By Sangeetha Ram
Earlier this year, several talented YMCA staff were given the opportunity through The Henry Labatte Scholarship to travel to one of our International Partner YMCAs in Ghana, Mexico, Senegal, and Colombia. YMCA staff helped with a variety of projects, including health and recreation program development, youth civic engagement, inclusion initiatives, day camp facilitation, and environmental programs.
YMCA Day Camps staff Leigh Coffey and Stephanie Barker had an excellent experience in Mexico where they worked with children and youth at Camp Camohmila, a day camp 1.5 hours north of Mexico City. While in Mexico, they learned a lot about the way YMCA Mexico operates and understood more about the dedication and passion the staff put into their daily work. “My cultural learning and new experiences from living in a different global community has changed the way I view the world, cultures and communities outside of my own,” Stephanie says. “I am excited to be able to continue my global learning on my return home.”
Another participant who had an eye-opening experience is Melisanne Loiselle, who had the opportunity to travel to Medellin, Colombia and share best practices about sustainable farming. Melisanne found that her love for the environment and agriculture brought her closer to the local farmers and helped her create strong friendships. Her work with children and teachers at various rural schools also taught her the importance of sharing in communities. “All my visits to rural schools were filled with laughter and hard work,” Melisanne say. “The children and teachers I met all showed me that growing and sharing food makes communities stronger.”
The Henry Labatte Scholarship gives YMCA staff the chance to contribute their expertise and ideas while learning about how YMCAs are responding to community needs in other parts of the world. Staff who are awarded the scholarship help global YMCA communities transform and thrive while also gaining skills and ideas to enhance their own communities back in Canada. The exchange helps staff connect with communities all around the world, strengthens bonds, and boosts understanding between YMCAs worldwide.