IYES (Indigenous Youth Empowering Students) Program

Apply for the IYES Experience that takes place March 25-April 4, 2020.

Indigenous Youth Empowering Students (IYES) is an international youth development program run through  SchoolBOX Inc. IYES provides Indigenous youth from Canada the opportunity to create meaningful change in the lives of Nicaraguan children through education.

IYES volunteers enjoy an amazing life experience, improve the lives of others and become leaders of change in their home communities.

IYES participants learn about their culture and traditions and prepare a cultural presentation to take to Nicaragua. In Nicaragua, the IYES group works with community members and SchoolBOX staff to build a school in an impoverished community. They also participate in a culture exchange by sharing stories and experiences with the community in which they volunteer.

Participants are guided through discussions on Indigenous leadership, personal leadership, philosophy and creating a vision for their home communities. As a follow-up to their experiences in Nicaragua, our newest program SchoolBOX Indigenous Library Project, empowers our IYES-alumni youth leaders to bring educational empowerment right to their own communities in Canada.

For more information on the IYES experience, watch this video.

To contribute to flight scholarships for Indigenous youth to fly to Nicaragua, click the button below to make a donation on our secure donation form.

Please contact us with any questions at iyes@schoolbox.ca

What will I do in Nicaragua?

Volunteer Project
The program is an opportunity for YOU to embark on a volunteer project in Nicaragua (A 10 day volunteer experience in July 2019). You will work with a team of 8 to 10 Indigenous Youth from Canada to reach out to an impoverished community. Working alongside teachers, students and community leaders, you will help construct a new school building for an underprivileged community. For a glimpse into the 2017 experience, watch this video and for the 2019 experience video, click here.

Cultural Workshop
Your volunteer project will begin in Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua, with a one-day cultural workshop. This will give you the chance to get to know your fellow team members, share your cultural presentation and begin your journey into Nicaraguan life.

Cultural Exchange Day
While you are in the community, your volunteer group will create and invite community members to your Cultural Exchange Day at your partner school. This will be your time to share your art, dance, stories and songs with your new Nicaraguan friends.

Leadership Workshop & De-briefing Seminar
At the end of your stay in Nicaragua, you will define your own personal leadership goals and focus on your vision for your community. We will also have a de-briefing seminar to help you digest what you have learned from your project. The program will help you to create a simple presentation on your experiences that you will share with your community in Canada.

Your Impact

By participating in the IYES program you have the ability to create real and lasting change in the lives of the children you meet. Working with these amazing children and communities in Nicaragua will open up tremendous opportunities for you to realize your potential in this world. This experience will help you to see the impact you can have abroad and to realize your potential at home. Your career and life will be empowered by this program and your community will benefit from your leadership upon your return home.

You and your team members will each share your unique cultures with the students, community and each other while gaining valuable cross-cultural skills. Our hope is that you will leave Nicaragua with a strengthened sense of identity and with the knowledge that you have impacted the lives of hundreds of kids. This experience will help you build personal confidence and to discover that there is no limit to what you can accomplish!

IYES Program Support & Assistance

IYES Image_1Event planning and presentation skills are necessary to create presentations, both on your project and in your home community. We help you to develop these skills, so don’t feel overwhelmed. With our IYES Program Coordinator, your Support Council and some dedication, you will soon discover how simple it is to share your ideas and experiences!

Our IYES Program Coordinator is available to you for extended support and to answer questions before, during and after your IYES volunteer experience. Any questions or concerns in regards to registration or the volunteer experience will be addressed.

We will also provide you with information about your partner community in Nicaragua and the project you will be working on. A complete itinerary of your 10 day trip will be provided by the IYES Program Coordinator 2 weeks before departure from Canada.

Your IYES Program Coordinator will travel with you to Nicaragua and will facilitate your training and cultural presentation sessions. Your Program Coordinator will also be available for support when you return to your home community to help you share your experiences at home.

The IYES Experience costs $1300 USD July 2019. It includes the following:

  • School building project and cross-cultural experience
  • Private in-country transportation
  • Shared accommodation at hotels for the duration of your stay
  • Meals + purified water on the worksite
  • Recreational excursions + cultural activities
  • 24/7 bilingual guides, translation + first aid

 on a build site alongside SchoolBOX staff, teachers, students, parents and community volunteers in Nicaragua. Work varies from light to difficult based on your ability, but you could be digging foundations, mixing cement, painting classrooms or helping make wire columns.

Play with kids and encourage students to dream. Building relationships with the kids and community will be the most important work of all.

Learn about Nicaraguan history and culture, the importance of education to defeat poverty, and pick up some Spanish along the way!

Explore the beautiful country of Nicaragua. Activities may include a salsa dance class, visit to the market, beach, volcano or colonial city.

For more information, download our Volunteer Pre-departure Manual below:

SchoolBOX PD Manual Button

Watch our video below and then read about the stories of past participants and the steps they have taken to use their IYES experience to create change at home.

_2011_Helen“IYES changed my life’s path and it gave me a new set of eyes to look through. If I, a young Indigenous single mother, could help change others’ lives on such a level then there was nothing I couldn’t do. I fund raised every cent in order to go and I remember how nervous I was during my first fund raiser. It was challenging but I would do it all over again in a second!

The program also created a renewed sense of gratitude for my own culture and a stronger sense of pride in my heritage. It was so cool to be able to share my ancestry with awesome children and community members. After the trip I made sure to include my tribal origins in my introductions which were huge steps for me at the time. Having a cultural identity and actually having pride in it is invaluable for our young people today and it is programs like these that help my generation take it back.

After the IYES trip I began to do more fund raisers for causes I believed in and doing more volunteer work. This included a fund raiser for the kids in La Chureca, a community based in a dump in Managua that I visited through SchoolBOX. Since then I have graduated from a Social Service Worker Diploma program and an Indigenous Women in Community Leadership program while still being involved in my community and raising my son. I strongly believe that volunteering somewhere else to help those who may have less opportunity then you do is possible, no matter what your own circumstances are. You dictate your life, not your circumstances!

I joked about leaving my heart in Nicaragua so I went back a second time in February 2011 for another school build with SchoolBOX to find it again! The IYES program has had such a great impact on me that I worked with SchoolBOX in order to become the new IYES program coordinator because I believe so much in the powers of this program. So let me tell you… that anything is truly possible!!”

Helen Knott– Dane_Zaa and Cree
Fort St. John, British Columbia

_2011_Kristy“IYES completely changed my world because I have learned that I can do anything I set my mind to. The cultural exchange required me to explore my own heritage and it has really changed my life. I have grown so much and in so many ways that it is hard for me to express everything I feel about the program. I am just so grateful that I had the chance to participate in IYES and I am a more grateful person in general. I want to spend the rest of my life helping as many people as I can. It’s true that through helping we heal.

In 2010 I worked with Helen Knott, another IYES participant, to create an Aboriginal Youth Run group and we ran our first half marathon with youth from our community. I am no longer afraid to step out and create the changes I want to see in my community.

Since the program I have focused a lot more on learning my culture. I have joined the pow wow committee in my town and am currently working on my own regalia. I have also graduated from the Indigenous Women in Community Leadership Program through the Coady International Institute. I have just been so blessed on my path and am currently working as an Aboriginal Regional Sports Coordinator for Northern BC. It’s my dream to see all Aboriginal youth living healthy lifestyles engaged in healthy practices.”

Kristy Auger– Cree
Fort St. John, British Columbia

_2011_Andy“Since being in the IYES Program I have been saving to travel so I can live and work in a different country. At the same time I do not want to leave my community because I still feel that I could be doing more with my elders, the youth in my community and people in general to gain more traditional knowledge and skills. I am still trying for a youth committee as well. Hopefully in a year I will be working in the UK and touring Europe in between.

It felt great to partake in the IYES program with other native youth from my country to learn about each other’s cultures and traditions, as well as building a school in Leon and providing school supplies, and just interacting with the kids was more than I could ask for. I still look through the letters I’ve received from the kids in the school and it always brings a smile to my face. We don’t get to see ants, geckos, snakes, armadillos and other things like that here in the north, so it was a first time for me.

IYES has changed my life and I know it won’t be a once in a lifetime thing, if I could and I know I can, I will go back because it is a great experience. I will also be encouraging youth in northern Canada to apply for the next program.”

Andy Topilak– Inuit
Kugluktuk, Nunavut

_2011_Maxine“Travelling to Nicaragua with the IYES program was an experience I would not trade for the world. Before the trip I had seen the poverty and conditions that exist in Canada, especially with my indigenous people but experiencing Nicaragua opened my eyes to the idea that even though you may think that things will never get better, the people will always have hope. To see another culture and the way they live and adapt to different surroundings was a life changing experience. It gave me even more resilience and inspiration to be an example to my people and to work hard for the things that I want in my life and community. I recommend this trip to anyone that is interested in experiencing other cultures and opening their mind to a new outlook on the way they live and interact with other people.

The people that I met there made a profound impression on my life and the way I view this earth. My personal journey through this world will continue on and I will continually grow and change. Nicaragua has been the seed planted for me to see the world for all that it can truly offer, the dark and the light.

I’m currently doing my millwright apprenticeship and plan on attending post-secondary education for science, once I have obtained my red seal certificate. Culturally, I have attended Sundance’s and am in the process of learning my mother language. The amount of role models in my community are very few. Therefore I must be an example for myself and try my best to find as many resources as possible for cultural teachings.”

Maxine Korolew – Metis
Fort McMurray, Alberta


8 years ago I was in Nicaragua with my friends Tom, Sara, Anne Brit, Nikki, Trish, and Jim. It was my first out of country trip and first time seeing REAL poverty. I had a strong feeling of gratitude for my community and the country I was born into. I had a feeling of hope. My heart was out pouring with love, the kids in Nicaragua were adorable and we were there to build them a school. It was there that I realized we take education for granted a lot of these kids don’t get the privilege of even going to school.

I wrote in a journal 8 years ago that I wanted to bring MY people to Nicaragua for a culture exchange, I wanted my people to see and feel what I did and I wanted to show these beautiful people what our culture was like (Nicaraguans have also been colonized and lost a lot of their culture). I think 2 years later that dream came true, it was the BIGGEST dream of mine that came true! My friend Tom and his wife Sarah helped make it become a reality.

On that first trip, we had a Metis from Alberta, Inuit from Nunvut, Cree from northern BC and me a Wetsuweten from interior of BC. We all had to learn about our culture to teach it in Nicaragua. I remember my BFF telling me she didn’t care to learn about her culture but she DID and she is still involved with her culture. I just found out a couple weeks ago they are doing ANOTHER culture exchange / school build next summer 2017, I am so happy and proud that SchoolBOX is continuing this. If you have the desire to reach out and see a different country and ACTUALLY be WITH the people of Nicaragua I highly recommend it.

Danielle Ogen – Wetsu’wet’en
British Colombia

To Apply:

1. Download and complete the following application form and send it to iyes@schoolbox.ca

Click here to Download the June 2018 Application Form

2. If you are accepted into the IYES Program, you will need to fill in a registration form and liability waiver. Please complete it an email it to iyes@schoolbox.ca

Click here to Download

3. Send your $400 USD deposit to SchoolBOX. Make Cheques and Money-orders Payable to ‘SchoolBOX Inc.’

Send in your non-refundable deposit in US dollars to our office.

Mailing Address
SchoolBOX Inc.
Attn: IYES Experience
PO Box 201, 73 Mill St.
Almonte, Ontario,
Canada, K0A 1A0

4. Please send copies of the following documents electronically to iyes@schoolbox.ca;

  • scanned copy of your Passport
  • travel health insurance (company name, policy number and international phone number)

5. Book your flight when the trip has been confirmed by SchoolBOX

6. Begin Fundraising for your project!

For fundraising ideas, click below to view or download the SchoolBOX Fundraising Manual.

Check out the video below: Six amazing young indigenous leaders came to Nicaragua July 2012 to share their culture and teachings with kid’s and to help build a school. Watch their round dance at the end of the IYES cultural exchange day in Roger Deshon community – home of the new Shirley Case #2 School.