By Jasminee Sahoye
CUSO International is leaving footprints in the Caribbean sands with the work it’s doing through volunteers and local partners aimed at developing skills and competencies needed to implement plans to eliminate poverty and inequality.
Recently the organization engaged in stories of returned volunteers, shared information on the Diaspora work in the Caribbean and celebrated the work being done to support its international development goals and the strategic poverty reduction priorities of the Millennial Development Goals (MDG).
CUSO through its volunteer professionals has being working and making a difference in Guyana, Jamaica and regional partnerships in Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada and Belize. These volunteers spend between three months and two years working with local partners to bring about changes.
Former MPP Mary Ann Chambers of the board of CUSO International said “volunteering is not only a means, such as delivering skills to a local community but it is also an end because we know that in order to sustainably overcome poverty and lead to growth and development, societies need more than just financial investments.”
She added that they have established partnerships with a number of key Diaspora community organizations in Canada representing communities including Jamaica and other Caribbean, African and Latin American communities.
They have partnered with the Alliance of Jamaican Alumni Associations and the Ardenne Alumni Association “to provide strategic linkages to Diaspora communities, facilitating access to key skills that support brain gain.”
Through its first pilot and these two organizations together with Ardenne High School in Jamaica, a mentor program for at-risk youth was launched in February last year.
This project connected six Jamaican youth with six successful Jamaican-Canadian mentors. Using online guidance and support, the mentors helped at-risk students to improve academic performance and leadership qualities.
Two of the mentors, Jonathan Wheatle and Clarecia Christie, said they were delighted to share their skills and expertise with a child in their country of origin and lamented that without the firm “grounding back home” they would not have been successful in Canada.
Retired banker Ron Cheong and Peter Jailall, a teacher, poet and storyteller, are two Guyanese Canadians who went back to Guyana to share their knowledge and expertise with Guyanese.
Cheong returned to Guyana after more than three decades and described it as a culture shock. Jailall has returned to Guyana as a CUSO volunteer several times as a teacher trainer and to conduct workshops on writing poetry.
Then there is Asia Clarke, a young leader whose efforts are making a difference globally and locally in community development in various fields like entrepreneurship, small business, family-support programs and volunteering.
She spent six months in Dominica, the birthplace of her parents, working with young people to set up their own business and sharing tactics and skills needed to succeed.
She was named one of the Ontario Council for International Co-operation Global Change-makers for 2015.