The Canadian University Service Overseas (CUSO) International, a non-profit developmental organization that works with volunteers and collaborates with other developmental projects across regions like Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, introduced their 10 new volunteers that will be operating under the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) worldwide network.
The event was held last Friday, at the National Library, on Main Street, Georgetown where Andrew Rhikkie Alexander, Ronald Cheong, Roshan David, Jillian Hess, Danielle Sparks, Thia Belmar-Moncrieffe, Suresh Kandaswamy, Lauren Mumford, Kilby Smith-MecGregor and Tazeem Weljie made their debut as volunteers.
Also present at the event were CUSO Guyana Country Representative, Melanie McTurk; Women Across Differences Coordinator, Clonel Samuels-Boston; Guyana National Youth President, Tiffany Daniels; and the Canadian High Commission’s Head Counsellor to Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, Daniel Joly.
The occasion outlined the areas to which the volunteers will be assigned with developmental projects that target: persons affected by disabilities, education, health, agriculture, civil engineering, gender equality, natural resource management, hinterland community/organizational development and sustainable livelihoods.
According to CUSO’s Guyana Representative, the organization “works to promote equitable and sustainable economic growth, access to quality social services and active citizenship around the world.”
The official also made reference to CUSO’s Caribbean Regional Program ‘Caribbean SEE (Social and Economic Empowerment)’, which has operations in Jamaica, Dominica, Grenada, Belize, St. Lucia and Guyana. McTurk also highlighted how the current set of volunteers will approach their mission. She said that the projects are intended to be: gender responsive, inclusive of people with disabilities, engaging Diaspora communities and sustainable development.
Volunteers are also said to have backgrounds ranging from “expertise in Creative Arts to Monitoring and Evaluation of natural resource management.”
In addressing the attendees, the Canadian High Commission’s representative elaborated on CUSO’s background and involvement in the region. He stated that the group has been sending volunteers to Guyana for 52 years and since then CUSO has focused primarily on improving employment opportunities for youth, developing enterprises and entrepreneurship as well as decreasing injustice towards at risk groups.
Joly also reaffirmed the Canadian Government’s support for CUSO’s developmental initiatives as it has been avidly contributing to the organization’s work since 1965, making donations of up to C’dn$67M to foreign affairs, trade and development which all fall under CUSO International’s Volunteer Cooperation Programme.
The official said that the reason for the Canadian Government’s continued support of the volunteer missions are “to deliver on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s 2007 commitment to provide $600 million in development assistance to the Caribbean region” which will ultimately help to secure a democratic hemisphere.
The new volunteers voiced their excitement and enthusiasm for being part of such a venture. “Coming from Canada, the weather takes some getting used to,” said Lauren Mumford, a volunteer who is part of the Women’s Agro-Processors Development Network, “but I’m looking forward to working with the people here and having an adventure.”
Volunteers can be expected to be active in places ranging from Kuru Kururu on the Linden/Soesdyke Highway to the Rupununi Savannah. They will be here until February.
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