Stéphanie Beaudoin

Alumnus, Youth Leaders in Action, India and Quebec

My Canada World Youth Experience: I’ve experienced CWY several ways throughout my life. Before the program, when I dreamed about it. During the program, when I lived it with every fibre of my being. Directly after the program, when I took Hindi courses at McGill University. Working on reception at CWY’s head office before resuming my Cégep studies. Thirteen years later, spending two marvellous years working for the NetCorps coalition, creating information and computer technology internships in developing countries. Finally, lending my voice, name and image to promote the CWY program because I believe so strongly in its benefits.

When I travelled to India with CWY, people had nothing and everything. The country was economically underdeveloped, but family and social groups were solid as a rock. I remember the religious broadcast on Sundays. Everyone in the village without a TV came to my host family’s house. It was unbelievable—50 people coming together to watch a TV program! Until I went to India, I’d never seen a wedding that went on for three days, where the whole village seemed to have been invited. Through this rich, intense and sometimes equally frustrating experience, I realized the extent to which I come from a culture of individualists. This was so different from what I was used to.

I remember too the concentrated smells—the perfume of flowers and spices. And the intensity of fresh flavours, like a pea fresh from the pod. In India, cooking is quite simply seasonal. It was also in India that I discovered recycling. Nothing is wasted. Shower water was used to wash the floor, vegetable scraps for the neighbour’s cow, writing paper to wrap lunch, evening leftovers for breakfast—and human warmth to keep out the cold of winter’s night (in a cement house in northern India without insulation or heating, girls slept together like sardines).

For me, CWY put life in perspective. Ever since, I’ve looked at things differently.”

What Happened Next?

Shortly after CWY, Stéphanie had twins, Daphné and Cybèle, who are now 21. While they were young, she completed a Master of Arts, following which she created a series of installations (JE SUIS MORTE) in Toronto and Montreal. In 1996, she produced her first short film, distributed in Famous Players cinemas throughout Canada. In 1998, Stéphanie met François Pouliot and embarked with him on what was to become a wonderful life project. In 2008, she began her collaboration with VISITE LIBRE (Télé-Québec and ARTV), creating designer furniture and accessories on a budget.

Bob Bennett

Alumnus, Youth Leaders in Action, Colombia, Alberta and Nova Scotia

My Canada World Youth Experience offered me my first opportunity to live outside of Hampton, Nova Scotia, a small village of less than 100 people. I’d never been exposed to big-city life in Canada, let alone travelled to a developing country. I had no idea what to expect. Culture shock would be a good way to describe what went on in my head as I experienced successive placement opportunities in Edmonton, Alberta, Middleton, Nova Scotia, and then both rural and urban Colombia. I thought I’d grown up in a poor family, but I had never witnessed the kind of poverty I saw in South America.

Memories are flooding back. There’s the time I was bumping along in the back of a jeep in the mountains of Colombia and my companions captured a spider the size of my hand, or the day I watched street children playing with a scorpion. Another time, I tried to help a tired old man carry a log uphill, but quickly ran out of steam due to the heat and altitude. He politely thanked me for my efforts, popped a few coca leaves in his mouth and carried on.

Perhaps my most abiding memory is of a family living in a cave-like home on the side of the mountain. We’d visited them to help chip away at the rock to try and expand their limited living space. We’d taken them some canned milk and, poor as they were, they returned the favour in kind with fruit they’d picked in the jungle.

CWY not only offered me a road to explore outside of rural Nova Scotia, but also introduced me to new friends to take on the journey. Being part of a group gave me the courage and security to go beyond my boundaries.”

What Happened Next?

Bob currently works as Executive Director for Summer Street, creating opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.

Cet article est également disponible en FR.