You can make a difference

Spring 2002 CSANews Issue 42  |  Posted date : Apr 05, 2007.Back to list

In the fall 2001 issue of CSA News, editor Ross Quigley noted that the outpouring of kindness, selflessness and caring following the events of Sept. 11 would impact our lives forever.

"Our human values and compassion for others have returned, after a very long absence," wrote Mr. Quigley, who went on to suggest that world peace and prosperity are not impossible goals.

"If we can all give a little bit of ourselves to others, and maintain the levels of kindness and caring which have been so evident (since Sept. 11), anything is possible."

Did Mr. Quigley's words make you stop and think? Are you interested in volunteering to help others? Do you like a challenge? Do you like to travel? Are you thinking of retirement or are you already retired? Are you still active in business and have some free time?

If so, you might consider joining the many CESO volunteers who work in developing countries every year. They find themselves in many different situations, from working with indigenous people in Nicaragua to sharing agricultural techniques in Thailand. Their roles are diverse, their skills many. Although not all volunteers get assignments, what they do have in common is a commitment to making the world a better place.

Health workers, farmers, engineers, furniture-makers, IT experts and many others volunteer their time and expertise to make a difference in a world of six billion people, more than half of whom live in poverty.

A retired hospital administrator and snowbird, I'm one of approximately 3,600 volunteer advisers (VAs) with the Canadian Executive Service Organization (CESO), a not-for-profit enterprise that offers skills-transfer help to developing nations, new free-market economies, the aboriginal and needy Canadian communities.

Founded in 1967, CESO helps client businesses grow, local economies improve and government agencies develop -- all to improve the standard and quality of life. It is supported by its principal funders, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), as well as by about 300 corporations and foundations and scores of individual Canadians.

This year, CESO VAs will work on more than 1,400 assignments, about half of them overseas. My assignments have taken me to Russia three times and to the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia once.

Typically, a VA may spend four weeks to three months on an overseas assignment, helping a client find grassroots solutions to problems. In Canada, they typically spend a week with Aboriginal clients, returning to offer ongoing mentoring assistance.

You have to be fit and free to travel. While you won't get a salary, transportation, travel insurance and living expenses are covered for volunteers (and spouses on international assignments longer than 31 days).

The experience is a far cry from the luxuries of business travel to which many may be accustomed. Instead, volunteers travel economy class, are housed in local accommodations and make their own meals or dine in neighbourhood restaurants, all adding to the interest and the challenge.

My wife, a nurse, is also a VA and our involvement with CESO has given us 150 per cent satisfaction and reward.

If you would like more information about becoming a CESO VA, please visit the Web site at and check out a list of the skills that CESO requires.

To start the ball rolling for joining the CESO roster, please contact: Nicole Gold, Roster Manager, 700 Bay Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M5G 1Z6. Telephone 416-961-2376 Ext. 223. Fax: 416-961-1096. E-mail:

Mr. Peter Johnson completed his B.Sc. & diploma in hospital administration at the University of Toronto. Peter has taught at the University of Toronto, University of Ottawa and McMaster University in Hamilton. Throughout his professional life, he has been affiliated with several volunteer organizations including The United Way, YMCA, Canadian Public Health Association and the Ontario Health Association. Peter's career has seen him administrate at hospitals all across Ontario, including Peterborough Civic Hospital, Hamilton Civic Hospital and Cornwall General Hospital. His volunteer postings have taken him to Haiti, St. Lucia and Russia. His outside interests include, but we are sure that they are not limited to running, sailing and, you guessed it, travel.