Inspiring Mentorship in Myanmar

Inspired by her 30-year-old niece who died of cancer, Kathleen Caswell signed up to be a Cuso International volunteer for the chance to spend time abroad and use her expertise to help make a difference.

Kathleen had always been in awe of her niece who had spent her 20s working across Asia and Europe teaching English. “After she passed away from cancer, I decided to follow her footsteps. I had been on the Cuso International newsletter list for years, and one day it came at the right time – about three months after she passed—and I decided to just do it.”

When she is at home in Wasaga Beach, Kathleen runs a financial planning and tax preparation business. Her skills are being put to good use while she volunteers in Myanmar for six months working to create a mentorship program with the Myanmar Business Executives Association, a non-profit organization based in Yangon.

“Some of the main businesses here include agriculture and handicrafts. Many young people are also wanting to start online businesses, and since they have only had the Internet for a few years now, many Internet businesses are just getting started. Tourism is also starting to become a bigger industry, with more people expected to visit as the country has just recently opened up.”

Her volunteer work includes motivating people within the association to be mentors, and putting the first mentorship program together. She has also worked hard to create a self-assessment questionnaire to help business school graduates and current businesses determine if they’re indeed ready to start their business, or if they are on track to grow and improve.

While she has missed her family while she is away, she says they are happy for her to be doing what she loves. She plans to catch up and celebrate all of the special holidays—like Christmas and birthdays—that she has missed when her family reunites for her homecoming in February.