20 Jun Canadian Volunteers level up their careers by participating in the Young Americas Forum in Peru

Canadian volunteers at EQWIP HUBs Lima, Peru, were honoured to participate in the YABT (Young Americas Business Trust) Young Americas Forum where youth, as social actors, actively participate in the process of the Summit of Americas. This year the event took place in Lima, Peru, and Canadian volunteers Gabriela Barends (Volunteer Gender Equality Advisor) and Allison Clayton (Volunteer Environmental Sustainability Officer) were invited to share their experience and discuss current challenges that youth are facing in Peru and globally. The forum offered an important platform for young people to bring forward recommendations, suggestions and actions to leaders and policymakers across the Americas. Gabriela and Allison also contributed to defining the priorities and mandates of the Summits and add invaluable experience to their resume. We asked Gabriela about her experience.

In what capacity did you participate in the forum?

The forum started with specialized focus groups that explored the three main topics of the event: corruption and democratic governance, corruption and sustainable development, and engaging relationships between public and private institutions. The focus groups were both enlightening and engaging. As a Canadian Latin American, I have the distinct advantage of seeing these issues from two lenses. I could see how proposals of effective practices in Canada could not immediately work in other countries, but I could envision how we could adapt them to the context of every population we want to influence.

I also had the opportunity to meet youth delegates from every region of the Americas and I was chosen to present our proposals to the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS). The presentation had four main points we proposed to the Secretary-General: to educate younger generations to democratically participate through voting so their voices are heard, to focus on using technology and e-governance to share information, to address the necessity to have effective law enforcement, and to create youth councils in every country to keep those in power accountable.

What impact did the forum have for you personally?

On the second day, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel session of Latin American women entrepreneurs and leaders, which was really empowering and enlightening for me. It makes a huge difference to see yourself represented in a group of leaders who came from diverse social conditions and empowered themselves to reach their goals. I got to meet and connect with youth from other countries in the Americas, see and hear world leaders who focus on this region and get inspired by stories of young people who overcame adversity. In one of the panels, I learned of a fellow Canadian’s efforts to improve the rights of children with disabilities in Nicaragua. It was inspiring to see that there is so much more to focus on and work towards in this region. The doors are open, and the opportunities are out there but it is all up to the youth to seize them.

What message were you able to convey?

On the third day of the forum, we were honoured to meet with the Canadian Ambassador to Peru and Bolivia, Gwyneth Kutz, and the Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau. Prime Minister Trudeau asked us about our experiences volunteering in Peru and the challenges we see here. I replied that a big challenge was the lack of role models for Peruvian youth, especially among country leaders. I mentioned that our roles as Canadian volunteers, through our organizations and capacity building programs, have given us the opportunity to help inspire local youth to reach their potential.

Afterwards, the Canadian ambassador asked us how we could better engage with the youth in Latin America. She also wanted to hear about how we could find solutions that fit the Peruvian realities. I suggested that we find ways to better relate with the youth and build more equitable relationships. 

What is your take away from the Forum?

My volunteer experience at EQWIP HUBs Lima, Peru, as a Volunteer Gender Equality Advisor helped give me the opportunity to be involved in the forum. I was able to speak about gender equality and Canada’s efforts towards that goal with the Canadian ambassador to Peru and Bolivia. I can’t say if this is a fortunate turn of events or if it is a culmination of all my efforts and goals. There are many other Canadians who deserved to have this opportunity. Either way, I am humbled to have this opportunity and I hope that I can have the honour to represent Canada and Latin America once again in the future.

Gain marketable and career-building skills by volunteering overseas and live a truly unique and transformative experience. EQWIP HUBs offers Canadian volunteers the opportunity to make a lasting impact in Bolivia, Ghana, Indonesia, Peru, Senegal and Tanzania.

Collaborating in partnership with a global network, you will join forces with local youth seeking new, job-ready skills and acquire some of your own in the process. With departures throughout the year in January, March, May, July, September and November, we can find the right position for you based on your skills and availability.

A world of experience is available. Are you?

EQWIP HUBs powered by Canada World Youth and Youth Challenge International and is funded, in part, by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada.