Two more TransCanada employees head to Africa with Engineers Without Borders Canada
It wasn’t the easiest transition for TransCanada freight and customs compliance coordinator Cyndi Ashworth when she first arrived in Ghana to volunteer with Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB) last year.
Placed at the Kumasi Institute of Tropical Agriculture to help implement two business and entrepreneurial-related courses into the curriculum, Cyndi put together a Powerpoint presentation to introduce herself to the students and her new role at the school. After a one hour lecture, she went back to staff quarters and asked the director how it went. He replied, “Madam Cynthia, you are a nice lady. But I don’t think the students understood a word you said.”
Cyndi says that in a week, she learned how to speak what she calls “Ghan-English.” Deliberately speaking slower and with accented English, she tried again at the next lecture. This time, the director’s feedback was more positive: “They are laughing at you now, but they can understand you!”
For Cyndi, it was the blossoming relationships and connections she built with these very students that she now says defined her time in West Africa. Whether it was taking traditional drum lessons from talented students in their free time, mentoring students about business and budgeting, or sitting quietly in the office with female students who just wanted some company, Cyndi was eager to volunteer her time at the school among such welcoming and friendly locals.
Cyndi was one of two TransCanada secondees who spent more than four months in Africa last year as part of our unique partnership with EWB. Wayne Anderson, TransCanada’s manager of TSD infrastructure services, was the other secondee in 2012, who helped develop a start-up called FarmerLine in Ghana.
In 2011, TransCanada initiated a three-year, $300,000 partnership with EWB in order to help tackle the problem of persistent poverty in Africa. This July, the successful partnership was renewed for another two years, increasing TransCanada’s financial investment to $145,000 each year. The unique partnership includes the secondment of 10 employees to EWB projects for six months each (with four months spent in Africa), making use of the skills of TransCanada employees to support local entrepreneurs and create opportunities for growth.
TransCanada’s 2013 secondees, Leanne LeBlanc and Tim Hirtle, are looking forward to building rewarding relationships of their own at their EWB placements in Africa that begin next month.
This Year’s Secondees
“EWB is thrilled to partner with TransCanada,” said Paul Cescon, the manager of partner engagement at EWB. “We are very excited to welcome Leanne and Tim to our team of committed change agents working to identify and scale innovations to reduce poverty in Africa.”
Leanne, a senior communications advisor, will work with EWB’s Governance and Rural Infrastructure team in Ghana to develop communication channels that will help local government become more responsive to the needs of citizens.
“I want to see the world differently than I do right now,” said Leanne. “As much as we have to show and teach the people of Africa, they have just as much to show us and to teach us. I’m excited to bring those learnings and new perspectives back to my team at TransCanada.”
Meanwhile, Tim, a project manager, will be applying his skills to help a local Zambian agricultural enterprise improve its business practices and accelerate its growth.
“I am looking forward to giving my time,” said Tim. “It’s great for the company to give money, but what’s really amazing is the experience for me and for those I will be working with.”
A Groundbreaking Partnership
This groundbreaking community partnership is the first of its kind for both TransCanada and EWB, creating excitement across the corporate sector. Other companies, such as Agrium, have started to follow TransCanada’s approach to offer skills-based volunteering opportunities to their employees while also supporting EWB.
Cescon said, “This approach to a partnership was a first for EWB. Never before had we obtained a donation that included human capital. By innovating on a traditional partnership model, we’ve been able to easily match volunteers who have a specific set of skills that are in need to volunteer opportunities in Africa. The success of the TransCanada Fellowship is attracting the attention of other partner organizations.”
Connecting back to Canada
Leanne and Tim will be providing updates back to TransCanada during their time in Africa. Stay tuned to our blog over the next six months to read more about their adventures.
Visit our Flickr page for more photos from Cyndi’s EWB placement in Ghana.
View Leanne and Cyndi’s interview on Global News Calgary.