Driven by Passion

Following Six Months in Nigeria, Volunteer Plans to Return

Jon Ntewak, of Whitby, Ontario, recently returned from Nigeria where he volunteered his expertise for six months, to help youth in that country find jobs. Many of the young people he worked with there are around the same age he was when he first left Nigeria to immigrate to Canada in the 1970s.

“To be able to go back and lend a hand in whatever way I can, however small, is immeasurable,” Jon said. “Just being able to bring information to those who do not have it, is to better their lives.”

It is through Cuso International that Jon was able to return to Nigeria as a volunteer. Now home from his six-month placement, Jon feels there is more work for him to do, and he is hoping to return in the spring.

As a volunteer youth advisor, Jon’s primary task was to help create youth-led projects through a program called YouLead (Youth Leadership, Entrepreneurship Access and Development). As part of that, he helped established a model for a resource centre that offers youth a safe space to come for job training and other information on employment opportunities. The model will be replicated in 10 similar centres across the country; of which Jon has already helped to open eight. In a country where youth unemployment is high, the resource centres help youth build their job-hunting skills and confidence, and to leverage potential work connections.

To introduce all members of the community to the centres, Jon organized events with local guest speakers on a range of topics that address community needs. He hosted a successful job fair to introduce potential employers to job seekers, and many of the youth have already received job interviews from this.

In Canada, Jon dedicated 25 years to his career in social work in Toronto before retiring in March 2016. “I’ve seen a lot of suffering and being able to help someone – by finding them housing or employment, or giving them support – that’s what drives my passion,” he said.