The true measure of success


Woman working over a fire

Jacinta took part in Cuso’s Youth Leadership, Entrepreneurship Access and Development (YouLead) program and is now running one of the largest woman-owned cassava processing facilities in Cross River State, Nigeria.

By Glenn Mifflin
CEO, Cuso International  

Our volunteers, donors, partners and staff tell us that, for them, success is the moment a young woman realizes her potential and the possibilities available to her. It’s witnessing a mother smile for the first time because her child is safe. It’s seeing a student put new skills into practice.  

The soul of our work lies in these nuanced events. 

Jacinta was one of the four million people who benefited from Cuso International’s projects last year. She took part in Cuso’s Youth Leadership, Entrepreneurship Access and Development (YouLead) program and is now running one of the largest woman-owned cassava processing facilities in Cross River State, Nigeria. Her success is lifting her entire community.   

Jacinta now employs a number of young women and men from her community. Her business is environmentally friendly. She is able to provide for her family. And, perhaps most importantly, she is a role model for other young girls and women.  

As we look at the year ahead, we are excited to be launching new projects and partnerships that continue to advance gender equality, empowering women and girls, and improving economic opportunities for youth.  

We are supporting young Cameroonian refugees and their host communities in Nigeria with skills training to enhance their economic opportunities.  

We are working with people with disabilities, women and Indigenous peoples in Honduras to increase sustainable development for vulnerable communities.  

We are helping women, community leaders, health and education professionals fight against female genital mutilation and gender-based violence in northern Benin.  

We are partnering with four leading women’s organizations in Peru to strengthen the national feminist movement and promote women and girls’ rights.  

And we are increasing access to education for girls and young women in Ethiopia by working with communities to remove the barriers they face. 

I had the opportunity to meet the deputy governor of¬†Cross River¬†State, Professor¬†Ivara¬†Esu, when¬†in¬†Nigeria. As his assistant introduced us, the deputy governor stopped¬†everything and¬†said, ‚ÄúCuso? I know Cuso. I went to school with four Cuso volunteers.‚Ä̬†

Almost 60 years later and he still remembers their names and who taught which subjects. Those volunteers, he told me, influenced his choices and changed the course of his life.  

In the international development sector, success is often measured in numbers and percentages. Last year, more than 4.1 million people in 21 countries benefited from Cuso programs. We had over 1,200 volunteers and e-volunteers in placements, working with more than 320 partners around the globe. 

The impacts we realized in 2019 are significant; you can see it reflected in the numbers above. But what really matters, what remains long after the numbers have faded from memory, are the personal stories of accomplishment that people share with us.  

They are the true measure of our combined success.