We’re global citizens now more than ever

Sylvie Madely, CARE Canada’s Vice President of Fundraising, Marketing and Communications (in above photo), travelled to Ethiopia in late 2014 with Douglas Stollery, the co-chair of our Canadians Care campaign.

Together, they visited CARE Canada’s maternal and child health and food and nutrition projects funded by the Government of Canada and our wonderful donors.

We asked Sylvie a few questions about this experience.

What did visiting these projects teach you about the work our donors are supporting?

We often tend to complicate our messaging when trying to explain what CARE is all about. When we think about CARE and all of the various programs we’re engaged in, at the end of the day, it’s so simple – our focus is women and girls, we empower them, we provide a level of independence and an ability to provide for themselves.

In Ethiopia, I witnessed some of the projects that involve providing economic development for women in the context of farming and nutrition.

We’re providing families, through our emphasis on women, the ability to look at nutrition in a different way – for themselves as in when women are pregnant, for their babies, but also how do they have access to a healthier, more balanced diet. This requires looking at their farms and gardens and what they’re growing and helping to diversify that.

What struck you most about these projects?

I saw for myself how we work ever so closely with local partners and different levels of governments.

We attended meetings with local government officials and what they said was very exciting. They told us we are a collaborative partner – very friendly, open to work with – and they value the solidity of our programming and the training we provide, not just to the beneficiaries, but our community partners. I heard a great deal about the mentoring our teams were providing.

It was very exciting from my perspective to see how we work closely with local partners, so that it’s not just a one-time solution. We are really looking to long-term sustainability to different villages in different regions. You can see that our local partners want to be able to provide for themselves and for their people. So what we’re doing right now is we’re providing just that helping hand.

Was there anyone in particular you met that really touched you?

I met many extraordinary people and what comes back to me is the pride and strength in people’s eyes, in their demeanor, the way they hold themselves. I’ve never seen people work so hard in my life. They are where they are because of circumstances. It’s not because they don’t have the ability to do so much more. They are very resilient, very giving, very loving.

The last project we visited we met a woman and man who were the facilitators of CARE-initiated women and men groups. We watched them lead a cooking demonstration where they made porridge, a healthy and nutritious meal for babies after mothers are done breastfeeding.

It was fascinating to see both of them working together, chopping fruits and vegetables, breaking eggs. In this region, men don’t typically participate in household chores and there he was chopping with pride as they explained to us the ingredients they were using and where they came from.

They had such a similar way of working together and so I asked them if they were related.

“No, no, no,” they said.

I said, “There’s got to be something, you both work so well together.”

Turns out they’re husband and wife. Everyone burst out laughing because clearly through this program they’ve managed to develop a synergetic, healthy relationship where both partners are equal participants.

We asked them what that has brought to their life. Both were very clear that before they were involved in this CARE project there used to be a lot more quarrelling in the home, a lot more stress. Now, since they both participate in the sharing of chores, there’s more harmony in their household, they’re so much more loving, more respect for each other and they told us how positive that is for their kids.

There was something they said that I just had to write down:

“When we work together we do well. And when we do well together, we can love each other better and are happier.”

The Canadians Care campaign is about engaging Canadians with our work abroad. In 2014, you met with Syrian refugees involved with our humanitarian programming in Jordan and you’ve also seen CARE Canada’s development programming up close in Ethiopia. Looking back at this, what message would you like to share? Why should Canadians be engaged?

We are global citizens now more than ever. We have access to the world at our fingertips. We know what is happening around us daily. We do need to be, and we can be, active participants in the world. It may not always seem like it, but what happens abroad can have an impact on what’s happening over here.

We talk a lot at CARE about “the injustice of poverty,” and when you’re over there you really do realize that these people are in these situations not because they’ve created them – sometimes it’s a disaster or conflict or many other factors that they couldn’t possibly have control over.

In Canada, we are so lucky here. We have such an incredible social support base for people who are less fortunate. I applaud people who are engaged within their own community, but I think we need to keep a part of our heart to what is happening elsewhere.

We are all citizens of this world and we are all deserving of a chance to make something better for ourselves.

The Canadians Care campaign is a national fundraising initiative to raise $4 million in total for CARE Canada’s international development and emergency response activities. Led by co-chairs Hon. John P. Manley and Douglas Stollery, the campaign team is made up of Canadians who share CARE Canada’s commitment to tackling the underlying causes of poverty and bringing lasting change to the lives of vulnerable people worldwide. Learn more.