Canada is marking International Development Week, a time Crossroads usually devotes to saluting our overseas volunteers for their commitment to global cooperation. Now more than ever, it is a commitment we want to recognize.
As with everything right now in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, this International Development Week is a little different. Yet as we have noted before, the fundamental risks facing women around the world – and in the South in particular – remain: gender-based violence, poverty and food insecurity. Thankfully, Canadian volunteers are still ready to answer the call in support of fellow global citizens. But what does volunteering look like in a pandemic? We wanted to profile some stories from the frontlines. In short, does the world need more Canada? The answer – yes!
Can Canadian volunteers still make a difference? Yes they can.
Moustapha Dembele is working in Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire and supporting his local partner organizations but reducing contact by working half from his home, half from the office, and taking all necessary safety precautions when interacting directly with the partner organizations. He notes the financial impact of the pandemic on the region but welcomes being able to do the work. Moustapha emphasizes that the pandemic cannot prevent this important work from being done.
“We are witnessing a phenomenon of North-South immigration; the countries of the South are considered more and more as spaces where one can settle permanently, work, and be fully engaged.”
Nana Ama is in Ghana for a second volunteer mandate in support of women’s rights – this time during the pandemic.
This is a very different experience she notes, and there is public concern over the spread of the virus. Nana notes the ability of the project to innovate – taking necessary health and safety precautions regarding movement and interactions with others, and doing most of the work virtually. This offers its own rewards and challenges – more time to focus on the specific work, yet she misses the collaboration of being physically present at partner sites. Nana notes the role of resiliency in the work of organizations in the pandemic and says “there’s no better time to exhibit one’s true humanitarian nature than now.”
Maryse Vallières-Murray is doing an e-mandate with a partner organization in Senegal working on gender and agriculture.
With a team of 4 – 2 overseas and 2 in Canada, this is her second volunteer experience, the first remotely. The circumstances are allowing Maryse to finish her degree. Like in most places around the world, the virus in Senegal has spread from urban areas to more vulnerable rural communities, resulting in restrictions on gatherings.
Maryse credits the excellent work of her counterparts and partner organization in Senegal, APROFES, for carrying out any in-person work safely.
Volunteering is more critical than ever
Crossroads International is grateful for all of those who have volunteered in the past, and are doing so now. In collaboration with our partners in the South, they are making a difference. International volunteer cooperation is always a smart path to building a better world – and volunteering now, in a global pandemic affecting the most vulnerable terribly, is critical. I will close with a comment from Maryse which I think best captures the spirit of the moment, and of International Development Week.
“I love international cooperation. The friendships we make remain very strong bonds and I believe that in themselves these bonds help to strengthen all aspects of international cooperation. Projects are important, but I believe the connections made can have larger positive impacts than you think. Despite the pandemic, there is a way to get involved to make a difference, even if it is not necessarily on the ground. So, those who want to participate, I encourage them to do so.”
Equality Matters Conversations: February 9th
Want to get to know our volunteers? Register for our virtual events to learn how Canadians continue to create a more equitable and sustainable world by engaging and empowering individuals, organizations and communities through mutual learning, solidarity and collective action despite COVID-19.