Cuso International resumes global volunteer-sending program
Ottawa, Ontario—Cuso International is pleased to announce that it will resume its deployment of Canadian volunteers in November/December 2021 after a 20-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first volunteer will head to Cameroon early this month.
“We are delighted to begin sending Canadian volunteers out on placements again,” says Nicolas Moyer, CEO of Cuso International. “After much consideration, Cuso International has made the decision to move forward with a stepwise re-entry in November 2021. For this limited deployment, we deliberately identified Cuso’s alumni volunteers who have experience on the ground, know the partners with whom they will be working, and can jump back into projects.”
For the past sixty years, Cuso has focused on long-term, sustainable impact. Its work with partner organizations around the world creates opportunity by delivering resources and sharing the skills needed to help communities thrive.
As always, Cuso strives to maintain a standard duty of care for all volunteers and staff and has closely monitored the COVID-19 infection and vaccination rates across all regions. Working in tandem with Country Program Offices and volunteers who have remained in-country, Cuso has implemented measures to uphold its commitment to volunteer safety.
In addition to Cameroon, Cuso plans to send two volunteers before the end of the year to Benin and Colombia. All volunteers deployed will be repeat volunteers who know the countries or regions they are returning to and are experienced in the field. Now that the global travel advisory has been lifted by the Canadian government, Cuso hopes to gradually return to pre-pandemic levels of volunteer deployment over the next year.
Odette Kamanzi, a resident of Québec City and originally from Rwanda, is the first Canadian volunteer leaving on placement. She will return to Cameroon to work with Cuso’s partner organization, Women in Alternative Action (WAA), as a gender advisor. WAA works to promote the inclusion of women, youth, and girls in Cameroon, and helps to build communities free from gender-based violence and discrimination. Through WAA, Kamanzi will also work with Queens for Peace, an organization that brings together queens (spouses to chiefs and kings) to combat gender-based violence and child marriages.
“For me, volunteering is about giving back. Canada welcomed me and now I am sharing the knowledge and skills that I have learned here with others,” says Kamanzi, who has volunteered with Cuso over the past 10 years in gender advising roles and was placed in Cameroon in 2017-2018 and 2019-2020. In Canada, she works at Université Laval as a sociologist and is active within the Rwandan community in Québec.
“I feel it is very important to go back to the field now because I do not want the girls and women in Cameroon to feel abandoned. They are hard-working people, but they have few resources. This work is about improving the lives of women and girls … this is what compels me to go, to provide support and help them move forward.”
In March 2020, with the onset of the pandemic, Cuso recalled its Canadian volunteers from across the globe. Over the past 20 months, staff and partners in each of the field countries identified ways to deliver inclusive, innovative, and sustainable development initiatives, particularly for women and girls. E-volunteers, as well as national and south-south volunteers (volunteers from neighbouring countries), and a small number of Canadians already in-country, have provided significant support during the pandemic.
“As the situation continues to evolve, the duty of care to our volunteers remains our greatest consideration,” says Moyer. “Cuso will resume wider deployment when it can ensure standards of care are met, and minimize potential risks for our volunteers, as well as for all staff, partners, and the communities we work with. Canadian volunteers are an essential component of our organization and mission, and their contributions are critical, particularly at this juncture.”
Over the next six years, Cuso expects to send approximately 1,000 volunteers on placements in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Northern Canada.
About Cuso International
Cuso International is a Canadian charity committed to ending poverty and inequality. Cuso works with local partners around the world to improve economic opportunities for all, enhance women’s and girls’ empowerment, and advance gender equality. By sharing skills, we are building sustainable futures. Each year, we amplify our impact by mobilizing hundreds of professionals who volunteer their time and share their experience. Learn more at: cusointernational.org.
Cuso International gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Government of Canada, through Global Affairs Canada, as well as its donors and supporters