August 10, 2018

Alumni spotlight – Jennica Rawston

Jennica RawstonI had sworn I was raised in a civic-minded, engaged and open family. Yet, when I signed up for my Canada World Youth exchange in 2004, my world became a whole lot bigger. Even after my time in les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec, I felt I learned more about myself and the world in 3 months than I had in my previous 10 years.

You can only imagine the effect 3 months in Burkina Faso, West Africa had on me. On this exchange, I also witnessed my first birth. Definitely more pivotal than I had imagined -

I am now a registered midwife.

Currently working as a locum midwife, I am back in my hometown of Langley, BC, after 15 years living away. I wanted my nieces and nephew to know me.

My education and career have taken me across Canada and back again, studying and working in big cities and rural towns. Yet, I am always looking to add value and create meaning in both my life and others, and last year, adventure was on the table again.

I applied, and subsequently signed up for a 6-month volunteer position as a midwife advisor in Ethiopia with Cuso International.

Prior to my departure, I attended a training weekend called Skills and Knowledge for Working in Development. The group exercises, personal growth reflections and introductions to power, privilege and development that occurred as part of my CWY experience have stayed with me for life. It was all new when I was 19, but this time around, I felt more prepared.

The challenge this time was not being in a supportive team of peers experiencing the same life changing moments. In Ethiopia, I was primarily living alone in a rural town with infrequent electricity and minimal amenities. I longed for my host mother in Burkina Faso who prepared delicious local food for us twice a day. If only I had a counterpart again who spoke the language. Canada World Youth knows what it is doing.

I worked alongside staff and instructors at a college, honing in on logistics of midwifery preceptorships and exams. I also worked with staff at the hospital, helping to establish hand washing stations and train local midwives and surgical officers on continuous fetal monitoring.

I also had the privilege of participating in a national training in Compassionate Respectful Care, which I subsequently designed into a midwife-specific workshop. Seeing my Ethiopian counterparts discuss their beliefs on how patients should be treated was extremely rewarding. Everyone knew that many rural women choose to stay out of hospital due to the lack of respect for choice they receive in institutions. Increasing compassion and respect is essential in reducing maternal and infant morbidity and mortality in Ethiopia.

As I looked for ways to give back – Africa called me once again as it was this continent where I became who I am today. I am grateful for my Canada World Youth experience: setting the stage for my career and guiding how I now choose to engage with my community and the world.

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About Canada World Youth

Canada World Youth is dedicated to enriching the lives of youth aged up to 35 who want to become informed and active global citizens. CWY offers international transformative learning experiences focused on building knowledge, leadership and skills through participation in sustainable community-driven projects. For more than 40 years, 38,000 youth and 12,000 host families have participated in CWY programs, in Canada and abroad.

CWY is registered with the Canada Revenue Agency as a charitable organization (#118973999RR0001).

Source : Mary McGee, Communications Officer, Canada World Youth, 514 931-3526 # 336,

Interviews and information (photos available):

Mary McGee
1 800 605-3526 #336
514 931-3526 # 336