Local woman, 66, off to teach English in Laos


Woman in front of Cuso signage

A 66-year-old Victoria woman leaves for Southeast Asia this month embarking on an adventure usually associated with new university graduates.

Pippa Turney, now single and mother of two grown sons, will leave her townhouse in Victoria later this month and head to Laos to teach English and elementary computer skills as part of Cuso International. It’s an ambition Turney traces all the way back to childhood.

“Back in the 1960s, I remember my mother telling me: ‘Well, when you finish university you could always go and volunteer with Cuso,’” said Turney in a telephone interview. “So, at the back of my mind there was always ‘Cuso, Cuso, Cuso.’”

Cuso International is the up-to-date version of the organization dating back to 1961. Early on, it was CUSO, for Canadian University Service Overseas. It relied on university students who would commit to a two-year, overseas development role.

Now Cuso International’s recruitment has expanded. Working people whose employers allow them to take a sabbatical, or retired folk, can apply. Commitments now vary usually from six months to a year. Turney’s placement ends in the spring.

She was born in Vancouver and completed university in Toronto. After graduation, she travelled to Europe and ended up becoming a mother in Italy, where she also taught English. Now back in Victoria, however, she has surprised even herself with the Laos plan.

“Not everyone can do this and not everyone wants to,” she said. “But the more I think about it, ‘Thank you, yes’ seems like the right reaction.”

ARTICLE:  Our Community: Local woman, 66, off to teach English in Laos
Times Colonist
Published: September 15, 2019