Rewards from International Volunteering

I first became involved as an international volunteer with co-operatives over twenty years ago. A colleague suggested I apply for a project involving the development and delivery of a farm financial training program for women farmers. I felt I could assist since I had developed and delivered a similar program in Saskatchewan. I found the women I worked with were very knowledgeable in handling money and in keeping records. The workshops centered most of the time discussing ways to analyze spreadsheets. The women used some methods that were different from mine. But I learned from my farm background and living in the rural area that it’s always best to go with what works. We were very satisfied with the positive outcomes. 

Co-op farmers are working with CDF Canada on developing an environmental strategy.

When the Program Manager with the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada (CDF Canada) asked if I was interested in volunteering in Malawi on an environmental sustainability strategy for farmers and their local co-operatives, I was interested. It matched my background and directly related to the current farmer research I’m involved with in Canada. It also appeared to align with my interest in a bottom-up approach to program delivery with its emphasis on a strategy to support marginalized rural women and girls. Chikondi stated we would listen to the farmers’ concerns and then share possible options that were doable but also useful from all our perspectives.  

The Grange Organization, from the United States, came to rural Saskatchewan in the early 1900s and helped our farmers set up working agricultural co-operatives. I see the VOICE for Women and Girls program (VOICE) as an opportunity to contribute to farmers in Malawi the way the Grange organization did for us in Saskatchewan. I think anybody with a background in rural agriculture, who has an interest in working with rural people, will find the VOICE program, with its emphasis on environmental sustainability, food security, and working with marginalized women and girls, most rewarding.  

In my presentations related to rural development in Saskatchewan I often quoted the African proverb: 

If you want to go fast, go alone.

If you want to go far, go together.  

Now I have an opportunity to apply it here in Malawi. If any readers are interested in this most satisfying type of volunteer experience, I would encourage you to check out CDF Canada’s website to see the volunteer opportunities available and apply. 

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