The first cohort of Canadians who are traveling to Tanzania, Senegal, South Africa, Mexico and Brazil for six-month internships related to sustainable economic development and food security.


SFU’s new International Youth Internships Program offers experiential learning abroad

November 24, 2015

By Diane Luckow

Victoria resident Jessica Steele will be heading to Senegal in early January 2016 to begin a six-month internship with the city of Dakar, where she will help with waste-management projects related to recycling, composting and landfill sites.

She is among nine recent post-secondary graduates, selected from 80 applicants across Canada, to participate in the first cohort of Simon Fraser University’s new International Youth Internships Program (IYIP).

Over the next two years, SFU will select 40 young Canadians to work in five countries on municipal projects related to sustainable economic development and food security. The participating countries are Tanzania, Senegal, South Africa, Mexico and Bolivia.

Funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD), the internships are jointly run by SFU’s Centre for Sustainable Community Development (CSCD) and Sustainable Cities International (SCI).

Both the CSCD and SCI have worked closely with the host cities to identify internship opportunities related to rapid urbanization and environmental degradation.

"This program is an exciting opportunity for SFU to help recent graduates develop their professional skills and global citizenship,” says Mark Roseland, director of the CSCD.

“Youth across the country will engage with nations experiencing very diverse urban growth challenges and will be able to make a difference in the lives of people in those communities."

Current internship projects include:

·      developing better housing and infrastructure in the poorest neighbourhoods of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

·      preserving an ecological zone and sustainable livelihoods in Durban, South Africa

·      combining food security initiatives with income-generating opportunities in Viacha, Bolivia

·      improving food security and disaster management in Los Cabos, Mexico

·      developing sustainable waste management initiatives in Dakar, Senegal

The internships program is a DFATD initiative to develop recent Canadian post-secondary graduates’ job skills while supporting Canada’s international partners to further their sustainable development goals. SFU is the first university to partner with DFATD to work on sustainable cities projects with overseas municipalities.

“The host cities are excited to receive young Canadians to help them plan and implement projects and programs that enhance local food production and diversity, and support small and mid-sized ‘green’ enterprises,” says Gretchen Ferguson, program co-lead with the CSCD.

“They look forward to the new ideas and approaches that interns can bring to their activities for improving the environmental and social sustainability of their municipal areas.”

In February 2016 SFU will seek a further 10 applicants for the next internship cohort. To qualify, applicants must be Canadian or a Permanent Resident, between the ages of 19 and 30, and a recent graduate of a degree or diploma program at a university, college, post-secondary school of technology, post-secondary institute or CEGEP. They should also have experience in sustainability, urban planning or environmental studies, and ideally will also have previous experience living or working in a developing country.

Steele, who graduated from the University of Victoria with a B.Sc. in marine biology earlier this month, has been involved in science summer camps with B.C. First Nations communities, and spent several childhood years in Burundi, Africa. She became interested in community development while working with the capacity-building coordinator for the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation Fisheries Department.

“When I saw the IYIP, I was interested because it’s about sustainable community development,” she says.

“It seemed like a really cool opportunity to go abroad, experience a new culture, learn a lot of new skills and hopefully make a difference.”