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!



SWY Camp in Sweden

Written with excerpts from SWYAA Sweden

In the beginning of August, SWYers from all around the globe gathered in beautiful Stockholm where they spent a week attending Sweden’s SWY Camp.

The trip entailed two days spent in Stockholm sightseeing and four days at camp Västeräng located by Sweden’s second largest lake.  Fourteen different batches from eleven countries were represented.

“Friends from all over the world reunited to spend one week together, water skiing, kayaking, wall climbing and playing traditional Swedish games” says Mifuyu Shimizu from Japan.

At official reunions there is little time for casual conversations and spontaneous networking. Camp SWY provided the alternative; a laid-back, relaxed and informal event where old and new SWY bonds could grow and flourish.

“We wanted to reconnect to the SWY spirit by offering an opportunity to foster international relationships, personal development and cross-cultural connections” says SWYAA Sweden.

The planning process took 6 people. “We started a year ahead and moved over to having short meetings every second week for briefing and updates” says Carolina Hawranek of SWYAA Sweden.

K-G Eriksson, SWY Sweden’s treasurer first came up with the idea of doing a reunion at his campsite back in 2011. “It took almost 6 years until we had a board strong enough to start planning” he says.

They spread the duties amongst themselves, from budgeting, embassy contacts, bookings, accommodations, etc.

“To have small reunions is a wonderful way to fill up my SWY spirit” says K-G Eriksson. In particular, he enjoyed having so many new friends know Sweden- not just the internationally known facts but the downsides and background stories too. “It was fun to see them come to a normal Swedish supermarket and meet local swede’s” says Eriksson.

The camp was truly a communal effort, with participants being divided in letter groups to help with food and dishes. “A lot of things in SWY camp were so memorable from the long walking tour in Stockholm, the museums,  beautiful lakes and the food time ringing the bell” says Mahmood Alfarsi from Oman.

K-G Erikkson describes the time spent together as wonderful. “If you have a strong SWYAA board, I would absolutely recommend making something similar” he says.

“The Swedish love nature and the outdoors. We would love to host a similar activity in Spain!” comments Paloma from Spain, “SWY spirit for me is the wish of keeping our connections alive and feeling like you are part of the SWY family-a family that keeps growing even after SWY ends”.

Carolina from SWYAA Sweden says to not underestimate the work load of getting PY’s signed up and reminding them about transferring their fees.

“But once the SWYers arrive it’s all worth it!” she exclaims.

Photos provided by Mahmood Alfarsi and Carolina Hawranek


SWYing in Bahrain

SWYAA Bahrain  invited SWYers to participate in The First Global Youth Festival for SDGs 2018 in the Kingdom of Bahrain from October 20th to 26th. Sareema Husain from SWY 29’s Canadian delegation was selected alongside Matika Lauzon, and this is her account of it.

If I am to speak of my first visit to the Middle East, where do I begin? Do I tell you of the brilliance of the colossal mosques, their pointed tops paramounting the skyline? Or the grittiness of the desert and towering skyscrapers that were planted in the thick of it. The pastel colors –cashmeres, gold and off whites- provided a calming backdrop to the jutting signs of industrialization. Bahrain is a country comprised of 30 islands in the Arabian Gulf. Many of these islands are manmade which explains the empty square plots of land that lay in between the fancy hotels, lounges and cafes.



We visit the Isa Cultural Center and the Al Fateh Grand Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world. It is strikingly huge, with a big open square in the middle surrounded by pillars made from Bahraini limestone. We don traditional abaya’s and thobe’s and follow the tour guide as he educates us about the long-standing history of the place. Built in 1987, the mosques carpet is from Ireland, the crystal chandelier from Austria, the carved doors from India and the glass globes from France. We stand underneath the central dome, the largest fiberglass dome in the world. “This is where we make all the bombs” he jokes. His humor is refreshing. As we are leaving, I spot a dusty cloud rushing to us in the horizon. In awe, I stand and stare at it; it’s rare I see clouds move so fast. Suddenly, I’m covering my eyes with my scarf and grinning at the novelty. I’ve been caught in my first sand storm!

The conference itself had insightful speakers brought in from all over the world. A blind man named Simon Wheatcroft sharing how technology has enabled him to run marathons without the use of a guide. A hacker named Jamie Woodruff tells us how we can all obtain free iPads with a little bit of trickery.  Gender equality, the changing face of the cyber age, and artificial intelligence-these were a few of the timely subjects the conference speakers elaborated on.


Lili Gil Valletta, cofounder of Cultural Intel, made me think about the impact of the language we use

Most importantly, the speakers reaffirmed what us SWYers know to be true. In terms of development, “it takes someone with a cultural perspective to bring up the tough questions”. How you interpret the world is how your brain is trained to see it. I was reminded how SWY primed us to act in a global sense, armored with the realization that cross pollination breeds creativity. SWY was a space that welcomed diversity and implemented in us ways to hold multiple views of reality and appreciate alternative value systems. It was humbling to remember that this beautiful structure we created could inspire us to demand for trust, accountability and transparency in larger institutions.

However, such pretty words aren’t applicable to all. During the Q&A session, a young girl raised the question: “What if my society does not allow me to live my truths?”.  One speaker encouraged her to build communities, pockets of resilience that could eventually forefront change. Another said to focus on changing systems instead of biased minds.

Visiting the fort was a highlight for me. Little did I expect this to be beside a high end shopping mall

Walking around the Manama shopping district

Sleepy SWYers












Being from Pakistan, I had imagined the streets in Bahrain would be filled with food stalls, children scurrying underneath them and thick city musk filling the air. But apart from the harbors and markets, the streets were empty. I later realized that sidewalks were few; Bahrain was not very pedestrian friendly as a majority of Bahraini’s drive. In 2006, Bahrain was labeled as the fastest growing economy in the Arab World and today, students are primarily educated in banking, finance, science and technology. Moreso, I met more female engineers in one week in Bahrain than I have in my entire life. When asked if they were the outliers in a male dominated field, they said no. Women in Bahrain are highly educated, as Bahrain was the first gulf state to have education for women in 1920.

During the nights, a festival took place outside the stadium with various stalls where you could explore Virtual Reality, observe youth innovators SDG related inventions, or grab some food and relax on beanbags by the stage, immersed in Traditional Bahraini folk music. Every night had its sparkle. One night, I joined the bicycle tour and rode steadfast into the desert, a soothing momentary escape from the bustling festivities. Another night, SWYAA Bahrain took us to enjoy a traditional Bahraini meal. Indulged by the warmth of Bahraini hospitality, we sipped Karak chai as we exchanged SWY stories and ruminations of Japan.

The last night, we clambered onto a mini bus at 4a.m. and drove to The Tree of Life to catch the sunrise. The Tree of Life or Shajarat-al-Hayat is a 9.75 metres high Prosopis cineraria tree that is over 400 years old. 92% of Bahrain is Arabian desert yet the tree has miraculously managed to survive despite extreme temperatures and lack of fresh water or nutrients. A security guard watches over it at all hours, making sure no loiterers climb onto it and break the sacred branches. As we were making the drive to this cultural artifact transformed tourist attraction, the desert was barren but speckles of civilization ebbed and shined in the distance. Hammer like structures toiled into the earth; some of these oil fields were on fire and I mistakenly thought their eruptive glows were the sun rising more than once. The scenery felt almost dystopic; it was no coincidence that us SWYers on the bus were discussing who would die first in a zombie apocalypse.








That last night felt surreal, courtesy of the lack of sleep and desolate landscape. We lined up and took pictures as the sun rose up and claimed its spot in the pink cotton candy sky. On a beautiful island in the Persian Gulf, I was incredibly lucky to experience a sliver of SWY all over again. It happened so quickly; they told us of our acceptance a week before the festival and suddenly, I was staying up late in a 5-star hotel room trading candies and having experiences doused in culture alongside fellow SWYers I’d never met before but felt like family. It goes without saying, but I am incredibly grateful to SWYAA Bahrain for all hard work they put into enabling SWYers to attend this festival and making sure we had a memorable experience. Bahrain; your loving generosity and delicious hummus will not be forgotten!

Humans of SWY

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


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

Cross Cultural Understanding in a Globalized World

Kyiv, Ukraine


Diversity and inclusion is a concept best learned by experience, not research. On March 20th, 2017 I was fortunate enough to deepen my understanding of cross-cultural understanding with a group of fascinating students from Kyiv, Ukraine. Coincidentally, the visit to The European Collegium was to speak about just that. The importance of meeting, interacting, and exchanging with others is more relevant than ever. National boarders should be crossed, not armed. The word foreign should be celebrated, not feared. Curiosity is a natural beauty, not sin.


Through speaking and learning from a class of teenagers from Ukraine, I realized that cross-cultural is not a two way street, but an open sea. We do not travel down a road with a single intention in sight ahead. Our bearings lead us in many directions and learning is a constant process along the way. The Ship for World Youth Program fosters this international journey for all participants, and expands its reach to friends and family all over the world.


A very special SWY alumnus once said that life on board is just an appetizer. The real feast begins when we disembark the ship and join the global family for dinner. I didn’t know what they meant at the time, but I do now. This experience was enriching beyond anything imaginable while sailing the South Pacific on Nippon Maru. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to educate the leaders of tomorrow about a fantastic program called SWY.


Thank you to SWYAA Ukraine for their generous hospitality. To the greater SWYAA family, I cannot wait to meet you all in the future. After all, it’s all aboat the journey.

Kevin Kobayashi

SWY29 Canada

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

BLOOM – Be A Leader and Open Other’s Minds

Guest post by Kevin Kobayashi

On January 24, 2017 Prime Minister Mr. Shinzo Abe compared SWY PY’s to buds of the sakura tree.  As one develops and flourishes into blossoming leaders, their true beauty inside and out is revealed to the world. In the past 5 months since SWY 29, the world has been my hanami. Every post-SWY visit has been humbling and inspiring, which has widened the horizons of my points of view, like the endless Pacific sunset. Here are a few of my adventures:

Anastasiia Stasiuk (SWY 29 Ukraine), Yaroslav Kucher (SWY 29 Ukraine), Anya Bobino (SWY 29 Ukraine), Mykhailo Zhernakov (SWY 29 Ukraine), Pavlo Kotenko (SWY 29 Ukraine), Alisa Berezutska (SWY 29 Ukraine), Kevin Kobayashi (SWY 29 Canada), Andrii Dovhyi (SWY 29 Ukraine), Svitlana Yarova (SWY 29 Ukraine), Rostyslav Kubik (SWY 29 Ukraine), Lidiia Kozhevnikova (SWY 29 Ukraine).

Anastasiia Stasiuk (SWY 29 Ukraine, Kevin Kobayashi (SWY 29 Canada), Svitlana Yarova (SWY 29 Ukraine), Lidiia Kozhevnikova (SWY 29 Ukraine).


Svitlana Yarova (SWY 29 Ukraine), Kevin Kobayashi (SWY 29 Canada), Andrii Dovhyi (SWY 29 Ukraine), Anastasiia Stasiuk (SWY 29 Ukraine), Alisa Berezutska (SWY 29 Ukraine), Mykhailo Zhernakov (SWY 29 Ukraine).

Julie Sasaki (SWY 29 Japan), Kevin Kobayashi (SWY 29 Canada)

Kevin Kobayashi (SWY 29 Canada), Ievgen Kozin (SWY 29 Ukraine)

Kevin Kobayashi (SWY 29 Canada), Ievgen Kozin (SWY 29 Ukraine), Nesma Attiatalla (SWY 29 Egypt)

Kevin Kobayashi (SWY 29 Canada), Nesma Attiatalla (SWY 29 Egypt)



Ievgen Kozin (SWY 29 Ukraine), Ilshat Sultanovich (SWY 28 Russia), Kevin Kobayashi (SWY 29 Canada).

Haruka Nakamura (SWY 29 Japan), Kevin Kobayashi (SWY 29 Canada)

Kevin Kobayashi (SWY 29 Canada), David Lipton (SWY 29 Canada), Yuuta Takamiya (SWY 29 Admin)

Emily Moon (SWY 24 Canada), Fabiola Alvarado (SWY Peru 21), Mike LaFleur (SWY 18/21 Canada), Raquel Saabe (SWY 23 Mexico), Carol Lee (SWY 11 Canada), Kevin Kobayashi (SWY 29 Canada)

Julie Sasaki (SWY 29 Japan), Kevin Kobayashi (SWY 29 Canada), Andrea Rojas (SWY 29 Costa Rica), not pictured here: SWY 29 Costa Rican Delegation, Tawhana Chadwick (SWY 29 New Zealand)


A look back at SWY 29: Selected photos

A look back at SWY 29: Selected photos

Happy Pride Month Saskatoon! 

Thank you OUTSaskatoon and the USSU Pride Centre for supporting a Pride Space during SWY 29. Young global leaders from 11 countries came together to share experiences and learn tools to create safe spaces in their own communities. Building a more loving and accepting world, one step at a time.

Happy Pride Month Saskatoon!
Stephanie Shyluk

Thank you!

It has been a few weeks since the SWY 29 Canadian delegation has returned from Tokyo. Packed to the brim with teachings and heartfelt memories, they have been busy executing their post-program activities.

We would like to take a moment to show gratitude to our generous donors. The funds raised went a long way in purchasing items for our national presentation, costumes, and Canadian night, where the delegation was given the opportunity to showcase Canadian culture to fellow participants on the boat. We worked diligently as a team, supporting others and putting our best foot forward and this would not have been possible without your support. Thank you for enabling us to represent Canada to the best of our ability.

Special thanks to:

Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre

Marty Kobayashi

Jerry & Karen Shyluk

Amy Logan

Barb Brophey

Andy & Canty Tsang

Joseph Wong

Dawna Kobayashi

Roy and Mary Matsui

Mathieu Arsenault

Sharon Marubashi

Luisa Borja

Anne Blanchard

Mike Lauzon

Christine Martel-Fleming

Yukari Yomogisawa

Henry’s KMU Colleagues

Ted Arts

Sylvie T

Melanie Morris

Yvonne Lo

Noriko Yokota

The Government of Japan

The Government of Canada

FujiFilm Instax


McGill University

Nova Scotia Fisherman

Rovetta & CO

Western University

Canadian Tire

Mcdonald’s Canada


Buda Juice

Tim Hortons