Best Practices for Canadian Organizations - International Aboriginal Youth Internships (IAYI) initiative

Recruitment process/eligibility criteria

  • Conduct thorough and extensive selection processes:
    • Arrange for face-to-face interviews, whenever possible.
    • Ask difficult questions to assess interns' mental/physical health, personal background, coping skills, and level of maturity.
    • Clarify the candidate's expectations and financial needs/responsibilities.
    • Prepare prospective interns for the stresses and commitments involved.
  • Invest in networks and outreach within Aboriginal communities.
  • Provide options and information about how young parents may participate.
  • Refer strong candidates to other organizations after your own recruitment has been completed.

Pre-departure training

  • Locate training in rural and/or Aboriginal community settings.
  • Make sure to include the following elements in pre-departure training:
    • information on project management and international development;
    • in-depth information about the Canadian organizations, host-country, and host organization;
    • in-depth language training (preferably continuing throughout the internship);
    • expectations for professional conduct, guidelines on acceptable and unacceptable behavior, including repercussions/consequences if expectations are not met;
    • team-building;
    • cultural sensitivity between interns and (Aboriginal) protocols on non-discrimination;
    • financial awareness, including budgeting for the specific country context and expected living expenses; and
    • recommended things to pack, visa requirements and the processes for renewing them.
  • Involve intern alumni in the training; include an Aboriginal component to the training and have an Elder present to help reduce culture shock.
  • Include workshops delivered by Aboriginal service providers (to prevent conflict, isolation, etc.).


  • Talk to the interns about their re-entry while they are still in the host country.
  • Include strong Aboriginal components, such as Elder ceremonies or feasts.
  • Include a considerable amount of downtime in training schedules.
  • Favor continuity in the choice of facilitators (from the pre-departure).
  • Support interns in the re-entry process and particularly for the shock of not fitting in (not immediately upon return but after they have had a chance to return to their communities). Help interns set goals for integration, and hold immediate check-ins with them upon arrival. After allowing time for reflection when they return to their communities, hold a second debriefing.

Health and safety

  • Provide clear guidelines and training on: substance abuse, emergency/safety procedures and contacts, safe travel practices, Registration of Canadians Abroad (ROCA), political issues in the local context, and extreme weather risks.
  • Encourage interns to look out for and support one another.
  • Encourage interns to say "no" to situations where health and safety are at risk.
  • Pay attention to the safety of the commute between the homestay or place of accommodation and the location of the internship (for example, by avoiding commuting in the dark).
  • Address pre-existing mental or physical health conditions and reinforce interns' responsibility for their own health. Be prepared to offer support for interns who are dealing with mental-health issues (e.g. depression, culture shock, anxiety, personal issues). Conduct individual assessments with each intern to ensure that he or she has sufficient resources in the event of an emergency.


  • Identify and communicate to interns before departure and upon arrival:
    • where and how they may access the Internet;
    • the living conditions they will face (such as no access to clean drinking water or washroom facilities, lack of privacy, small space, restrictions on freedom, or living conditions in pre-arranged accommodation);
    • accommodation options (keep the host family model as an option for interns, provide choice, and work with the host organization to find the accommodation); and
    • the interns' expectations for accommodation and cleanliness.
  • Address and prepare interns for the challenges of living with someone else (it may be the first time they are living away from their family).

In-field support

  • Ensure sufficient in-field support (depending on the interns' needs).
  • Facilitate introduction into host community and encourage interns, throughout their internships, to share elements of their Aboriginal culture(s).
  • To counter the fear of being sent home for having brought any issues to light, clearly outline what does and doesn't constitute grounds for ending a placement.
  • Establish direct links of communication between interns and Canadian organizations, preferably face-to-face communication (e.g. Skype, rather than e-mail).
  • Plan for and provide interns with in-field access to:
    • someone close in age to the interns, whom they may contact in confidence for perspective or moral support;
    • an Elder;
    • a mentor at the host organization;
    • peers, especially fellow IAYI interns in the same country but from other organizations;
    • a translator who has been briefed about the host organization and Canadian organization.
  • Ensure that a plan is in place to provide stipends to interns in remote areas.

Internship activities

  • Assess the needs of the host community and match interns to projects where they are likely to feel they are contributing.
  • Ensure that the in-field work is sufficient, meaningful, and manageable for interns.
  • Once interns are recruited, work with the interns and host organizations to refine the job descriptions to ensure a good fit between the evolving needs of the organization and the objectives, skills, and needs of the intern (treat work plans and job descriptions as living documents).
  • Develop a guide of alternative activities interns can also do; develop a concrete process to ensure that the intern is busy and stimulated; keep work plans flexible and up-to-date.
  • Include team-building activities in the placement.
  • Develop distinct internship descriptions that require a variety of levels of skills/experience.
  • Provide an option for the interns to be placed in an indigenous community.

Community outreach activities

  • Encourage interns to start planning community outreach while in-field and provide clear guidelines and objectives.
  • Recognize that interns' efforts may be limited in places where access to technology is unreliable.
  • Provide practice in community outreach. Work on gaining confidence to share interns' stories. Share success stories to encourage other youth to become interested and be involved in international travel.
  • Provide financial support for public engagement.

Promoting collaboration, and engaging Aboriginal youth and communities

  • Encourage communication among Canadian organizations throughout the entire internship.
  • Increase the role of Aboriginal organizations and communities in Canada; consider alliances or consortiums.
  • Organize information sessions for families and interested community members; raise awareness in interns' home communities of the need the interns will have for support before, during, and after their internships.
  • Provide ample access to and involvement of Elders throughout the internships (to help transmit key teachings, promote leadership skills, open up lines of communication, and inspire model behaviour).
  • Employ IAYI alumni for pre-departure, support, and re-entry activities.