From a Grain of Rice to a Mountain of Possibility


Man jumping in front of Cuso sign

When in Deloitte’s Calgary office, Jesse Brame works to improve the supply chain for the gas and oil industry, improving the process and product (and thus profitability) of Canadian oil and gas companies. Recently, Jesse took those skills to Laos for six months as part of Deloitte’s International Development Program (IDP) to help rice farmers improve the supply chain of the production and sale of a special type of sticky rice that has niche market potential.

Deloitte’s IDP offers their employees an opportunity to use the expertise they normally reserve for the Canadian private sector to help people in developing countries have a better life for them and their children. Jesse knew he wanted a longer placement as he wanted to be able to feel a deeper connection to the culture and is work that he knew a short stint wouldn’t offer him. What he got was exactly what he wanted: six months living amongst the communities he supported, connecting with the locals and making a greater impact.

The organization he worked with Sustainable Agriculture and Environment Development Association (SAEDA) works with small holder farmers to teach them sustainable organic farming techniques. Jesse took the skills he had developed in working with Canada’s oil and gas sector and put them to use with the rice farmers assessing and helping them understand how to improve the quality of their rice through each step of the supply chain including milling, storing and transporting. The result, a better product that people were willing to pay more for. And the resulting impact on the lives of the farmers was tremendous. “It’s the difference between being able to afford to send your children to school or not,” says Jesse.

Preparing to return to Canada, Jesse reflects on his time volunteering with Cuso International and the impact he thinks it will have on his work with Deloitte. He says a lot of what he’s gained is in the soft skills, being able see a concept through the client’s eyes to be able to help them understand it, to gain trust quickly to accomplish goals.  “I felt like something was missing (in Canada). I wanted to apply what I learned to help people much more in need of that help,” says Jesse. “The experience you get pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. I feel like I’ve grown professionally.”

And about what he’d say to someone thinking of volunteering overseas, “You’d be crazy not to do it.”