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Member Profile September 2015




From left to right: Karl Flecker, George Leach, Nelly Mbugua, Priscilla Sabbas, Karista Olson, Rita S. Karakas, and Ivan Escobar at the CWY Youth Leadership Awards in June 2015

This month, CCIC met with Canada World Youth President-CEO Rita S. Karakas, to talk about its new program EQWIP HUBs: Powering Sustainable Youth Livelihoods, why it is important for youth to play an active role in international development, what the SDGs mean for the organization, and what is behind Canada World Youth longevity which celebrates its 45th anniversary in 2016…among other things!


CCIC - Canada World Youth recently launched a program called EQWIP HUBs: Powering Sustainable Youth Livelihoods. Can you tell us more about this program as well as your partnership with Youth Challenge International?

Rita S. Karakas - CWY is proud of its new program EQWIP HUBs: Powering Sustainable Youth Livelihoods. The project is powered by the strategic alliance of Canada World Youth and Youth Challenge International (YCI). As two of Canada’s foremost organizations focused on youth development, we bring 70+ years of youth engagement and transformational learning. This is a critical initiative on behalf of CWY and a highly valued relationship and we look forward going global.

A five-year initiative will look at the different elements that can have a positive influence on youth livelihoods, particularly young women. Through hubs located in urban and semi urban centres, the project will offer employability and entrepreneurship training that is responsive to local realities. At the same time, it will foster collaboration among local governments, the private sector and civil society to leverage local resources and create more opportunities for youth.


CCIC - Youth empowerment, development and leadership is at the core of Canada World Youth's mandate. Why it is important for youth to play an active role in international development and what makes their contributions unique?

Rita S. Karakas - We have always worked to support youth leaders. We want youth to become agents of change so they can become key players in participating actively in the development of just, harmonious and sustainable societies. We believe that youth have the capacity to create positive change now. This is why we give youth the opportunity and support to step up, lead and make a difference. They gain skills such as communication, language, project management, facilitation, problem solving, critical thinking and so many more! We know that given this opportunity, youth will go on to fill important leadership positions in their own communities.

One after another, our volunteers return from their CWY programs describing their experience as unforgettable, eye-opening and life-changing. They also come to understand the challenges, opportunities and successes of international development through their community-driven projects. We believe that youth, if given the opportunity and the skills, will take on positive leadership roles in all our communities, inspiring other youth to do the same! It is a fantastic, youth-led, ripple effect!


CCIC - As you know the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be officially adopted at the UN this month. What is the meaning of the SDGs for an organization like Canada World Youth? How will it influence your work?

Rita S. Karakas - Our programs already reflect the Millennium Development Goals. Since the SDGs expand on the unfinished business of the MDGs, we are reviewing our future programming to reflect these new global goals. Unlike the MDGs, these goals are universal in nature, applying to all countries, not just developing ones. 1.7 billion global youth are aged between 15-25. Therefore it is important that we foster the right environment for our youth leaders, both Canadian and overseas, to empower them and help them develop skills, knowledge, and networks that will propel them forward. Since youth will be leading economic development in the future, let’s help them in implementing these sustainable goals and in making them happen.


CCIC - In 2016 Canada World Youth will celebrate its 45th anniversary. What is behind CWY's longevity?

Rita S. Karakas - CWY was created to offer young people from Canada and around the world an opportunity to open themselves to other cultures while acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to become active, engaged global citizens. We continually improved upon our innovative model based on non-formal education as well as self-evaluation to determine the impact of our programs to better position ourselves for the future. 38,000 youth from Canada and overseas have participated in our programs. That makes for a lot of people talking about its profound long-lasting impact. And let’s not forget the host families and host community members. They have also benefited and grown through their experience.


CCIC - Canada World Youth is a longstanding CCIC member. What are the main benefits of being part of a national coalition like CCIC?

Rita S. Karakas - We regard highly CCIC insights, communications and opportunities when looking at broad sectoral issues and value highly how CCIC has evolved.



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