A lakecity local hopes to spread an entrepreneurial spirit while building employment skills on a volunteer trip to Ghana, Africa with EQWIP HUBs.
Born in Vancouver, Eli Petersen grew up and spent most of his life in Williams Lake. Petersen is in training to be a chef, and is currently a professional cook class two and has lived and cooked in Whistler for a season and attended cooking school for ten months in Kelowna.
“I was working for Whistler Blackcomb at the Rendezvous Lodge at the top of the hill and that was quite the experience,” Petersen said. “I’ve been doing various labour jobs since like farming, tree planting and what not. I just kind of want a bit of a change of pace.”
Living in Whistler specifically and various other places around B.C. made Petersen feel very fortunate and he said felt his life was “almost too good right now.” As a result, the young 20 year old started looking for something meaningful to do, a true change of pace.
While tree planting this summer, his attention was drawn to Africa by two coworkers he became friends with from the Congo and Rwanda. Petersen said that their stories of life back home and their reactions to far different lifestyle found in British Colombia inspired him to go out and experience those feeling in their home continent.
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Africa has been a longstanding interest of Petersen’s since he was a child and as he began researching countries the idea of going there for a longer period of time began to germinate in his mind. He said that he’s always found the best way to learn about something he’s interested in is to go there and live it.
“The goal would be, help out where I can with the skills I have and learn as much as I can about different ways of living while I’m there,” Petersen remarked.
Rather than go backpacking or join a tour, Petersen chose to volunteer through EQWIP HUBs so he’d be able to work for his room and board, while truly immersing himself in the local culture. A Canadian based organization EQWIP HUBs is funded by the Canadian World Youth and Youth Challenge International and is tasked with connecting Canadians, specifically youth, to volunteer positions worldwide in dozens of countries.
As part of his application process, Petersen had to raise $2,950 to go towards the EQWIP HUBs Youth Innovation Fund and reached out to the lakecity community for help reaching the goal. Currently, his campaign has raised $3,026, which will become seed money for young entrepreneurs and new initiatives for young women and environmental sustainability.
“I’ve been extremely thankful for the love and support around here … to the people who made it happen, I actually already have reached that goal so now it’s just a matter of figuring out the rest of the details,” Petersen said.
Petersen had a choice of six countries and applied for them all, explaining he wasn’t too picky so long as the opportunity was based in Africa. When Ghana became available he simply leapt straight into it and chose it as his destination.
While in Ghana Petersen, along with five others, will be working directly with the local youth of Tamale, the fourth largest city in Ghana. He added that they mainly would be working with youth close to around the ages of 13 to 20 made up primarily of young women.
Petersen’s tour begins this January and concludes in April, at which time he looks forward to coming back and sharing his experiences with the community, as well as return to his seasonal work.
“I’m extremely excited to get over there and to experience a new way of living and culture. The more you see, the more you experience and more you can learn and open your mind while moving forward,” Petersen said. “I’m also excited to just start helping out when I can where I can.”