For many YCA volunteers, their project serves as an important catalyst for future career choices and opportunities. For others, it is the gateway to a network of socially aware youth who continue to share common goals and interests as they pursue life after project. A few of our hundreds of Alumni have shared where life has taken them in the months and years after volunteering with YCA.
Experience: YCA Group Leader- Costa Rica, 2001; YCA Office Staff Costa Rica, 2001-2002; YCA Executive Director 2003-2004; Country Program Coordinator, South Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, World Vision Australia, 2009; YCA Board, 2009; Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy Advisor.
Where are they now:Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy Advisor, Oxfam Great Britain, England, 2011
After I left YCA I worked with International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Aceh after the tsunami as a Grants Officer then Field Coordinator, until end of February 2006. I then worked for a local NGO in East Timor called the Judicial Systems Monitoring Program as Advisor, Victim Support Service.
After Timor I went back to IRC again, and worked as Protection/Rule of Law Program Manager in South Darfur, Sudan. We provided legal information and advice to internally displaced persons. I was in Darfur for 9 months, and then in Pakistan, with the Norwegian Refugee Council then back in Australia with World Vision. I am currently working as a Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy Advisor with Oxfam Great Britain. My job involves being flown around from one crisis to another, on short term deployments of 2-3 months, contributing to the development of policy and engaging in advocacy on a range of issues such as aid effectiveness, humanitarian financing and the protection of civilians.
One thing I would say about YCA is that it brings you into a strong network of like-minded people that you’re never too far away from. I feel like wherever I go, there’s a reasonable chance I’ll meet past YCA-ers, and it’s nice to be part of that. It says a lot for the YCA experience, too, that so many past volunteers go on to do development or emergency work.
Experience: Bachelor of Environmental Management (major Human Geography) 2006-2008; Conservation Volunteers Australia Volunteer 2007; Macquarie University Global Leadership Program 2006-2009; YCA Volunteer Vanuatu 2008; Human Geography honors degree (first class hons) 2009; Macquarie University
Where are they now:Human Geography Research Officer, Sydney, 2011
Following my involvement in the Vanuatu YCA project, I went back to Macquarie University to complete my honours degree in Human Geography. My honours thesis was inspired by my experience with YCA and my interest in community development, international volunteering and more broadly ‘pro-poor’/ eco-tourism initiatives. Since receiving a first class honours I have been recommended to publish work from my thesis and plan to sometime later this year. I am now currently working at Macquarie University where I am involved in three Human geographical research projects. One project in particular involves addressing gender equality in development work by working alongside South Pacific communities, with specific relevance to Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Fiji. I am planning to begin my PhD next year within the broad area of community level development and participatory action research. This may even include going back to Vanuatu!
The interaction with local people was by far the highlight of my experience, so much so I am planning to return in the near future! Both volunteers and the host community we stayed with benefited from such unique interaction as we formed strong friendships, learned from each other, gained understanding and shared knowledge. We embraced rather than challenged difference, recognised diversity, and became privileged listeners to multiple perspectives and learners of multiple types of knowledge.
For the above reason, the YCA experience is an experience that continues to give personally, professionally. It continues to give life to a number of opportunities that have enabled me to direct my passion for research work towards my interests in Pacific geography and community development initiatives. Even now, I constantly draw upon my experiences from project and incorporate lessons learnt into my daily life, and will do so for years to come.
Where are they now:Water Cycle 2010-Cross country cyclist raising money and awareness for Charity: Water, United States of America, 2011
After I left YCA I continued to travel and ended up returning to the USA to work for the American Youth Foundation, Miniwanca as the director of their Wilderness Expedition program. Working for the AYF gave me the opportunity to expand my professional guiding and program management skills as well as allowing me to inspire many young high school students to discover their best and make positive differences in their communities. Moving on from the AYF I travelled back to Central America to volunteer in Guatemala as a trekking guide with a non profit , all volunteer organisation called quetzaltrekkers. My roles there were varied but the majority of my time was spent taking tourists on treks around Guatemala's highlands and volcanoes with all proceeds benefitting a street school and a home for Guatemala's disadvantaged youth. At the end of my time with Quetzaltrekkers I returned to Costa Rica to visit briefly the community and site of my YCA 2006 volunteer project, La Paz. Following Costa Rica I returned to the USA to plan and prepare for a cross country cycling trip called Water Cycle 2010. Myself and two friends developed the idea and the ride in order to raise awareness and money for a non profit charity known as ‘Charity: Water’. Currently I am in my first week of the trip and have just clocked over 250kms, with over 5,000 to go!
YCA was my window and gateway into an unknown but remarkable world. Never before had I felt that my actions truly made a difference in the lives of others or that an experience could connect me with a community for life. The people that joined and worked beside me to create truly remarkable results are the people that have impacted me the most. A small group of committed individuals really can make an incredible difference and they are my inspiration today to continue positively changing the lives of others.
Costa Rica, 2005
Experience: Bachelor of Commerce, Melbourne University, 2004; Advertising Coordinator and Volunteer Match Coordinator, Pro Bono Australia, 2006; Consultant, Cardno Acil (International Development Consultancy firm), 2007 to 2009; Masters of International and Public Law, Melbourne University, 2010; Independent Consultant, India and Australia, 2010.
Where are they now:Programme Development Manager, Belaku Trust India, 2011
After my YCA experience and subsequent travel in 2005, I pursued a career in the non-profit sector in Australia with a social enterprise, Pro Bono Australia, who offered services to the non-profit sector in the areas of media, information, jobs and suppliers.
At the start of 2007 I joined Cardno Acil, a large international development consultancy which manages government and multilateral aid programs. Over my three years and Cardno Acil I worked in program management and business development in the South-East Asia region and Papua New Guinean.
A highlight for me was working on the PNG-Australia Law and Justice program where I spent considerable time in-country working directly with AusAID, the Papua New Guinean Government and many technical advisers. The learning from this sort of exposure was invaluable and I gained a few great mentors along the way.
I also undertook several private sector client assignments for resource companies who engage in community development programs or social impact assessments in PNG. At the end of 2009 I moved to Bangalore, India, where I have worked with non-profits to strengthen their program management, monitoring and evaluation and fundraising process. Alongside this I have taken a part-time position with Belaku Trust as the Programme Development Manager. Belaku Trust works with rural communities to improve health outcomes and generate meaningful income opportunities for rural women.
My YCA experience has been very significant for me. It not only cemented the idea that I wanted to work in international development but it also gave me confidence to pursue a career in the sector. The on-the-ground perspective of community development work so early in my career has shaped my approach to development ever since. One of the best things I gained from the YCA experience is the friends I made along the way both on project and return volunteers I meet in Melbourne (who now live all around the world!). It was the first time I met other young people who wanted to do the same things in life that I did and were passionate about exploring the world, other cultures and contributing.
Experience:Bachelor of Nursing, Latrobe University; Oaktree Foundation Intern, 2007; Bachelor of Science (Public Health & Psychology), Melbourne 2009 - 2010.
Where are they now:Care and Disability Support Worker for people with spinal cord and acquired brain injuries, 2011.
After my YCA experience I decided to go back to University to study Nursing (graduate entry), as I realised from my YCA experience that I wanted to combine my previous degree and experiences with the practical skills and direct level of care of nursing. I envision that once I have had enough nursing experience, I will be able to combine my expertise to work in developing countries and communities within aid and development agencies. My long-term goal is to work for organisations such as Medicine Sans Frontier and the Red Cross. I also want to use my skills to work within Indigenous Communities within Australia.
The period of time I spent in Guyana in 2008 was significant in many ways. I learnt so much about myself and about human nature. Living within a group in such remote conditions was definitely challenging in many ways, but was an invaluable learning experience that I often still reflect on!
I also learnt about community facilitation, cross-cultural communication, engagement, conflict management, and ethical professionalism that I have taken with me into many other situations. Additionally, I met some amazing like-minded people and saw a stunningly beautiful country. I consider the YCA experience a critical stepping stone, as it opened many doors. This experience was like no other and will remain one of the most significant times of my life!
Experience: Sydney University - Bachelor of Applied Science, Exercise and Sports Science 2006; Sydney University - Master of Physiotherapy, 2009.
Where are they now:Prince of Wales Hospital, Physiotherapist, New South Wales, 2011.
After working with YCA in Guyana I came home and began work as a personal trainer. But I found that the interest in development that the YCA experience spawned in me wasn't being satisfied. Just as Fred Hollows chose the specialty of Ophthalmology because it was an area where he felt he could "make a difference" I decided to study physiotherapy for the same reason (though I am definitely no Fred Hollows).
I was fortunate enough to gain a scholarship from the Hoc Mai Foundation to work in the Spinal Rehabilitation Unit at the Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi, Vietnam during the course of my studies which fed my interest in development even more. I am now busy developing my physiotherapy knowledge and skills here in Australia so that sometime in the near future I can put them to good use and pass them on to other therapists who haven't had the luxury of the training I have had.
Before my YCA experience I definitely had an interest in development and an active social conscience. But like most interests you never know if it's something you would like to continue to do until you get in there and try it. For me the YCA experience opened up a world of possibilities and was a definite influence on the direction my life and career have taken since. Put simply, it's a great way to test the waters of development work while doing something worthwhile at the same time.
Costa Rica, 2006-2007
Experience: YCA Returned Volunteer State Coordinator, 2007-2008; Darfur Australia Network Communications Coordinator, 2007-2009.
Where are they now:Communications Officer, UNIFEM, Timor-Leste, 2011.
After I finished with YCA in Costa Rica I went back to Melbourne University to finish my honours degree in philosophy at which time (due to my YCA experience) I wrote a thesis on individual responsibility and global poverty. I then went on to start my Masters of International Development at RMIT. During this time I volunteered as the Communications Coordinator at the Darfur Australia Network, a community group for Darfuri refugees in Melbourne and Sydney. My role was to assist in raising awareness of the situation in Darfur, through media opinion pieces and events, such as the Far to Here Art exhibition which travelled to Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra. I am currently working for UNIFEM Timor-Leste as a Communications Officer, raising awareness on UNIFEM programmes in Timor-Leste. I am also working within this role in supporting the UNIFEM gender resource centre in National Parliament to raise awareness on gender issues with Timor-Leste’s politicians and broader society.
YCA changed my life. When I signed up, development was something I was interested in, but never thought of as a career. Since YCA, my studies, my volunteering and now my work have all been focused on development and being able to assist others living the lives they dream of. My experiences in Costa Rica and Timor-Leste have made me want to continue working in developing countries.
Costa Rica, 2007
Experience:YCA volunteer Costa Rica 2007-2008; Australian National University - Bachelor of Arts (International Relations)/Bachelor of Economics (2005-2008); Reconciliation Australia - Communications/Research Assistant (2006-2008); United Nations Association of Australia (ACT Division) - Executive Committee Member/Secretary (2009-present); AusAID - Graduate (2009-2010).
Where are they now: AusAID, Burma Program Officer, 2011.
I was a YCA volunteer in Costa Rica mid-way through completing my Arts degree at ANU. While I was studying I worked part-time at Reconciliation Australia as a research assistant for the Communications team. After I graduated I was accepted into AusAID's Graduate Development Program in 2009. During my grad year I did 3 rotations through the agency: Demand for Better Governance Unit, Economics and Public Finance Section and the Burma Unit. After finishing the Graduate Program I took up a permanent position as a Program Officer in the Burma Unit managing health, livelihoods and protection programs.
My experience as a YCA volunteer in Costa Rica definitely helped to get me where I am today. I learnt a lot about community development and had a lot of fun along the way. But more than that, I now have some lasting friendships with my group and community and some enduring memories and experience that I draw on often.
Costa Rica, 2001
Experience: YCA Volunteer Costa Rica 2001; YCA QLD Coordinator 2002-2008; University of QLD; Bachelor of Arts (Psych); QLD University of Technology; Currenlty completing Grad Dip OH&S.
Where are they now: HSE & Risk Coordinator. Origin Energy, 2011.
Immediately after my project I travelled around South America and Europe with the great mates I had met on project. On return to Australia I began university but still felt I could continue to help somehow, so I took on the role of QLD Coordinator to assist with all things Queensland. Post university I found myself as an OH&S Advisor in the Construction industry until finally landing in the Oil & Gas industry. Looking back to my project in rural Costa Rica, I have found that the YCA experience has left me with the confidence and open mindedness to seize the oppurtunities my career allows, whether it be negotiating a tactical solution or jumping into a 4WD and heading into remote central QLD.
When I embarked on my project I had just turned 18 and really wanted to experience someting outside of the comforts of home, school and Australia. I felt that I couldn't make an informed decision on the next phase on my life in regards to study and career path until I had challenged myself and experienced the lives and cultures of others both the less fortunate and those trying to help them. I felt intrigued by their motivation, resolve to keep moving and pure happiness in life void of material possessions. From this the YCA program instilled in me a resolve that I could take on anything, and an optimism that whilst life often throws lemons, it is your initiaitive and attitude that makes them into lemonade!
Experience: YCA Volunteer Guyana Feb 2005; Orientation and Mobility Instructor in the Children’s Service at Guide Dogs Victoria, Latrobe University - Graduate diploma of Orientation and Mobility 2008, Volunteer in multiple orphanages in Peru for 2 months 2006; Nursing London UK 2004-2005; 'Kick Polio Out of Africa' Immunisation campaign 1 month 2003; Bachelor of Nursing 2002.
Where are they now:Visiting Primary School Nurse with Department of Education and Early Childhood Development,2011.
After Guyana I returned to the UK and continued with agency work as a nurse, then returned to Brisbane for 4 months before traveling to Peru for a 3 month trip. I incorporated volunteer experiences into the travel plans with small local organisations linked to orphanages.
I feel it would be impossible to replicate the YCA experience and it has definitely had a huge impact on how I identify myself. I still look at sunsets and think of bucket showers; muddy, dirt roads and think of ox cart trips; rice and think of rice pudding, when I meet children through my work with the same names as the ones that I met in Guyana, those little Guyanese faces flash into my head as clear as a photo… I will never forget. It ensured I had at least one friend in Melbourne when I moved interstate and we still catch up now frequently and chat about Guyana among other things.I am still in contact with some of the group through facebook and am in contact with my team leader who is still in Guyana.