Alumni Magazine of Cuso International
Increasing tech education for women in Cameroon
In this digital-only issue, you’ll read about TechWomen Factory in Cameroon, a project assisting jobless or underemployed women by adding a high level of digital competency to their existing credentials; a program in Tanzania that helps new entrepreneurs transform their innovative ideas into vibrant businesses in their communities; and Venezuelan migrants getting the tools they need to grow their business in Peru. These stories showcase how Cuso International staff, volunteers, and alumni, along with our local partner organizations, make a difference in communities around the world.
Cover: Hadidja Moussa
Photograph: Giordanno Brumas
Message from the CEO
In this issue of Catalyst, you will find amazing stories from Cuso International program participants, volunteers, and alumni that highlight how our programs make a difference in people’s lives around the world.
You will read about our work in Inuit communities in the Northwest Territories providing hands-on support for students, education programs supporting women in technology in Cameroon, and work in Afro-Colombian communities that is helping people recognize and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
You will also read about Venezuelan migrants getting the tools they need to grow their business in Peru. As we approach International Refugee Day on June 20, Cuso International remains committed to its work with local governments, the private sector, and community partners to improve the economic and social conditions of migrants around the world.
Earlier this year, Cuso International introduced our 2023–2027 Strategic Plan, which is a roadmap for how our collaboration work with partners will help address the root causes of inequality and improve the economic and social conditions of marginalized groups. We are committed to strengthening gender equality and social inclusion, improving economic resilience through sustainable solutions, and advancing climate action.
I am thankful to Cuso International staff and members for their work putting this plan together. In the coming months, I will continue to share news with you about our strategic priorities, the goals we’re working to achieve, and the specific results that will let us know we’ve achieved our goals. I hope you will join us as we continue this journey.
CEO, Cuso International
Tech Incubator Accelerates Learning in Cameroon
Two dozen students huddle at their computers, inputting and analyzing data with a savviness that would put the average person’s tech skills to shame.
Supporting students’ education in the Northwest Territories
More familiar with the bustling city life of Toronto, Margot Ferguson is becoming accustomed to the quiet in Hay River, Northwest Territories. The Northern community offers a different landscape, different sociology, even a different winter.
Driving action on climate change in Afro Colombian communities
In Afro-Colombian territories on the Pacific coast of South America, community members have noticed weather changes and have found fish in new places.
Strengthening entrepreneurial knowledge for women in Honduras
María Gómez Ándres has a path of flowers growing outside her house that she enjoys taking care of. Nearby is a river where she can swim and cool off from the hot weather. She works hard in agriculture to help support her seven children but faced barriers due to her limited education.
Working to improve gender equality in Nigeria
In Nigeria, gender inequality remains a critical challenge. The statistics tell a sobering story of how prevalent gender-based violence is in this country of 220 million people: one-quarter of girls experience sexual violence. Nigeria has the highest number of child brides worldwide and one of the highest numbers of teenage pregnancies worldwide.
Gaining the right tools to grow a prosperous business
The ongoing political conflict in Venezuela has displaced millions of people, including Nidia Ramona and Carlos Cáceres, who arrived in Lima, Peru as migrants in 2017.
Uplifting women entrepreneurs in Tanzania
Genovefa is a cheerful, confident 59-year-old woman with a passion for entrepreneurship. Her journey as a business owner started roughly 30 years ago when she was still working as a teacher.
Paying tribute to incredible alumni and their vital contributions
My cousin Marnie and I were best friends growing up and when she died last October, she took her half of our childhood memories with her.
She and her husband Paul left their first posting in Tanzania with two small Swahili speaking sons who learned English in Jamaica, returning to Canada in July 1975 sounding like Bob Marley!
They settled in Ottawa, and Marnie took on administrative responsibilities with Cuso International, leaving in 1979. She worked as Director of MATCH until the boys were older before accepting a posting abroad with the Canadian High Commission in Colombo, Sri Lanka. A highlight of her time there (and mine!) was a festival of films by Canadian women which we planned and ran together in 1998. Her last position was in Kampala with the Commonwealth Secretariat, defining and encouraging roles for women in the Ugandan government.
Cuso International was a formative influence on her life, and she contributed her energy, wisdom, and joy to make the world a better place for women and girls.
Wilfred Dale Posgate
Wilfred Dale passed away January 9, 2023 in Victoria, Canada.
Born in London, UK, Dale moved with his parents to Toronto and attended the University of Toronto Schools and University of Toronto. He taught political science at York University in the 1970s, before moving to the west coast in 1980.
During his 83 years, Dale packed his life with activities he held dear: his volunteer work for Cuso International, and his professional work with the Canadian International Development Agency in Bangladesh, Thailand, and Afghanistan. He had a passion for politics, literature, music, sailing, and thoroughly enjoyed his many travels, particularly throughout South and Southeast Asia. His family and friends will miss him deeply.
Thank you to the Victoria Community Health Services nurses and occupational therapist for your outstanding support.
Eric Norval Davies
The family of Eric Davies is heartbroken to share that Eric passed away suddenly at home in the early hours of January 14, 2023 with his son Ben.
Eric graduated with a BSc in biology and a BA in history from the University of New Brunswick after which he spent two terms in Africa as a teacher for Cuso International in Sierra Leone and Zambia during the 1970s. Following that, he moved to Ottawa where he worked for the Red Cross as a biomedical research scientist. This is where he met and married Cathi Harris. In 1988, they moved to Mississauga, where Erin and Ben were born. He worked as a biomedical research scientist there until 2007. He moved back to the Ottawa area in 2008, where he lived until 2011. He retired to Woodstock, New Brunswick, to help care for his mother.
Eric was an avid reader who loved cooking and music. He had many interesting stories from his days in Africa and in the biomedical field, which he loved to share over a glass of wine. He was a generous soul who loved his friends and family.
Debra Jean Martyn
Debra Jean Martyn passed away peacefully at home on February 18, 2023, at the age of 71.
Born in West Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, on October 26, 1951, she was the daughter of the late Mary Ina Hayman and Lawson Kenneth Hayman. She lived in West Tatamagouche through her childhood.
Debra attended Acadia University, where she earned a BSc in home economics and met her future husband, Peter Martyn, who she married in 1974. After university, Debra moved to Prince Edward Island as a district home economist, and then to Labrador. In 1975, she and Peter settled in Montreal, where she ran a group home for cognitively disabled adults. She joined the staff of Edgewater Elementary School in Pincourt, Quebec, in the early 1980s, where she worked until her retirement in 2006, assisting students with disabilities.
In 2001, she began a second career teaching English internationally. She began in Suwon, South Korea as a Kindergarten teacher, and then at Guilin University of Technology in China. After retirement, she volunteered with Cuso International. She taught teachers in Kibaya, Tanzania and worked as a product designer at Chu Chu in Yangon, Myanmar. At Chu Chu, she created merchandise out of recycled materials. She was a mother, homemaker, world traveler, gardener, and sewer. She welcomed her children, Heather and Alex, in the 1980s and spent the next 20 years raising her family with the calm and loving competence she was known for. After retiring in Tatamagouche, she spent time on her hobbies: gardening, puzzles, sudoku, traveling, knitting, and sewing. She volunteered on the executive team of The Fraser, a local gallery promoting visual arts and crafts. At the Fraser, she expanded on her lifelong interests, learning a variety of fibre and visual arts.
Debra leaves a lifetime of joyful memories and love with her family. She is remembered with love by her extended family and her many friends. Our family would like to thank Dr. Daniel MacDonald, Martha Ferguson, and the many staff at the VON for their knowledge, guidance, and steady care through Debra’s illness.
#IamCusoInternational because I believe in the inclusive development of vulnerable people and I believe that we can stop all forms of social exclusion if we work together.
Rasaq’s volunteer work as a Resource Mobilization Advisor with Cuso International has impacted more than 35 women’s rights organizations. By building resources and writing grant proposals, Rasaq is helping local organizations get the support they need to address sexual abuse and gender inequality in Nigeria.
“My favorite moments volunteering for Cuso International are when I see changes in the lives of people and organizations that have benefited from our programs.”
Jose Adonaiy Ramos Reyes
#IamCusoInternational because I want to assist with social equality and environmental justice.
Volunteering as a Project Monitoring Advisor with Cuso International partner Mesa de Organizaciones Comanejadoras de Áreas Protegidas de Honduras (MOCAPH), Jose advises and monitors national organizations dedicated to protecting sensitive areas of Honduras.
Jose’s favourite part about volunteering is his community outreach work. He is proud to be working with communities and talking about important environmental issues, climate change, social equality, adaptation, food security, and food sovereignty.
“I congratulate Cuso International for its enormous work for countries whose society is still living in social, economic, and environmental inequality.”
#IamCusoInternational because I am passionate about volunteering, and I love the idea of helping the world.
Kalkidan is volunteering as a Database Administrator with Cuso International partner Authority for Civil Society Organization (ACSO). By monitoring and maintaining the group's database, Kalkidan increases ACSO’s efficiency and precision, enabling them to focus more sharply on supporting civil societies in Ethiopia.
“I am proud to be a part of the volunteerism empowerment team at ACSO,” said Kalkidan. “Let’s help each other, lets do it!”
#IamCusoInternational because I love to share knowledge. Cuso International gives me the opportunity to share my expertise and contribute to the protection of women and children by amplifying their voices.
Volunteering as a Communications Advisor with the Basic Rights Council Initiative in Nigeria, Balogus has assisted with various media-related duties, including shooting and editing campaign videos, doing social media engagement, and storytelling.
Balogus said the fulfillment he gets any time a survivor of abuse sees justice has been a highlight of his work. His favourite part of volunteering with Cuso International has been meeting new people and learning about their cultures and food.
Sebastian Martinez Silva
#IamCusoInternational because I believe that solidarity, equity and socio-environmental justice lead to productivity and happier lives.
Sebastian has been volunteering with Cuso International partner National Natural Parks of Colombia. He provides scientific support by researching and monitoring coastal habitats, strengthens partner organization outreach in rural communities, and helps create projects that support ecosystem conservation to mitigate climate change.
Some of Sebastian’s favourite moments volunteering are arriving onsite to work with a new community and reflecting on all he’s learned through his experiences. He is proud of the success he’s seen in training two groups of beekeepers to start sustainable production projects.
“I am also proud of the work of recognizing and integrating the empirical and ancestral knowledge of fishermen within the monitoring and research program of the Corales de Profundidad protected area.”
Cuso International alumni Brian Hawker has written a book, THE CROOKED PATH: Colonization to Decolonization.
For 145 years, the Indian Act has laid out the rules of engagement between Indigenous people in Canada and the non-native majority. It governs every important aspect of the lives of Indigenous people, but every statistic in every study and survey confirms that it doesn’t govern well.
After working for 20 years in many remote reserves in Northwestern Ontario, the author concluded that vested interests support the view that things will never be able to change, and that the status quo causes needless suffering for Indigenous children. This book makes the case that change will happen when key players enact a new relationship uncontaminated by the false hope that only money and politics, the failed remedies of the past, will fix everything. There is hope for long-term reforms that are responsive to the needs of Indigenous children and families across the country.
Brian Hawker has worked as a university ombudsman and as a consultant in First Nations human resource development. His projects include preparing two aboriginal, adult, basic-level literacy workbooks, designing an accredited, community-based traditional native arts program, developing a teacher’s manual for teachers of Cree syllabics, and doing a needs assessment as part of the development of an aboriginal B.Ed. in adult education.
Book clubs, podcasts, and YouTube videos – I've entered a new phase of engaging with readers of my book Not one, not even one: A memoir of life-altering experiences in Sierra Leone, West Africa (produced by Friesen Press, 2022). It's been fun meeting former Cuso International volunteers (cooperants) in the process.
If you'd like to suggest my memoir for your book club, let me know. I'd be pleased to join a conversation with your members. In recent podcasts and YouTube videos, I have discussed my Cuso International work in Sierra Leone, a subsequent career in global health, and the memoir-writing process. For regular updates, I invite you to look at the book club and events pages on my website: www.nancyedwards.ca
As Cuso International moves forward with its strategic plan, my memoir adds another Returned Volunteer testament. Gripped by Guyana: A Memoir of Purpose and Adventure will be available in late March through Amazon and local bookstores.
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