CUSO-VSO, a well-respected international volunteer organization for professional adults, is celebrating 50 years of volunteerism and honouring the Coasters and Canadians who have helped make a difference.
"Over 200 Sunshine Coast residents have served with us, 15,000 from Canada serving 35 million hours overseas. That's more than one hour for every Canadian. We honour and thank them all," said Umeeda Switlo, public engagement officer for Western Canada and the Western United States.
The organization's vision is of a world without poverty in which people work together to fulfill their potential.
"This is a world in which people of all cultures are seen as equal, learn from each other and share a common sense of rights and responsibilities as global citizens," the CUSO-VSO website states.
They connect professional adults with struggling communities overseas to share their knowledge and expertise in education, HIV/Aids, health, secure livelihoods, disabilities and governance.
Gibsons business consultant Richard Hoath signed up for a two-year volunteer position with CUSO-VSO in 1998.
Hoath used his professional knowledge to help set up a sustainable community forest business that would keep forest profits in the island nation of Vanuatu in the South Pacific.
"Really as much as I felt I contributed something valuable, I learned a lot more," Hoath said, noting he learned how to appreciate a different pace of life and different priorities through working with the people of Vanuatu.
He felt the experience was very valuable and he plans to volunteer again someday when his two-year-old daughter is old enough to join him and also learn from the experience.
He encourages others to take part in CUSO-VSO's volunteer opportunities, noting they are well established, provide excellent support for their volunteers and provide full funding for the volunteers who decide to sign up.
"I would absolutely encourage anyone to do it. If you are looking for an opportunity to contribute your skills somewhere, they can really make a difference I would highly recommend CUSO-VSO. They are highly professional and they know what they are doing," he said.
For more information about CUSO-VSO, go to www.cuso-vso.org.