You’re the face of international development today with Cuso International. You helped us celebrate all of the work we’ve achieved together as Cuso International turned 50 in 2011. You’re part of our largest contingent of volunteers in the history of the organization!
The Catalyst Spring 2018 Alumnotes
Muriel Murray: Cameroon 2013, 2016–2017
My volunteer experience reinforced my passion for education both abroad and in Quebec. Upon my return from Cameroon in June 2017, I made a new commitment to new Canadians by teaching French courses at the Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion (MIDI). This is my way of contributing to the cultural integration of immigrants, as I have done throughout my career.
Christopher Braeuel: Tanzania 2013–2014
On September 16, 2017, Chris was presented with a 2017 Carleton University Humanitarian Alumni Award. This award recognizes Carleton graduates for volunteer community service that has made a difference to the well-being of others.
Prior to joining Veterinarians Without Borders Canada in his current role as Executive Director, Chris was the Country Program Director for Cuso International in Nigeria where he was instrumental in launching the Youth Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Access and Development (YouLead) project.
His volunteer placement in 2013 was an extension of a career already dedicated to development work. He had served in Afghanistan in 2010 as First Secretary for Development with the Canadian Embassy and with the then Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
The Catalyst Spring 2018 Alumnotes
RESEARCHER SEEKS REPORT SUBMITTED TO ROBERT MUGABE BY JOHN SAXBY AND eight OTHER NGO REPRESENTATIVES ON MARCH 21, 1983
I am currently doing research into a period of political violence in the Matabeleland region of Zimbabwe, with a specific focus on the years 1983–1984.
On February 17, 1983, representatives of nine NGOs running projects in Zimbabwe (including John Saxby of Cuso International) requested an audience with the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe to discuss their concerns at the ongoing brutalities committed by an elite army unit called the 5th Brigade. An audience was granted, and five of the NGO representatives attended a meeting with Mugabe in Harare.
On March 21, 1983, as a follow up to this meeting, representatives of nine NGOs presented a “thick report” to Mugabe detailing the evidence they had gathered of atrocities obtained from medical personnel and agencies in Matabeleland. This report was not released to the press.
I am keen to obtain a copy of this report and accompanying photographs if available as it would be most beneficial to my research.
Warm wishes and thanks,
Hazel Cameron, firstname.lastname@example.org
U.K. RESEARCHER SEEKS INFORMATION ON JEREMEY CORBYN WHO VOLUNTEERED WITH VSO IN JAMAICA, 1967
I am helping the writer Tom Bower with some research for a book about Jeremy Corbyn, the U.K. Labour Party leader.
Corbyn was in Kingston, Jamaica with VSO from sometime in 1967, and stayed for two years. My understanding from VSO here is that Jeremy Corbyn went out to Jamaica in August 1967 and worked at Kingston College for a couple of years. I’d love to hear from anyone who has recollections of spending time with him there. We are looking to get some insight into how his experiences in Jamaica might have informed his politics thereafter.
I have been in touch with VSO and am waiting to see what they can tell me. However, it struck me that the CUSO volunteers often got to know the VSO volunteers. I am hoping to find people who knew/worked alongside Corbyn at the end of the 1960s.
I realise it is a long time ago, but you never know….
Please contact Claudia Worsdworth at email@example.com if you have any stories to share.
SARAWAK TO THE WORLD
Thank you to former volunteers in Borneo who have provided some very useful input for an article for the Borneo Research Bulletin. The article, which should appear around July/August next year, is partly intended to mark the 60th anniversary of the international volunteering programmes in Borneo.
Regrettably it is impossible to do full justice to the many fascinating accounts in a relatively brief research feature but possibly there may be other opportunities in the future. I am extremely grateful for all the help and advice that Cuso International has provided. I hope that the significant Canadian contribution to the unique record of international volunteering in East Malaysia is faithfully recorded.
With best wishes
The Catalyst Spring 2017 Alumnotes
Verdiane Bukumi: Benin 2015
Verdiane was Cuso International’s featured volunteer by Global Affairs Canada in a video to mark International Volunteer Day 2016.
The International Volunteer Day (IVD) mandated by the UN General Assembly, is held each year on December 5. It is a unique opportunity for volunteers and organizations to celebrate their efforts, share their values and promote their work among their communities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), United Nations agencies, government authorities and the private sector.
Apart from mobilizing thousands of volunteers every year, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme contributes to peace and development by advocating for the recognition of volunteers and working with partners to integrate volunteerism into development programming.
Peter Jailall: Guyana 2009-2012
In August 2014, retired teacher and Cuso volunteer Peter Jailall published Jottings: A Teacher’s Logbook, a collection of articles that tackle the fundamental questions educators need to ask about teaching and learning. Jottings: A Teacher’s Logbook was published by In Our Words and is available at amazon.com or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jean Fraser: Peru 2010-2011
For past three years, Jean Fraser, a Cuso International alumna who volunteered in Peru, was the captain of a charity running team in Halifax.
“I’m proud to support the work that Cuso International does in developing countries. This yearly fundraiser helps me to recognize the role that Cuso the organization and the people I met by volunteering have played in my life,¨ explains Jean. “I keep coming back to captain the team in Halifax, as part of the Blue Nose Marathon because I believe in volunteering. It’s a great opportunity to talk to people about the different volunteer opportunities that are out there—both internationally and locally.”
Cuso International is always looking for alumni who want to stay involved with the organization. Join now by contacting us at email@example.com for more information.
Ian Porter: Cambodia 2011, 2012–2014
My two postings to Cambodia as a Cuso International volunteer were not my first visit to Cambodia. Ten years earlier, I had travelled to the kingdom as a volunteer in a journalism-training program.
A six-week public relations assignment for CUSO with photographer William Hirtle in 2011 was my fifth trip to the country. When CUSO selected me to return the following year as a media advisor, no doubt my previous efforts in Cambodia were a consideration.
Why did I want to go back? A big factor were the volunteers we profiled in the promotional stories about their work in partnership with VSO Cambodia. Their energy and dedication was both an inspiration and a reminder to me of unfinished business. Cambodians have yet to rebuild the institutions destroyed by war and revolution in the last decades of the 20th century.
In the past, as a volunteer, my objective had been to support the development of independent media and civil society and that was my motivation when I applied to return in 2012. Something that perhaps I had forgotten, however, was that volunteers always have more to learn than they have to give.
Skills and Knowledge for Working in Development (SKWID) training does warn us about the complexity of relationships with host organizations and in my case, I did have some memory of the institutional obstacles and subtleties of Cambodian society. Despite all that, I was not prepared upon my arrival at the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia (CCC) for the rivalries I observed within the NGO community, particularly in its engagement with the entrenched authoritarian government. For example, as an association of NGOs, CCC is required at all times to present a consensus on matters ranging from electoral reform to fundamental human rights. Many members—particularly those without an international partner—give highest priority to maintaining their working relationship with government departments and local officials. These national NGOs risk a loss of funding from their sponsors should government react to unwelcome criticism by reducing or severing access to their clients. CCC shares this constraint with other umbrella organizations in Cambodia and each of them, in turn, are obsessively protective of their access to top levels of government, of their ability to influence policy (or to be given public credit for influence) and to attract government ministers to their events. So important is this last measure of prestige that organizations may even pay high-ranking officials for little more than token participation.
The incoming media advisor is likely to see these arrangements as grotesquely compromised yet needs to adopt some form of accommodation if he or she is to be at all effective. The objective must be to assist the organization to present its positions as clearly as it dares, and help it develop new channels through which to communicate with its public. In practice, this might involve training in speech writing and in drafting of manifestos and news releases and in cultivating relationships with local media.
My experience with CCC included both some successes and a number of painful frustrations. The organization enjoyed a significant increase in exposure in print and broadcast media. A newly appointed executive director won early recognition as an effective spokesman for civil society. The main setback was CCC’s persistent reluctance or even refusal to join other organizations in speaking out against political repression, judicial corruption and the repeated breach of human rights. In one way, I am sure I was a disappointment to CCC. I was prepared to assist team members in drafting announcements, grant applications, correspondence, annual reports and so on but insisted that my role was to help CCC develop its own communications capacity rather than to perpetuate its dependency on an outside scribe. At various times, it was necessary to back down from this hard-line position but much less frequently, I suspect, than my colleagues had experienced with previous volunteers.
Looking back now, I feel it was an important that not all my volunteer activities were confined to my host organization. I was able to accept an invitation to mentor a student in the communications program at the Royal University of Cambodia. I had opportunities to develop connections with local journalists and broadcasters, to travel throughout the kingdom and write for CUSO about the work of other volunteers. I participated in the rich cultural life of Phnom Penh and maintained a blog about events that I witnessed.
Recently, I have completed a series of posts based on a long interview with a young Cambodian who grew up in the years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979.
My term as a CUSO volunteer with CCC lasted 20 months, a half-year short of the originally contracted period. As it happened, my urgent return to Canada was too late for me to be present at the death of a senior family member. Nonetheless, I felt it was important to available as a support to my partner in a time of loss. In fact, coming home when I did was critical for my own health. A medical examination of symptoms that had troubled me during my last months in Cambodia resulted in a diagnosis of bladder cancer and early surgical intervention. I am happy to say that after three operations, my doctors advise me I probably will die of something else.
Satyanand Sattan: Namibia 2010–2011, Jamaica 2012–2012, Dominica 2013
As I read the last issue of The Catalyst, I paid close attention to the piece on sustainability. It was interesting, and I think it can be complemented by evidence-based input from the field. To that end, I asked the director of a project I worked on six years ago for some feedback.
Cuso International helped the PV organization with governance, financial management and strategic policy all within a six-month placement. In addition, we did a one-year placement on program application. These efforts along with PV’s astute management team helped to get PV to where it is at present. Maybe this is something we can build upon in other places. Governance, accountability and transparency are fundamental elements of sustainability.
Marian Dodds: Ethiopia 2010–2013
Join Marian on her three-year journey enjoying life in rural and urban Ethiopia. Experience her photos and stories through her blog.
Marian also published her journey as Spider Webs Unite: My Volunteer Experience in Ethiopia. If you are interested in purchasing a copy please email Marian: marianbeth (at) gmail (dot) com*
*Please replace (at) with @ and (dot) with a . and remove spaces when emailing. This is to prevent spammers from easily getting email addresses published on the website.
Alice Chandler: Cambodia 2013–2015
The Road to Prosperity–my education–my life is a collection of interviews highlighting the value of education. It is a wonderful educational resource created and produced by Alice Chandler during her placement in in Mondolkiri province, Cambodia. The book was shared and used with by the Provincial office of Education, the District office of Education, and NGO education partners throughout Cambodia. Teachers learned how to use this book with their students to promote school enrolment and to improve the sustainability of higher school from grades 1–12.
Read more about Alice’s work on her blog.
Murray Stow: Peru 2014–2015
Volunteer Murray Stow participated in a series of online advertisements with Advisor, Canadian Grocer and Canadian Business magazines to attract business professionals to volunteer with Cuso International. Murray was also featured in Ottawa’s Metro newspaper during National Volunteer Week.
Thank you, Murray, for helping us spread the word about volunteer opportunities around the world!
Jennifer Reddy : Guyana 2016-2017
Cuso International alumna Jennifer Reddy was elected to the Vancouver School Board in October 2018.
Carmen De La Torre : Bolivia 2018
It is a pleasure for me to make use of your respected magazine Catalyst, to express my sincere gratitude to Cuso International and the Foundation for the Conservation of the Chiquitano Forest (Bolivia). Both institutions gave me the opportunity to share with them as a volunteer. To Cuso, my immense thankfulness to teaching me the meaning of an institution dedicated to raising the knowledge and training of the poorest people in the world. To the FCBC, my indebtedness for allowing me to translate their website from Spanish to English and, above all, to show me the beauty and nobility of work and the dedication of your valuable team.
Barry Gallant : Myanmar 2016-17; Guyana 2018
A great evening was held in Dartmouth, NS with three couples recently back from assignments in Myanmar and Guyana. Many discussions were held around older professionals (Virginia was the exception) volunteering internationally. We are hoping to expand the size of our group. Anyone who is a return volunteer, or those planning a volunteer assignment are welcome to join us. We are hoping volunteers of all ages will contact us. We are interested in discussions around sustainability, gender equality and sustainable development goals. Please contact us at Bgallant@ns.sympatico.ca.
Odette O. Kamanzi Gahongayire : Rwanda 2010-11; Cameroon 2017-18; 2018
My experience with Cuso International Cameroon was very rewarding on the professional, personal, cultural and social levels. I have been very lucky to work with the right people, the excellent colleagues and the wonderful partners. I am proud of my accomplishment during my one-year stay in Cameroon, although I recognize there is much more to improve. I am always available and willing to work with Cuso International because I consider it my second family.