International Development

Fall 2018

Cherie Wai selected for the Alex Foto Memorial Award

Who inspirCherie Wayes you?

For Cherie Wai, it’s former St. Paul’s student Alex Foto.

Alex was a star student in the International Development (INDEV) program and a proud World Vision Youth Ambassador. Following her death in a cycling accident in August 2014, World Vision launched the #LiveLikeAlex campaign to inspire other youth to change the world.

After hearing Alex’s story in Grade 12, Cherie decided to literally follow in Alex’s footstep. First, she enrolled in the INDEV program at Waterloo. Then she became a World Vision Youth Ambassador and travelled to Rwanda. Eventually, Cherie took over as President of the World Vision student club that Alex founded.  

And the lives of these two exceptional young women continue to intersect. In February, Cherie spoke at the Today’s Teens Conference where she learned that Alex was the last World Vision Youth Ambassador to speak on that stage. Then three months later, Cherie was selected to receive St. Paul’s Alex Foto Memorial Award. The award helps students who care deeply about humanitarian work to participate in field placements in developing countries.

For Cherie, following Alex’s example has been challenging and rewarding. But most of all, it has been affirming.

This award has tremendous meaning for me. I've striven to live like Alex all my university years. To be recognized as someone who shares her spirit and drive is such an incredible honor. I truly hope I’ve made her proud.

Cherie is also a student in St. Paul’s GreenHouse program and co-founded Devina, an ethical fashion retail business. She receives $1,000 to assist with her travel and living expenses while she completes an eight-month field placement in Bolivia. Cherie will be working with an organization called Ser Familia to empower youth, couples and family through education and leadership programs.

Cherie Wai rides a cable car to work in La Paz

Cherie updates us from La Paz

I'm living in the capital La Paz, and working in El Alto, so I take the teleférico (cable car) to work every day!

My mandate was switched to ASARBOLSEM, a Fair Trade certified textile and handicraft organization, which was actually my dream since going into university. Founded by a Bolivian woman, it now exports to 9 countries and hires over 500 women from marginalized situations, empowering them economically and socially. Ten Thousand Villages, based in New Hamburg, Ontario, is one of the buyers. 

I'm here as a marketing and communications specialist working toward producing their catalogs, website, and documentation of their work and impact through a video, book, and organizational reports. I'm also assisting in developing new products and improving their internal process and quality control. By the end of the 8 months, my goal is to increase the capacity of the organization in communicating their impact and improved publicity.

I'm absolutely enjoying the breath-taking views of the city and the warm Bolivian culture. Everything is falling into place and I'm thankful to see how my previous experience has lined up to prepare me for this mandate.

Indra Sarju updates us from Malawi

Indra and four co-workers celebrate a birthday with a cake

Celebrating my ACADES co-worker’s Birthday Photo: Hastings Nhlane

Slow and Steady, Balanced Feet Make…Progress

Doubts are real, questions are flowing, and uncertainty is inevitable. It has not been an easy transition moving to Malawi. I’m working with an organization called Associated Centre for Agro-Based Development (ACADES) working to create employment opportunities for youth in the agriculture sector.

Doubts of being able to fulfill ACADES’ expectations during my marketing research mandate have been real in these first few weeks. As ACADES talks about past WUSC volunteers, I find myself questioning my abilities and how I will measure up.

Malawi has many social and political structures, but I’ve noticed a disconnect between the entities and the delivery of services for which they are responsible. I find myself questioning how much the cultural expectations play a role in the economic development of Malawi.

Uncertainty is hard to avoid as I ponder what it means for me to be in Malawi. It has been a slow process as I’m unsure of exactly what Malawi needs and what I have to offer that could help in its sustainable development.

Although I carry my doubts, questions and uncertainties, I put my best foot forward. As I continue building relationships with locals and better understand their culture and love for this country, I slowly notice that my doubts, questions and uncertainties are replaced with hope, motivation and passion for this beautifully-mysterious country.

Nicole Martin sends her update from Senegal

Nicole Martin on a beach in Senegal

Nicole checking out the sights at Lac Rose

I have been in Senegal for a month and have been learning important Dakar-survival skills such as the language of Wolof, cooking traditional dishes, and bartering. The city is lively, and my morning commute through Dakar traffic is like white water rafting. I love all of it and I feel very blessed to have been welcomed so wholeheartedly into these communities. 

With regard to my studies, I have been working in the volunteer-intern position of “Youth Engagement Officer” for Banlieue Action Solidarité Immo-Finances (BASIF). BASIF is a for-profit social-enterprise with the goal of reducing underemployment and unemployment in the Guediawaye-Dakar region.

My mandate is to work primarily with young, female entrepreneurs to ensure that their business ventures are positioned to succeed. So far, I have been working on building BASIF a social media presence and a website that hopefully will act both as a means for youth and women to get involved in BASIF’s projects, and as a way of stimulating the expansion of BASIF’s community of partners.

True to the Senegalese culture of hospitality, the BASIF team has been incredibly welcoming and I learn a lot every day. They recently launched two pilot projects that provide high quality goods and services to low-income clientele and offer sustainable employment for youth (defined as 18-30) and women. The first is Espace NDUGU, a chain of small vegetable stands throughout Dakar that cater to clientele who can only afford to buy enough food for one day at a time.

A booth manager shows off her booth

Espace NDUGU employs youth, and especially women, in the positions of booth managers and supervisors of multiple booths. The second project is the result of a partnership between BASIF, UN-CDF’s Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P), and Orange (A telecommunications company). This project is a series of Orange Money stands that are owned, operated, and supervised, by youth and women from Guediawaye.

Because I have started my placement at the debut of these two projects, there is a lot of work to do, and I have had so many opportunities to do work that would not be available to me otherwise. It is exciting to be a part of something new and ambitious.

I look forward to seeing what the next seven months have in store!