Let’s Get Started



And so it begins. Upon my arrival to Holland on September 17, 2009 I expected a cultural shock of sorts. Oh contrare! Walking into the airport I felt i’d landed back in America. What a disappointment. It wasn’t until I heard the first politie officer speak some dutch that i thought – A new beginning in a new country. OH BOY! After the processions in the airport I was off to Utrecht to meet the other participants. As each one arrived, I took it upon myself to lighten to mood with some witty comment. And COMMENT I DID! Eventually most of the boy participants arrived and we waited in eager anticipation for what was to await us at the Kick-off……we were in for an exciting adventure.

It wasn’t until a day or two later that we’d all be with each other at the kick-off, and from that point on be working together. The kick-off was a great success and to my surprise everybody hit it off within two days. How lovely it was! Words by blog cannot do justice to the emotions that everybody was feeling at the time – each and every person having different expectations. Eventually relief and tranquility was the common denominator amongst us participants as we followed the same routine for 3 days: wake up, lectures, sports, more lectures, fun, sleep. We would of loved to have done this for the whole year, just eating for free and listening to people’s testimonies. Little did we know we were in for a real experience. Immediately following the kick-off (and I mean IMMEDIATELY) we were thrown right to the “front line”.

Fundraising was on the agenda for the next two weeks. Oh the apprehension! Not really though, there was no reason to feel apprehension (atleast iIhope none of us felt that)…..Anxiety! Now i’m sure most everyone was sweating bullets the first run of our fundraising career. We would soon find out that this fundraising would train us to be fat, kind, loving machines. Through the 14 days of being exposed to The Netherland folk we learned what we were good at and what we struggled with. In the end i’m sure everyone really took something valuable from the experience. In my opinion fundraising was preparation for what is to come in this year’s adventure. And I think my team and the Rotterdam team would agree with me.

And so now we arrive at present time. It’s been 3 days since we finished fundraising. Yet, as I think back to the things we’ve been doing during this time it’s felt as if a month has gone by. I guess in a sense it’s a good thing. By that math though, i’ll be living with my 6 lovely family members for about 3 years (not really, it’ll just feel like it). Who could ask for more? These 4 brother and 2 sisters include Stefan Hutzfield, Chris Chandler, Patrick German, Preston Pfeiffer, Emi Giancaspro, and Yemi Zonato. All of whom bring their own special spice to the team.

My expectations for this year cannot be explained in words. Coming from America and right out of high school, i’m the youngest of my team – 18. It was my inclination to come to YSI as a sort of year of dedication to myself. As I grow physically, mentally, etc. I will begin to encounter many a responsibility. I firmly believe that one gap year from school is a good idea for any student. So why not spend that gap year doing something that is worthwhile and could be used in my own country. Not to mention YSI is screaming responsibility. Being here now is somewhat a surreality. I will in fact be here for 1 year – through thick and thin. And now all I feel I can offer is my personality. The challenge now is to find something that I can really help with. My interests don’t really include anything usual. Rather, something unusual that is, the desire to just be with people and talk. Now that doesn’t seem unusual. But when you think of the traditional sense of the word “interests”, something like sports and hobbies come up. Suffice to say, I am different.

If only all who are reading this could see my face, the twinkle in my eye, my glowing smile, etc. As we embark on this journey we call YSI, I believe we will move the hearts of all the people of Utrecht. Ultimately, creating peace in Kanaleneiland. ;).


Hello everyone! My name is Preston Pfeiffer, I’m 19 years old, and I am from Fargo, North Dakota. I have just completed a year of college and have decided to do YSI for the next year! I am looking forward to being able to meet lots of new people and see great new places… but most of all make an impact in our community and later on in the year internationally.

We started off our adventures at the kick-off workshop where we were able to meet our team members. I am grateful to be with so many wonderful people with different personalities and from several different countries. We got to know each other for a few days and after that we split into two temporary teams and did some fundraising for two weeks. Fundraising was a good experience and gave us a first hand experience on seeing dutch culture.

Now we have split into our two teams for the year. I am part of the Utrecht team! We have been looking for volunteer opportunities and getting contact information. We were invited to open a playground with Doenja earlier this week, which was a good experience. A lot of children seemed happen and excited to be able to use a beautiful new playground. I am looking forward to this year and all that comes with it! 🙂


Hi there, my name is Patrick German. I’m from Wales, UK, and I’m also part of the Utrecht team. For the last year of my life I’ve been traveling to many different places around the world having different experiences. One of the experiences that was quite profound for me, and maybe the reason I am on YSI now, is that I went to Ivory Coast in June to do a service project with the organization ‘Service For Peace’. The experience was great and educational as I walked through an African village with hundreds of children around me. I learnt about a different culture, a different world, and the effect that a smile could have on a whole village. The service work we did was to re-lay the concrete flooring of a school and paint the nursery in more attractive colors and designs. Although they were small jobs the result was very nice to see and it was a great experience in seeing how service between two different cultures can have a very positive effect. After this experience I heard of the YSI program and saw it as a good stepping stone for me to go into a future as an international service worker. This year in Utrecht I’ll be learning many things about service on a local level; serving the community and serving my neighbors, which I hope will help me be able to bring this culture of service with me wherever I go.


Hey guys!

My name is Emi Giancaspro and I’m 20 years old. I’m half Japanese and half Italian, but I was born in Germany and have been living there ever since.  I just finished school this year and had no idea what to do next.  I plan to study next year, but for the time being, I think the best thing to do now is to take a gap and do something useful.  It was last year that I considered YSI as an option.  Unfortunately, I missed the application deadline and eventually just forgot about it. Despite the fact that I had no direction, I was determined to keep busy and be productive.  Later, I heard of a three month long program called DONE.  Once again, I missed the deadline ><.  At this point, I was desperate to find something useful to do before going off to study.

One day, Benjamin Hookway, who is a part of this years’ YSI Rotterdam team, asked me: “Hey, Emi!  YSI still has one more place that needs filling. Would you like to drive to Holland with me?” You must understand I’m a person that really takes her time to make BIG decisions.  Not to mention, the idea seemed so unrealistic and far away.  In the end, I spent almost no time deciding to join YSI.  What had made my decision even harder was the fact that I had planned to do something during the time that the YSI kick-off workshop was taking place.   That being said, I had to decide within two days, whether or not I wanted to be a part of YSI—an opportunity do one year of volunteer work and be a part team filled with people from other nations.  I know I know, it sounds very exciting and nobody probably can understand why I hesitated, but at that point I really hadn’t considered those factors. I was just so unprepared and it was (It’s hard to believe if you think over everything I just told xD) extremely spontaneous, so much so, that I didn’t dare jump into unknown water.  It wasn’t until I received a phone call from Yebuny Chandler, a participant of past YSI years.  She explained to me the schedule for the year and even offered some of her own experiences that she’d had while she was a part of YSI.  Further, she empathized with me, explaining she’d been in the same situation as I was in.  I had originally intended to say no.  That is until Yebuny called.  As Yebuny described her experience as an YSI participant, I became extremely excited I couldn’t help but say yes.  I would’ve been stupid (please excuse this expression) to miss such a chance because though I didn’t realize it at first, essentially I had asked and begged for an opportunity like this! I wanted a chance to consciously extend my heart, which means to be able to love people.  Ultimately, becoming a better person and realizing that giving is better than receiving.

As the year begins, I feel this will be a very educational experience.  What I’m looking forward to, is getting to know my team and new family much better and doing lots of projects to help the society here in Utrecht, Holland.  It’s going to be a great year filled with innumerable ups and downs and I’m hoping everyone will do his and her best to give their heart to people :).  So let’s work together to serve society—your own neighborhood!



To quickly introduce myself, I’m Stefan Hutzfeld.  I am 20 years old and I come from Germany, like Emi (above).  I’m really curious as to what this year has to offer – living together with 6 very different people my age, working together with them here in Utrecht, and ultimately, creating a culture of service.  My interest are music (especially guitar), sports of every kind, and some handcraft as well as cooking/baking.


Hoi! My naam is Christopher, Ik ben achttein jaar oud en Ik kom van Engeland.

That’s about the limit of my Dutch.  So language is one of many things that I’m going to be learning this year’s YSI program.  Since I was around 13 I had always wanted to go on a gap year before going to University.  During my last year of A-levels I had been looking around for possible programs I could join.  When the YSI program jumped onto my radar, I could really see how much it had to offer to anyone who was willing to participate.  What I particularly liked about the program is the Initiative element.  During the first few days I saw how you could literally do anything you wanted.  YSI began the year with some introductions and guidance but once the staff left, our team was on our own and we had to figure out for ourselves how we were going to serve the community we were in and what we were going to do. Once you scratch the surface of the volunteer world so many opportunities become open to you and its then up to us to really go out into Utrecht and try to make or difference by following our passions and talents to bring joy to those who we meet.

I personally have not yet found exactly what field of service I would like to specify in so I’m really open to getting stuck in with anything we come across.  I do, however, have a great interest in Sports because they can teach so much, discipline, team work, respect and the whole porpose is to have fun!

I see so much potential for all of the participants this year and I’m looking forward to everything Holland has to offer and everything that I can do for Utrecht!

Hi! My name is Yemi. I’m 20 years old and I’m from Italy (to the north of Italy, in the city of Bergamo, near Milan).

I’ve just finished school, and I wanted to do something different this year.

My friend, Stefania Ciacciarelli, who participated in YSI last year in Rotterdam, told me a lot about it and I was really interested.

So I decided to come to Holland and to be a part of YSI. During this year I want to improve my English, because it is very bad. In addition to that, I’ll be living with six other very different people. My hope is to live for the sake of them and experience new places and new cultures with them, and of course to get to know new people and grow from my experiences.

I’m really happy to be here and I hope that I can make Utrecht a better place.  All the while, working with my team and making them happy.

I have two specific interests, they are children (In school I studied to work with the children, and I love to work with them, in particular, kids until 6 years old), and photography.

I desire/hope to offer my best during this year.

Thank you!

4 thoughts on “Let’s Get Started

  1. Thanks, You lot!
    Its a wonderful report and introduction!
    You are going to have such wonderful year! I can sense it!
    I would like to come back and visit sometime!
    OOHHHHHH! I miss you something terrible!!!

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