As a young person growing up in mid-town Toronto, Andrea Griffith didn’t have regular access to nature – a reality that pushed her to actively seek it out and cultivate deeper respect for it. That, coupled with a drive to pursue social justice, led her to attend Trent University to explore her passion for environmental studies and international development.
During a one-year placement in Ecuador affiliated with her program, Andrea built on her skills as an educator, designing a nutrition education program for a small community in the Andes to help address food insecurity and malnutrition through organic agriculture. Although her first experience working overseas was rewarding, she struggled with being an outsider and was unsure if she would return to fieldwork.
One year after graduating Andrea saw an International Youth Internship Program (IYIP) opportunity funded by the Government of Canada focused on agro-ecology, and reconsidered. Says Andrea, “As I started to do the orientation with the YMCA of Greater Toronto I started to learn more about the YMCA of Greater Toronto, and what they did… it was beyond what I had imagined.”
In Colombia Andrea spent six months developing hands-on agro-ecology workshops for five rural schools in a program run by the YMCA of Medellín. In a region known for conventional farming, characterized by monoculture and pesticide use, her modules were used to educate and inspire youth on how to grow food sustainably, and at the same time honour local culture.
Two aspects of her experience stood out for her: the strong partnership between the two collaborating YMCA’s, and their emphasis on popular education – a model that uses a grassroots approach to facilitate social transformation.
For Andrea, “empathy is the impetus for making a difference… and making a difference is also about speaking up, being vocal, whether its just having a conversation with friends, or going to a demonstration, or talking to a local politician. Those small conversations matter; the little things matter.”
Andrea plans to continue speaking up as she works on tackling the dual global challenges of social justice and environmental sustainability in her native Toronto, where she remains active in various community initiatives.
To learn more about YMCA of Greater Toronto, click here.
Learn about the other 2014 Global Changemakers here.
What does “making a difference” mean to you?
For OCIC, “making a difference” means working collaboratively for global social justice, human dignity and participation for all.
This $500 gift card was generously donated by Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade, not-for-profit retailer working to improve the livelihood of artisans in developing countries by bringing their handmade goods to the North American market.
About International Development Week 2014
International Development Week (IDW) is a celebration of the many achievements of Canadians in promoting international development both in Canada and globally. IDW 2014 marks the 24th year of the week led by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD).
This year, IDW will take place from February 2-8, 2014 and you are invited to be part of the celebration! Throughout the week you are encouraged to learn more about international development, become engaged, and share your experiences with friends, family, colleagues and your community. You can learn more about IDW 2014 here.
OCIC International Development Week Activities can be found here.
This initiative is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD)