My name is Monika Chmielewski and I am your average university student who is Specializing (Co-op) International Development Studies at the University of Toronto. I finished my 3rd year and got a job with community housing, but only as a summer student. On July 15th, my next job will take me South to Belize City, Belize.
Through the University of Toronto Scarborough I have been partnered up with a highly respectable NGO, Cuso International, to work with one of their new partners, the Belize Government. My position will be with the Ministry of Education working on their Youth Apprenticeship programs within the city. In other words, I will be required to assist in networking between the unemployed and the employer, conduct employment training for students and youth, compile findings for future apprenticeship programs, etc.
Belize has a very high unemployment and those most at risk is the younger generations who are hoping to create a stable future. I will be working side-by-side with committed Belizeans to make this positive change happen. Lasting change requires not just a financial investment, but also a human investment. Belize City is the heart of Belize. It is the country’s most industrial region where trade and business are flourishing. The city is diverse with expats, locals, Mayans, Spanish, etc. They are very friendly and accepting of differences. It’s also a tourist town and cruise ships come in once or twice a week. There are always many strangers about town speaking different languages.
IDS Co-op alumni have travelled into many territories through the school and its partners. However there are no previous students that have been sent to Belize for work and research. I am thrilled to be the first IDS Co-op student from the University of Toronto to be situated and pursue my research in Belize. I hope my time there will allow for more opportunities to open between IDS students and organizations in Belize.
I am proud to have been selected by Cuso International, one of the largest and most respected volunteer agencies in North America. To simply put it, professional volunteers work with local organization that thoroughly understands the intricacies of needs in the community. I really like their commitment to "sending people not money" to train and empower people while working with the tenet of equality and equity. And so, I am preparing for a journey into very unfamiliar territory.