Canada has a long and proud history of contributing to the peace and well-being of our fellow global citizens. For many Canadians, that contribution extends to volunteer service in a developing country.
With too many regions of the world struggling with extreme poverty and related issues such as violence against women and girls and HIV/AIDS, this service is necessary, valuable and does our country proud. On United Nations International Volunteer Day, we encourage all Canadians to join us in saluting Canadian volunteers.
Every year, thousands of Canadians of all ages and from all regions of the country volunteer abroad. They include teachers, engineers, bankers, farmers, labourers, communicators, governance specialists, and students. Spending weeks, months, or years in a developing country, these volunteers share their knowledge and skills and leverage their experience to help deliver critical services and support sustainable economic and community development. Many are also taking part in new initiatives such as corporate and e-volunteering, and distance mentoring.
The large majority of Canada’s overseas volunteers are deployed and supported by international development organizations, including those we represent. Canada’s volunteer cooperation agencies bring years of experience managing overseas volunteers and have established relationships with credible community partners in developing countries to help ensure Canadian volunteers can make significant contributions to our development program in a safe environment.
Thanks to funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and donations from individuals, foundations and corporations we are able to select projects with the purpose of enabling lasting change by building capacity “on the ground.” For example:
- A Montreal banker provided advice to a microfinance co-operative in Burkina Faso on credit management tools to help the organization increase its loan repayment rate to 93 per cent.
- A retired judge is among a group of volunteers who have helped develop policies to make the Jamaican court system less intimidating for children who are victims of crime.
- Volunteers from Canada and Zimbabwe have worked together to implement award winning girls empowerment clubs in schools in Swaziland, resulting in increased school attendance, improved performance, and a 50 per cent reduction in teenage pregnancy.
- Canadian students, working with counterparts in developing countries, helped 40 families in a remote Andean Peruvian community build eco-stoves for their homes, improving health conditions by decreasing smoke inhalation, and reducing firewood consumption and depletion of natural resources.
Canadian volunteers work with their fellow global citizens – sometimes alongside their professional counterparts – in the countries where they serve.Their assignments may include assisting with physical infrastructure – water systems or housing for example, but may also focus on helping to build the social and economic infrastructure so critical to a community and a nation’s future. So often in countries ravaged by conflict, disease, or poverty, basic structures allowing for political, economic or social development are weak or non-existent. The sharing of skills, knowledge, and experience is essential in establishing institutions, creating policies, and developing leaders.
Upon returning home, Canadian volunteers bring with them tremendous experiences, new contacts and fresh perspectives for their social and professional lives that in turn have positive cultural and economic implications. They also continue to contribute to Canada.
Research indicates that Canadians who have served abroad are among the most active volunteers in the country. With their perceptions of global citizenship and responsibility to community strengthened, nearly two thirds of these Canadians will regularly volunteer at home and devote more time to charitable endeavors. This has a tremendous benefit for charitable and civic organizations in this country.
About CUSO International
We are an international development organization that works to reduce poverty through the efforts of skilled volunteers. Our volunteers collaborate with local partner groups on projects in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia. They share expertise and unlock potential. We are one of North America’s largest international volunteer-sending non-profits.
To learn more Visit CUSO