Cuso International (http://www.cusointernational.org) works to reduce poverty by creating sustainable livelihoods; eliminate disadvantage by improving access to education and healthcare; and combat inequality by empowering people and communities. Cuso International is on the ground in developing countries throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean – wherever people need and want help to improve their lives.
The world’s most vulnerable people, including women and children living in extreme poverty, individuals facing discrimination due to gender or class, and entire communities whose livelihoods have been impacted by climate change.Cuso International Volunteers work within the countries of Benin, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Nigeria.*
Poverty and inequality continue to present pressing development challenges in the West and Central African regions despite many social and economic improvements within countries here. In West Africa, GDP has grown at an average of 5.8 per cent annually over the last decade, however, half the population continues to live on less than $1.25 per day. Incidences of poverty here are among the highest in the world.
Long-term development faced social and institutional challenges. Health issues, poor access to drinking water, and insufficient infrastructure and capacity work against efforts to eradicate poverty and inequality. Critical health problems like HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis also remain high.
In West and Central Africa, Cuso International volunteers work on projects in the areas of gender equality, natural resource management and development, agricultural resilience, micro enterprise, economic development, civic participation, health, education, and building organizational capacity. Cuso International works with in-country partners on development projects that are tailored and responsive to local needs. Partnerships include civil society groups, non-profit organizations, the private sector, and various levels of government and ministries. Projects are also supported by national and international partners that work in cooperation with Cuso International and local partners.
The benefits that flow from the placement of skilled volunteers on strategic development initiatives in this region are many and diverse. These include a strengthened institutional capacity to deal with the effects of climate change in Nigeria, increased awareness of human rights and gender issues in Cameroon, and strengthened networks of people and communities focused on building sustainable agro-forestry practices.
Visit Cuso International’s Stories of Impact to learn more about the incredible work of Cuso volunteers on strategic development projects and programs that operate through unique, multidimensional and inclusive partnerships.
Jon Ntewak, of Whitby, Ontario, recently returned from Nigeria where he volunteered his expertise for six months, to help youth in that country find jobs. Many of the young people he worked with there are around the same age he was when he first left Nigeria to immigrate to Canada in the 1970s.
“To be able to go back and lend a hand in whatever way I can, however small, is immeasurable,” Jon said. “Just being able to bring information to those who do not have it, is to better their lives.”
It is through Cuso International that Jon was able to return to Nigeria as a volunteer. Now home from his six-month placement, Jon feels there is more work for him to do, and he is hoping to return in the spring.
As a volunteer youth advisor, Jon’s primary task was to help create youth-led projects through a program called YouLead (Youth Leadership, Entrepreneurship Access and Development). As part of that, he helped established a model for a resource centre that offers youth a safe space to come for job training and other information on employment opportunities. The model will be replicated in 10 similar centres across the country; of which Jon has already helped to open eight. In a country where youth unemployment is high, the resource centres help youth build their job-hunting skills and confidence, and to leverage potential work connections.
To introduce all members of the community to the centres, Jon organized events with local guest speakers on a range of topics that address community needs. He hosted a successful job fair to introduce potential employers to job seekers, and many of the youth have already received job interviews from this.
In Canada, Jon dedicated 25 years to his career in social work in Toronto before retiring in March 2016. “I’ve seen a lot of suffering and being able to help someone – by finding them housing or employment, or giving them support – that’s what drives my passion,” he said.