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.).

Debriefing

  • 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.

Accommodation

  • 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.