Give your group the experience of a lifetime!
YMCA Youth Exchanges Canada (YEC) is a group exchange program that helps adult leaders organize exchanges across Canada for their groups of youth ages 12 to 17.
Participants get to travel and discover a new part of Canada, engage in various hands-on learning experiences, and make new friends.
Applications are now open.
Reaching Potential and Discovering Canada
YEC offers your youth group the opportunity to travel to another part of Canada for a life-changing experience. The program pairs groups of 10 to 30 participants ages 12 to 17 from a different province or territory, staying at least five days in each other's communities. Participants experience team bonding and planning all parts of the exchange, including travel, budgets, accommodation, itinerary of daily activities, community projects, and more.
Discover New Places and Explore Their Community
YEC participants travel to a new community and host their twin group in their community.
Make New Friends
Youth can build lifelong friendships with peers from other communities in Canada.
Learn About Canada's Diversity
Participants improve their knowledge and understanding of Canada by learning about its history, geography, economy, institutions, cultures, communities, languages, and more.
Have Fun With Educational Activities
Each group plans local activities when hosting their twin group. They may also work together on community projects.
“I learned students can and will do remarkable things. I see these students every day in my classroom, but on the exchange, they flourished, and I am so proud of the people they have become. Teaching has been difficult the past few years, but this exchange has rejuvenated my love for teaching, and I hope I can provide this experience for more students and staff. “ – Group leader
Program Eligibility Criteria
The program is open to groups of young people who belong to a recognized community organization or school. To participate in the program, youth must:
- Be part of a youth group with 10 to 30 members.
- Be 12- to 17-years-old.
- Not have previously participated in the program.
- Be ready to live away from home for at least five days.
- Participate in hosting activities in their community.
- Participate in planning activities before, during, and after the exchange.
- Help organize fundraising events to help cover the cost of hosting activities and local transportation.
How YEC responsibilities are shared:
- The Government of Canada pays the transportation costs for all eligible participants and organizers.
- YEC connects you with a twin group, helps organize and pay for travel, and provides orientation, support, and resources for organizing a successful exchange.
- Group leaders work with their group to plan local activities and host their twin group.
“This exchange program was easily laid out, very accessible, and inclusive of everyone. Many of our students would not have been able to do this exchange without the support of the program and our school community.“ – Group leader
- For travel between January 1 and June 30, the application deadline is September 30.
- For travel between July 1 and December 31, the application deadline is February 1.
Applications are open to adult group leaders applying on behalf of their group.
Need more information? Complete this form, and we will contact you.
Organizing an exchange for a large group of youth can be overwhelming. Our application guide helps you prepare and submit your application with ease.
We pair school or community groups from different parts of Canada for two five-day educational exchanges, which can take place any time during the year. Trip preparation, travel, and organizing and hosting activities allow youth to develop interpersonal and teamwork skills while exploring their community and discovering another. By participating in YEC, youth:
- Improve their knowledge and understanding of Canada, learning firsthand about our country's history, geography, economy, institutions, cultures, communities, languages, and more.
- Connect with one another and create social networks throughout the country, helping to strengthen the fabric of Canadian society.
- Develop a stronger Canadian identity and attachment to Canada and an appreciation of the diversity and shared aspects of the Canadian experience.
Each year, over 1,500 Canadian youth participate in exchanges across Canada. A unique aspect of YEC is the freedom to tailor programming to the age and interests of the youth involved, allowing for a customized and purposeful experience that fits your youth group’s goals.
“As our twin lead chaperone said, ‘I expected this exchange to make an impact on the kids. What I never expected was the impact it has had on me. I have made connections with this group of people that have come as such a wonderful surprise.’ Our fourth chaperone — also a parent — said to me, ‘When you said at the parent meeting that this exchange would be life-changing, I thought, okay, whatever. But now I am here, and it really is — I can see the difference this experience is making.’" – Group Leader
History and Funding
The YMCA of Greater Toronto organizes the program. YEC has offered exchange programs to diverse communities across Canada since 1976, and in 2020, we celebrated 20 years of funding from the Canadian Government’s Exchanges Canada Program. YEC is grateful for the continued support from Exchanges Canada, a division of the federal government’s Department of Canadian Heritage, which is the program’s primary source of funding.
YEC gives youth the opportunity to learn about Canada’s history and diversity, initiate community projects, make new friends and connections, and develop an appreciation for both official languages.
The program strongly focuses on engaging youth throughout the exchange cycle, providing volunteer service and youth leadership opportunities.
Youth Exchanges Inquiry Form
Thank you for your interest in YMCA Youth Exchanges Canada (YEC). Please complete our inquiry form and someone will contact you soon.
Please note that the YEC program only accepts applications from group leaders for their groups.
If you’re interested in an individual exchange, take a look at our Summer Work Student Exchange (SWSE) program.