CUSO International has been ‘Canada’s peace corp’ since 1961. Actually, while that description gives you some sense of what CUSO does, there is a vast difference in the way they connect Canadians to international development projects, programs and organizations.

CUSO does not send in labourers or aid in times of emergency relief. They contribute to building strong, diverse, egalitarian communities by matching skilled professionals to in-country organizations with identified needs.

In its earliest days CUSO sent recent university graduates (the U stood for university) to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), India, Sarawak (now part of Malaysia) and Jamaica. Today they send on more than 200 volunteers each year to more than 30 countries in Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Asia.

Overtime they began sending more professionals than new graduates (the average age of volunteers is now 41 – hooray for being above average – ha), coordinating their global work with VSO from the UK. The latest change in 2012 opened specific volunteer placements to US citizens through a partnership with US Aid (I think).

Anywho, all of that history is not why I have followed CUSO for years, or why I trust then with my volunteer journey. CUSO is the vehicle for me to live my dreams because

  • It has a sterling reputation. CUSO’s in country partners and cooperants around the world trust CUSO and so do I. In fact, our federal government believe in them so much that they match individual donations at an unprecedented rate (email me and I’ll tell you what it is).
  • It is secular. I love and respect my family members who have been missionaries, and I am a woman of faith. However, I believe that I can make more difference in the world by sharing my expertise rather than by proselytizing.
  • It is supportive. CUSO believes that volunteering shouldn’t cost you, but that you also shouldn’t profit from it. They provide housing, cover some pre-departure expenses, provide extended health coverage, and pay a modest livable wage appropriate to the country of placement. There are a few additional expenses that will be out of pocket, but their support package makes volunteering possible for people from a wide financial swath – even single moms who’ve worked for a charity for the past 4 years.

For more information about the amazing work CUSO volunteers do around the world, visit cusointernational.org.