Aida Mwanzia participated in the first cohort of the Youth Policy Program (YPP) where she completed her policy project on how the BC Government can build a more ethical relationship with international students. She returned this year as a facilitator, supporting the program and the participants along the way. Aida also describes herself as a sister, daughter, wife, soon-to-be mother, and a newcomer on unceded Coast Salish Territories. In this interview, Aida shares with us the learnings she brought as a YPP alumni to her role as a facilitator and reflects on why she took to heart the responsibility of helping participants build their confidence.
LEVEL: What made you decide to come back as a facilitator?
AM: This program had a profound impact on me. It was one of the most positive educational experiences I’ve had. I felt really reflected in the faculty and staff members as well. I felt that the container was a brave space where I was able to explore and learn things that were directly applicable to me and my community and to build solidarity with people from different Indigenous nations in BC. I wanted to continue to support the program and coming back as a facilitator seemed like the best way to stay involved.
LEVEL: Can you share what your role was as a facilitator?
AM: When I started my role as a facilitator, that was the time in which LEVEL was pivoting to being hosted online [due to the pandemic] and so a huge part of what I was doing was supporting the LEVEL staff team in transitioning the program to an online format and then designing what each day would look like. During the actual sessions, I was the main contact person for the participants. I helped to facilitate conversation between participants and faculty members and kept track of time and make sure everything went smoothly.
LEVEL: What was the experience like returning to LEVEL as a facilitator?
AM: I think it was really neat to see the behind-the-scenes of the program. Last year, I went through it as a participant but this time, I got to see the work behind it and talk to faculty members before the modules and it really gave me insight into how much intention and care went into the design and execution of the program. It was also so exciting to build relationships with participants and to see the relationships build with one another.
LEVEL: What did you bring from your experience as a participant into this experience as facilitator?
AM: I think one of the main things I brought into this role as facilitator was confidence: confidence in the program and the process. And to each and every participant—that they had it in them to develop a policy project that was relevant and authentic to themselves and their communities. Having gone through this process myself, I know how difficult it could be to overcome some of those blocks and challenges (like imposter syndrome) and I was able to support participants and give them the confidence they need to get through to the end.
LEVEL: And was imposter syndrome something you experienced as a participant?
AM: I experienced imposter syndrome in the earlier stages of being a participant but eventually realized there wasn’t a real need for that. I realised there are a lot of people in power that seemed like they didn’t know things they should or weren’t fully qualified and yet were confident to be there. I realized it’s important to see myself belonging in places where decisions are made so I can pave the way for other people in my community as well.
That was a common thread I saw this time: There were some participants that are already doing some incredible and amazing work and doing it in spite of a lack of confidence. So what I’m excited about is that hopefully this experience has built their confidence up such that they’re ready to take on bigger, bolder things and to be unapologetic about it.
LEVEL: What was the best part of being a facilitator?
AM: The best part of returning as facilitator was continuing to nurture the relationships that began last year, both with the staff members at LEVEL but also with faculty members and participants returning as faculty. It was wonderful to see them. That was probably the best part. Relationships take time and this second year really solidified some of that for me.
LEVEL: Can you share a moment that was really stood out to you?
AM: This was during one of the modules where we had John and Lindsay Borrows as faculty and they were teaching participants about Indigenous law. There was a moment where they were talking about sacred law and it just seemed that people were so attuned and engaged. You could almost see the wheels turning in participants’ heads—even through Zoom—and shifting their understanding of what law, governance, and policy mean. It was powerful because both faculty members were so powerful in how they were communicating and also so down-to-earth and so accessible. Law, policy, governance—those are normally very inaccessible fields. It was really neat to see people making those connections and getting a different understanding on those topics.
LEVEL: Do you have any last words for the participants?
AM: I would say this is just the beginning. The support doesn’t end at the end of the program. I hope they continue to stay in touch with me and all the people they connected with through this program. We’re all in this journey together and we can lift each other up.