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Changemakers: Student, alum honoured for their making a difference internationally

Chris Aiken (BA, 2014), along with fifth-year IDS Co-op student Marc Lombardo, has been named a Global Changemaker Youth Ambassador, based partly on his work during a placement in Mozambique.

Marc Lombardo and Chris Aiken have been named as 2016 Global Changemaker Youth Ambassadors by the Ontario Council for International Co-operation for epitomizing Mahatma Gandhi’s precept to “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

“It’s an incredible honour,” said Lombardo, a fifth-year student in U of T Scarborough’s International Development Studies (IDS) Co-op. “I fell very privileged to have been given this award.”

Lombardo and Aiken, a 2014 IDS Co-op graduate, were two of only seven people chosen to be honoured this year by the council, a network of Ontario-based international development and global education organizations and individuals working for social justice.

In addition to a being celebrated at a ceremony, the pair were invited to attend the council’s recent International Development Week and will work throughout the year with the other Changemakers to engage other youth in development work and help them attain the skills necessary to such endeavours.

Both have a wealth of experience to share with newcomers to the field, thanks to the IDS Co-op program, a five-year interdisciplinary course of study whose centerpiece is an eight to 12-month-long placement doing development work with a non-governmental organization overseas. Lombardo spent 10 months in Kenya, while Aiken was based in Mozambique for a year.

Lombardo took part in the Kenya equity and education project run by the World University Service Canada to improve the access to schooling for girls in two border-area refugee camps and the surrounding towns. He worked on the monitoring and evaluation aspect of the project, collecting data to help determine if it is succeeding in its goals.

“The camps have existed for 25 years and are home to refugees from Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda,” Lombardo said. “The project is improving school infrastructure so it’s safer for the students; training teachers in inclusive techniques; and doing community outreach to teach men and boys about the importance of gender equity.

“Most students there are men, because women don’t have the same opportunities and this is something it’s very important to address. I see myself working more and more with non-profit and development agencies to improve access to education along gender lines.”

Aiken spent his Co-op year with the Mozambique Red Cross. He explored ways to help Red Cross volunteers function more effectively, and developed volunteer information database and creating a development and management course for volunteers across the country. The experience confirmed for him that he has chosen the right career path.

“I’m interested in conflict and post-conflict countries,” Aiken said. “I want to be a program manager for a development or human relief programs where people need assistance getting back on their feet.”

Both honourees had high praise for the role IDS Co-op has played in their lives.

“We have an excellent faculty with whom I see myself wanting to stay in touch,” Lombardo said. “I also feel like I am graduating with a strong sense of community among peers and alumni.”

Aiken agreed. “The program lends a lot of legitimacy to these [development] experiences by providing context and the ability to analyze and understand things from a cultural viewpoint,” Aiken said. “I also learned a lot from my fellow students, who are also experienced. It has been pretty fantastic.”


© University of Toronto Scarborough