Six decades later, we're still going strong
We started out as 15 students going out into the world who wanted to make a difference. Sixty years on, we have sent over 14,000 volunteers to more than 100 countries to end poverty and inequality and build opportunity.
We believe in the long-term. Long-term partnerships. Long-term programs. Long-term results. We work on today's most important development issues by connecting global communities in need with the skills they need to create lasting change.
We are rotating this page on a regular basis to feature the hundreds of stories and photos we've accumulated over the decades.
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Travel Through The Decades
Explore sixty years of global impact from those who experienced it first hand.
Bangladesh 2006, Jamaica 2010-2011, Guyana 2011-2012, Canada 2016
In 2006, Alastair volunteered in Bangladesh. He took additional placements in Jamaica and Guyana, but this time with his partner Candas Whitlock. “His experience spoke to my heart,” says Candas. “So I applied to volunteer!” In 2016, he became Cuso’s first-ever North American volunteer in Alert Bay, B.C. Candas joined him on the four-month placement. “You’ve spent a lifetime developing skills and knowledge,” says Candas. “When you retire, you can use your experience to make a real difference in less-fortunate communities.”
After completing university Allan traveled to Botswana to work as a planning officer for the country’s government. The placement lasted seven years and shaped the arc of his career. Allan has had a varied and distinguished career with the Government of Canada. He served as Canadian ambassador in Guatemala, El Salvador, Venezuela and the Organization of American States. At home, Allan has worked in Global Affairs Canada, the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
Asia served as a Youth Entrepreneurship Advisor with Dominica Youth Business Trust in Roseau, Dominica. Asia developed and facilitated workshops in business development, micro-finance and business plan writing. In 2015, Asia was recognized as a Global Changemaker Youth Ambassador, an honour that recognized her contribution to social justice and international development.
Bob’s life work has been to take the best of Canadian knowledge and share it with the world. As a climate change consultant he worked with countries setting up plans to meet obligations under the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change. With the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada he took on the task of updating Responsible Care for the 21st Century and now, as President, he promotes the best of what Canada has learned in sustainability, to the rest of the world.
Cameroon 2003-2004, Namibia 2009-2010
At the age of 25, Brian volunteered overseas for the first time. He travelled to Cameroon where he worked as an IT volunteer. After his placement ended, Brian spent two months living in a small village in Cameroon learning local customs, trades and cuisine. Brian’s experience ignited a passion for travel, foods and culture. Upon returning to Canada, Brian moved to Quebec to immerse himself in the French language and pursued a diploma in French cuisine.
On a humid August day, Byung Oh boarded a plane as an IT Specialist destined for Hanoi. He returned to Canada the following March, a changed man. Byung’s IT skills were in hot demand in Vietnam. “I encourage students to volunteer,” Byung says. “Whether locally or internationally—there is something very eye-opening about it.”
Mozambique 2012-2013, Myanmar 2014-2015
Chris started his journey with Cuso in 2012 as a volunteer in Mozambique where he cultivated resources and training methods for volunteer and staff development. Chris was also instrumental in establishing Cuso office in Myanmar, where he worked in 2014-15. “I learned that being an expert doesn’t mean you have all the answers,” said Chris. “It’s about knowing how to tackle the questions. You have to be open to new ideas and to learning new skills.
Chris Brown volunteered in Botswana where he worked for two years as a development planner and local government policy advisor. “My time with Cuso is still a touchstone for me; everything I’ve been doing since started then. Going abroad is an experience in and of itself; it’s character building, it makes you more self confident, more self aware and more attractive to the job market here.”
Mozambique 1998-2001, 2001-2002
Christian travelled to Mozambique to work with a team of Canadian and Irish volunteers on a unique community-based disarmament project. After the country’s civil war, thousands of guns, grenades and landmines remained a threat to the fragile peace. Together, the volunteers converted these decommissioned arms into creative sculptures that promote healing and reconciliation. The resulting exhibit toured Canada in the 1990s. As well as the artistic endeavour, Christian’s placement involved community development, HIV/AIDS prevention and education in Mozambique.
Enriching children’s lives in Jamaica changed Christine French’s life back in Canada. Volunteering with Cuso, Christine worked with with the YMCA in Kingston on sustainability planning for ongoing social services in the community. “Working with the boys who attend the YMCA’s Youth Development Program was the highlight of my time in Jamaica. It was magical to see how positive reinforcement, learner-centric education, and healthy food transformed them—the change was almost immediate.”
Jamaica 1963–1964, Zambia 1964–1967, Zambia 1978–1980, Zimbabwe 1987, Zambia 1989–1991, South Africa 1994–1996, South Africa 1996–2000
David’s experiences in southern Africa in the 60s and 70s, both as a Cuso volunteer and staff, helped to shape Canada’s response to the oppressive tactics being used by apartheid leaders. “As volunteers and staff, we knew what was really happening. We saw the effects of the bombings and attacks to suppress political movements,” says David. Cuso and David were regularly called upon by Canadian foreign officials to give briefings of what was happening on the ground. “This work became part of my consciousness that I’ve carried with me throughout my life.”
Togo 1988-1990, 1991-1992, Peru 1996 -1998, Cameroon 2013
"Working abroad is priceless. Experiencing other cultures allows us to examine our own values,” she says. “We go there to help, but they’re the ones who end up helping us.” Huberte’s first Cuso assignment was in Togo where she helped build water pumps. She travelled to Peru in the mid-90s to work with a local agency on a uterine cancer prevention project.
“My placement taught me about the importance of taking the time to build strong relationships and understand the broader context before taking meaningful action. This lesson has stayed with me after my placement” said Imran.
In Laos, Kelley volunteer with the Gender Development Group to establish one of the first ever domestic violence research projects in the country. “After I returned to Canada I continued to work on violence against women as a policy analyst with the federal government,” Kelley said. Kelley’s ongoing connection to Southeast Asia is evident in books she authors—during her Cuso International placement, she wrote an Amazon best-selling novel, The Merit Birds.
Jamaica 1989-1992, 1992-1995
After a career dedicated to public health, as the founder of the Sickle Cell Association of Ontario, Lillie spent time in Jamaica as a Cuso volunteer. Lillie helped open and run a medical clinic. It was a chance for her to apply her training in nursing, education, and midwifery in her home country. Back in Canada, Lillie continued to be a champion for Cuso, helping to coach other volunteers who were about to leave on a placement.
Inspired by her volunteer experience In Zambia Lois returned to Africa three times where she worked with the African Canadian Continuing Education Society (ACCES), an organization that supports Kenyan children and young people to obtain an education. Back home in Canada, she spent the last 25 years of her life in Cowichan Valley, B.C., establishing a nature centre where groups of school children learn about ecology and natural habitats, she continues to educate and nurture.
Cuso Board Member Lynn was among the early volunteers with Cuso looking for an opportunity to experience the world and contribute in some way. The experience changed her life. Back home, Lynn joined the Cuso staff, helping to oversee programs in Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra Leone before becoming Director, Local Committees. Lynn has received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers for her incredible contributions to the community.
Marie Small Face-Marule was one of the first Indigenous women to volunteer with Cuso. Upon her return she became the President of the Red Crow Community College, helped create the World Council of Indigenous Peoples and was the Executive Director of the National Indian Brotherhood. She was a recipient of a National Aboriginal Achievement award, received the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women’s Dorothy MacDonald Leadership Award and was inducted into the IAAW’s Circle of Honour.
Internationally acclaimed and award-winning novelist Nino Ricci credits his volunteer time in helping him hone his vision as a writer. Volunteering as an English teacher, Nino was inspired by his students’ resiliency, “My placement changed me in fundamental ways: on one hand, opening my eyes to the vast differences of custom, outlook and opportunity that can separate different cultures, and on the other, to the common humanity that joins them, and common hopes and fears.”
In 1969, Peter Ackhurst and his wife decided to join Cuso to work in Tanzania. For the next two years Peter was responsible for the Forest Inventory Section of the Ministry of Forests, while his wife worked as a nutritionist in the Ministry of Agriculture. This overseas experience was the gateway to a career in forestry and land use management that took him all over the world.
Chile, Costa Rica, 1991-1995, 1995-1999, 1999-2001, 2001
Born in Chile, Rosa fled in 1974 after a military coup. A political refugee, she settled in Winnipeg, and started volunteering at Cuso’s Winnipeg office. After Chile’s dictatorship dissolved, Rosa returned to Chile with a scholarship to study the resettlement process. As a member of the diaspora, Rosa knew that she could bring value to Chile and connected with Cuso about volunteer opportunities. Her perspective was shared in her volunteer and Cuso Diaspora Program Coordinator roles.
Nigeria 1972-1975, Papua New Guinea 1977-1979
Sandra was philosophy graduate from Saskatchewan when she first volunteered with Cuso. She began her placement in Nigeria teaching English composition and remedial reading in a university preparation program at a college in Kana. After two years, Sandra wanted to reach more marginalized communities so she transferred to a rural posting, where she trained future primary school teachers. In 1977, Sandra returned to Cuso, taking on a two-year placement to promote technology in Papua New Guinea.
As a young nurse, Sara travelled to Ghana where her volunteer placement included managing a children’s ward, organizing a pharmacy, and working in an outpatient clinic. Her volunteer experience gave her a newfound cultural competence that she applied to her work as a community health nurse in Vancouver and Winnipeg. At the University of Manitoba, where Sara taught for nine years, she encouraged students to discover the strengths and capacities of other people—rather than just needs.
Seeing Cameroon in a new light
After becoming a permanent Canadian resident, Sandrine Messomo joined Cuso International and returned to her home country of Cameroon as a volunteer. The experience helped her see Cameroon in a whole new light.
Richard, Oliver and Philip's Story
As a Cuso volunteer my path started at the end of my final year at St. Patrick’s College. Not sure what to do after graduation, I had a chance meeting with a social worker who invited me to a town hall meeting with Cuso International.
"These women taught me more about building resilience and perseverance than ever before. It was truly a gift to experience their resourcefulness and vibrant attitudes. Now I truly believe nothing can stop me from moving forward, with the right attitude."
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