SWYAA Canada? We are recruiting for our executive!

Here at SWYAA Canada, we are getting ready for the next election. It’s time for a renewal! As you all know, the Canadian SWYAA is a central part of keeping the SWY network and spirit alive across the country, and also manages the selection process for future batches. Your help and commitment is greatly needed and appreciated 😊

Did you enjoy the Virtual Weekend we put on last year? Here’s your chance to get more involved behind the scenes.

If you are interested in applying for a position, kindly send us an email at info@swycanada.org with a short bio (200 words) and a bit about what motivates you to join the executive committee (200-400 words) by March 31, 2021. This document outlines the roles and responsibilities for each position, but know that candidates of all levels of experience and engagement will be considered. This year, the roles of President and Batch Liaison are up for grabs.

Applications will be accepted in both English and French. If you have questions about the elections or wish to know more please do not hesitate to reach out by email: info@swycanada.org 

SWYAA Canada to host first ever SWY Virtual Weekend, August 2020

 

It has been a hectic few months with COVID-19 putting a halt to many of our plans, personally and professionally. As the country slowly begins to open up again, many people have begun going back to work. However, we expect that things won’t go back to normal anytime soon.

In the light of recent events in Canada and the U.S., we are beginning to understand how “normal” did not necessarily serve everyone. Conversations about systemic racism have been sparked and many claim the pandemic has simply amplified societal issues that were already deeply engrained. We imagine some of these conversations have spilled across borders we are eager to hear from those global voices what the situation is elsewhere. SWYAA Canada wants to provide the opportunity for the SWY Network to come together virtually for a reunion weekend where we can have these types of discussions, alongside fun workshops and batch reunions.

To that end, the first ever Global SWY Virtual Weekend will be August 21-23rd, 2020 with an opening assembly on Friday.
We invite all PYs, NLs, Discussion leaders and Admin to sign-up for what we hope will be the biggest online SWY assembly ever! Once registered, Virtual Weekend participants can host workshops as well as batch reunions online during the 2-day period. Note that this event is not open to members of the general public, only former SWYers! 
SWYAA Canada will help finalize the program, help with promotion and create the Zoom meetings. We will also host some special programming ourselves!
And the best thing about it: it’s totally free, with no plane tickets to book and no social distancing restrictions to worry about! You can come and hang for one session or 24, it’s entirely up to you!

Find out more here!

SWYAA Global Assembly Postponed to 2021

Wherever you are in the world, SWYAA Canada hopes you are safe and healthy. We realize the global situation regarding COVID-19 has escalated greatly and continues to do so at an unpredictable rate. Many of you have concerns, especially about travelling, as borders shut down and movement becomes increasingly restricted. In light of these events, SWYAA Canada has decided to postpone this year’s Global Assembly to 2021.


We would like you to know we have put careful thought and consideration into this decision. The safety of our participants and global community remains our main priority and we believe this is the best option moving forward due to the unpredictability of the global situation.
 
SWYAA Canada is focusing not on what has been lost but rather on the many lives we could possibly save by the simple act of staying at home. Many of us are living on a day-to-day schedule in this unprecedented time in history. Anxiety is in the air but so is generosity and communion. If there has ever been a time to channel your SWY Spirit, it is now!

Warmly,

SWYAA Canada
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Unofficial Announcement for 32nd Ship for World Youth Leaders Program 2020

Unofficial Announcement for 32nd Ship for World Youth Leaders Program 2020 #SWY32 based on IYEO call-out (Japanese only)

Participating countries:‬ Britain, Brazil, France, Mexico, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Peru, Bahrain, Egypt, Kenya & Japan!!

*Please wait for official announcement in corresponding countries. The official invitation will be send to the countries that are confirmed to join SWY32 around early May.  Stay in touch with your respective Alumni Associations to know about details.

**More details to be announced in the future. Note that Canada has not been selected for SWY32 in 2020.

Unofficial Announcement for 31st Ship for World Youth Leaders Program 2019 #SWY31Participating countries:‬

Unofficial Announcement for 31st Ship for World Youth Leaders Program 2019 #SWY31

Participating countries:‬

#Japan 🇯🇵
#Australia 🇦🇺
#Chile 🇨🇱
#Ecuador 🇪🇨
#Greece 🇬🇷
#Solomon Islands 🇸🇧
#Sweden 🇸🇪
#Turkey 🇹🇷
#Tanzania 🇹🇿
#UAE 🇦🇪
#Vanuatu 🇻🇺

*Please wait for official announcement in corresponding countries. Follow news from Japanese Embassies and stay in touch with Alumni Associations to know about details.

**More details to be announced in the future.

SWYAA Winter Clothing Donation Campaign

In many countries around the world, too many people often lack basic clothing. This challenge is amplified particularly during the winter months.

We hope to engage as many of the SWY Alumni and Associations as possible to take part in the Winter Clothing Campaign.

Our main objective is to gather and donate winter clothing items to a worthy organization of your choice that is responsible for spreading them through to
[1] the most needly regions of the city; and
[2] homeless people in highly urbanized areas.

The type of clothing gathered and donated will depend on the local needs of the engaging SWYAA: winter clothes for the countries where winters are present, and regular clothes for those where they are not.
_____

Building on SWYAA Brazil’s project this past June, we are aiming to collect clothing items over the holidays in December and formally making the donation on January 18th – SWY International Day.

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How it works:

1) Join the Facebook event called “SWYAA Winter Clothing Donation Campaign” and connect with your SWYAA.
2) Gather as many (winter) clothes as you can within the schedule, paying attention to your hemisphere’s dates. Call family and friends to help you with this project! 🙂
3) Focus on donating to a worthy organization of your choice.
4) On International SWY Day post a picture to social media with hashtags: #SWYAAWCDC#SWYAA+engaging country, #SWY+edition of engaging members
5) Enjoy the connection with other Ex-PYs, work as a team and make a difference in your country.
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Examples of organizations you can donate to in Montreal:

CAPSS – Comité d’Action des Personnes Sans Statut

Jeunesse au Soleil / Sun Youth 

This project emerged from the joint action of SWYAA Brazil and SWYAA Canada. However, the spirit of this project is to be extended to all SWYAA around the globe.
Facebook event cover by Gabriela Rau (https://www.behance.net/gabirau) and Ítalo Silva

Humans of SWY

Follow Humans of SWY son Instagram – an initiative of SWY 29 Ex-JPY Yuki Yamamoto.

https://www.instagram.com/humansofswy

 

Here’s a taste:

“I’ve spent my whole life sort of in this limbo where on the one hand I really resented being indigenous because my mother’s Inuk but my father’s not; he’s white. As a kid, a lot of Inuit would bully me and say you’re not allowed to speak Inuktitut, that’s our language it’s not yours. Now I look back and I think wow that’s stupid but it really affected me as a kid and it’s one of the reasons that I did lose a lot of my Inuktitut. I grew to be afraid to speak it because I knew if I spoke it these kids would beat me up. And even in my house it was really hard for me to communicate because I felt like I was never Inuk enough for my family. They always saw me more as white than anything else. That really made it hard for me to form relationships with my family. But then I guess around 15 I was sort of like “that’s really stupid” because I have this amazing culture and these people, my people, have been so oppressed for so long, why would I push that on us even more? My mother’s always been very proud and very active in the Inuit community and I remember spending months on the land camping and learning how to hunt and fish and all these really traditional things that a lot of people are losing now. When my parents separated I didn’t go out on the land as much to practice these traditions and that’s when I realized just how much it had shaped me and how important it is to allow this culture to grow and continue shaping everyone else.”

A post shared by Humans of SWY (@humansofswy) on

11th Global Assembly to take place in UAE

The Global Assembly aims to foster cultural understanding, enhance communication skills among diverse cultures and create an international platform for youth to promote cross-cultural cooperation and understanding allowing those youth to develop common perspectives about many of the pressing issues that require innovative solutions, in addition to highlighting the UAE government’s role in supporting and empowering youth. The Global Assembly participants are ex-participants of Ship for World Youth Programme.

The 12th Global Assembly will take place in Tonga.

http://swyuae.ae/

Source: http://wam.ae/en/details/1395302643936

 

SWY29 Testimonial – Henry Tsang

If world peace existed, what would it look like? I’ve seen it with my own eyes: Buyo dancers, Bollywood dancers, Lakalaka dancers and Hip-Hop dancers dance to each other’s rhythms. Sumo wrestlers, capoeira fighters and ninjas practice each other’s art. Maori, Inuit and Ryukyuan sing each other’s folk songs. Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists revere each other’s values. Canadians, Ukrainians, Costa Ricans, Indians, Fijians, New Zealanders, Egyptians, Kenyans, Brazilians, Tongans and Japanese speak each other’s languages. We were 11 countries, 240 young world leaders on a voyage to 4 countries for 45 days, with one mission, to better the world. A brief glimpse of the perfect world, where no walls divide us, but one ship unite us: this was my SWY experience.

By Henry Tsang