Youth volunteerism builds leaders

Youth volunteerism builds leaders
Organization turns 40 with celebrations across the nation
by Kai Nestman
Published, The Powell River Peak: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 9:54 AM PDT
HELP ON THE GROUND: Pablo McDonald [left] and Kai Nestman of Canada World Youth 
volunteer with a local Pineapple Cooperative in Allada, Bénin. Kai Nestman Photo

For 40 years, Canada World Youth (CWY) has enabled 34,000 youth aged 15 to 29 to participate in international cooperation programs hosted by 11,000 families in over 67 countries. From October 17 to 23, the work of these volunteers and the significant impact that these experiences have had on thousands of youth around the world will be celebrated. Forty special events will be held in 40 different cities, and over 130 municipalities have officially proclaimed Canada World Youth Week.

CWY offers young people the opportunity to learn new languages, embrace diversity and improve awareness and appreciation for other cultures. CWY participants cultivate skills to become involved in community-based projects related to the environment, health and equity. For many of our youth volunteers, the experience is life-changing. CWY shapes who they are and who they will become.

As an organization, CWY contributes to the implementation of the UN Millennium Development Goals and trains new generations of youth to become active global citizens. CWY participants volunteer more than one million hours every year by building youth leadership in Canada and around the world.

Enriching the lives of young Canadians has never been more important. This past September, Canada’s youth unemployment rate stood at 14 per cent. This means that more than 400,000 Canadians aged 15 to 24 were still looking to enter the job market. CWY offers youth a bridge to other countries when other avenues are closed to them. At its best, CWY offers youth the chance to apply their skills and passion in a meaningful experience, at home and overseas. Youth are empowered through these experiences.

Powell River has been an outstanding host community for CWY and will again host a Canada-Vietnam group this coming December.

Today, as it moves beyond the national events of the 40th anniversary, CWY is committed to broadening its approach to youth leadership. Programs must be accessible. As the value of volunteerism and community engagement grows, the organization must reach out to young people from first nations, Inuit and Métis communities, as well as youth from rural areas. It wants to engage youth from every socio-economic group, even those not accustomed to turning their sights overseas.

Canada has some two million citizens living abroad. Many do fabulous work as volunteers. Organizations like CWY focus on young people from all parts of Canada, giving them a platform and opportunity to volunteer abroad. They represent the leading edge of this country’s soft power and a huge advantage for Canadian business and Canadians at large.

Kai Nestman, originally from Sechelt, participated in Canada World Youth’s 2009-2010 Youth Leaders in Action program in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec and Allada, Benin. He is also a member of the Canada World Youth board of directors.

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