Volunteering Helps Guyanese-Canadian Keep Ties To Guyana


Patsy in Guyana

In the mid 1960s, Patsy Russell was taught by a Cuso International volunteer. Now she is one. “I went to a convent school in Georgetown, and a Cuso volunteer, Gwenne Wardle, taught us games and gymnastics.”

Fifty years later, now a volunteer herself she can see how Cuso International’s model has changed. Not placed at a school, but with Guyana’s Small Business Bureau she is overseeing the establishment of two business incubators. Her goal is to continue the work she did on her previous placement with the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry which she left after a one-year placement in April.

Having retuned for another year, Patsy’s ready to use her knowledge gained working in banking industry in Canada to help small business in Guyana get the start they need to help expand the economy.

For some returning to their country of origin can be a challenge. Some feel they’ve changed so much in Canada they’re caught between cultures. Not so for Patsy. “I fell right in. It helped that I kept an eye on what was happening here in Guyana so there wasn’t a surprise.” It also helped that she still had many contacts in Guyana and was active in Toronto’s Guyanese community where she is part of the Toronto association of her Guyanese high school.
“It’s not for everyone,” she suggests when asked if she thinks returning to Guyana is something more Guyanese-Canadians would be interested in. “There are many who come back to work from all over (the world), but there are many who are fully Canadian and don’t want to come back.”

Patsy seems comfortable in both countries and is glad she has this chance to support and stay rooted in her country while keeping her house and life in Canada. When asked if she’ll just keep volunteering with Cuso International in Guyana, she smiles and says, “Maybe. Your costs are covered, so why not?”

Learn more about our diaspora volunteering program.