31 Mar Volunteer with YCI as a HerStart Fellow!

HerStart Innovate the Future Fellowships are meaningful volunteer opportunities that align with your skills and interests, allowing you to expand your knowledge and make an impact on gender equality and sustainable development in new and dynamic ways. Our program offers both international and virtual volunteer opportunities.  

Through our virtual HerStart E-Fellowships, Canadians volunteer to share their knowledge and skills remotely while learning about critical global issues, including women’s empowerment, climate action and social entrepreneurship. Our E-Fellows receive high-quality online training, resources, international development experience and networking opportunities to grow their skills and make an impact.  

Sarah Rollason-MacAulay, Gender Equality & Entrepreneurship E-Fellow in Tanzania, recently interviewed Kiana, and Kolby, HerStart E-Fellows, to learn about their experience volunteering virtually with YCI’s HerStart program.  


Meet Kiana Lawrence, HerStart Gender Equality & Entrepreneurship EFellow, Uganda


Tell me about your background and what motivated you to join HerStart. 

This spring, I’ll graduate with a B.A. in Sociology with a stream of Social Justice from Carleton University.  

I took two classes which gave me the opportunity to work with women in Nepal virtually over Zoom. The first class was a qualitative research class looking at gender inequalities in our country of choice and mine was Nepal. My second class began on Zoom with a different cohort of women in Nepal. This semester was more focused on community-based engagement. We created a panel event where we brought together a Carleton professor with Canadian and Nepalese students to talk about feminism and how we face some very similar gender stereotypes and some that are culture-based in both Canada and Nepal. 

What is your passion and how would you change the world if you could? 

My passion in a nutshell is social justice and everything that falls under that topic, from individual women’s rights to migrant rights. The gender equality work we do is helping with the issues we face in the world daily.  

Through volunteering with small organizations, or communicating and connecting with people, like this interview for example, or through programs like YCI’s HerStart – these are all great examples of making small changes to do better. 

What is something interesting that you have learned while volunteering as a HerStart E-Fellow? 

I feel that we rush through things every day and have our to-do lists for work or school and it never stops. Through volunteering for HerStart, I found work-life balance and learned how to be patient with myself, knowing that I don’t need to have everything done by tomorrow or next week. 

When you work with people, you learn that we all come from different backgrounds and different work habits. Patience is your best friend. As I’m finishing my schooling, I’m realizing that I should have prioritized that more. Patience while working with others will go a long way to help you get your work done because there is no point in being overwhelmed and frustrated. That’s going to be a bigger roadblock than trying to breathe and figure out what the next steps are to move forwards. 

What is something that you will take forward from the HerStart program? 

There’s an author that talks about this concept of utopia and how we always want to reach it. It’s like the sun, you always want to get closer but then the sun pushes farther and then you’re always trying to chase it – so it’s always wanting something but never getting it. 

So, what I’ve learned from HerStart, especially being a Gender Equality & Entrepreneurship E-Fellow, is that everyone I’ve worked with in Canada and Uganda wants a quality of life without racism or sexism. What I’ve learned is that you can want something so bad, but you’ll never be able to just achieve it on your own. 

What will help me in my future career is learning that you need to be on a team that has the same values and goals because that’s the only way you’re going to push forward. If you’re not, then you’re going to hit challenges that will push you backwards from reaching that utopia that you want. 

Where is your favourite place to travel and why? 

When I was little, I used to go whitewater kayaking in Palmer Rapids for their kayaking festival. It’s a super small town. There’s this really big rock by the rapids that I would always sit on and it was really peaceful to listen to the rapids. It’s very sentimental to me and I remember seeing my father kayaking and learning how to kayak there. 

What is something you would like others to know?

How important connection is in life. It sounds super cheesy, but now that we’re in a new normal, we need to find ways to bring that connection in different forms. So, Zoom calls with your friends or interviews like this, or just small things you can do day to day to make you feel better, because once you feel better, you feel better in the work you do and everything you bring to the table.


Meet Kolby, HerStart Climate Action & Entrepreneurship EFellow, Tanzania 


Tell me about your background and what motivated you to join the HerStart program?  

I have majors in Political Science and International Relations, as well as a minor in International Development Studies. I believe in equality and doing what I can to help give others the opportunity to be their best selves. I believe that nobody wins when a certain portion of the population is lacking opportunities. 

If you look at the charts on climate emissions, Tanzania is so small when it comes to emissions per capita – but the people in Tanzania are going to face greater ramifications and have less ability to prepare for these catastrophes from climate change than we do here in the Global North which is unfair and unjust. I wanted to help mitigate these issues and be part of the solution through my role as a Climate Action & Entrepreneurship E-Fellow. 

What is your passion and how would you change the world if you could? 

That’s a really tough question. This might be a little abstract, but I would say that I’m most passionate about human connection. Human connection is something that I think we overlook nowadays and interpersonal relationships are super important. Getting to know the other individual and what they need is key and allows you to do a better job. 

What is something interesting that you have learned while volunteering as a HerStart E-Fellow? 

I’ve come to realize that there was an aspect I forgot about that had a detrimental effect on what I was trying to do and the impact I wanted to make. The fellowship made me open up my eyes to the reality that each issue is very complex and you have to look at it from every perspective before you try and make a solution, because if you forget or omit part of the solution you’re going to come up against some barriers that will make you unable to get where you need to go. 

What is something that you will take forward from the HerStart Program? 

Making conscious decisions myself as a consumer. Previously I had knowledge of climate change, but this experience definitely strengthened that knowledge and helped me recognize the ramifications of all the actions that we do. 

Where is your favourite place to travel and why? 

Somewhere warm. As I’m researching for my role, I keep seeing photos of Tanzania and I think that would be nice right now. 

What is something you would like others to know? 

I think that what people should (and maybe don’t) realize is that entrepreneurial opportunities and the green sector are not just plausible, but at this point in time, may be some of the best opportunities out there with some of the greatest rewards and fulfillment that you can come across. I found so many opportunities where I thought I would like to do this, it looks like a fun career that could pay well and it’s going to make a massive impact. I think there are so many more opportunities for green entrepreneurship than we think at the moment.


Learn more & apply to become a HerStart Fellow:  

YCI’s HerStart Innovate the Future program advances gender equality globally by providing women in Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda access to social entrepreneurship training, resources and networks to successfully launch and grow their own businesses. We collaborate with youth, partner organizations and communities to identify their needs and develop pathways for women to create businesses, jobs and a lasting economic ripple effect.

Since 2020, YCI’s HerStart Fellowships have provided Canadians from all academic and professional backgrounds with meaningful volunteer opportunities to support the HerStart program to expand their knowledge and drive gender equality and sustainable development around the world.

Learn more about YCI’s HerStart program and how you can become a HerStart Fellow.