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Marjorie Jackson a beacon for Canadian Crossroad International

Marjorie Jackson a beacon for Canadian Crossroad International

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by Stella Shepard

A longtime volunteer exchange relationship between St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Canada is coming to a close. Canadian Crossroad International (CCI) is a global international organization committed to developing partnerships with Southern countries through volunteer cooperative placements and internships.

The CCI mission is to create a more equitable and sustainable world by engaging and strengthening individuals, organizations, and communities through mutual learning and solidarity and collective action.{{more}}

Within the next two years, CCI will terminate its longtime relationship with St. Vincent and the Grenadines. CCI will put its efforts into finding another Northern partner to work with St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Marjorie Jackson of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has played a significant representative role with CCI since 1979. She became Director for St. Vincent and the Grenadines for CCI by coincidental circumstances.

“In 1979, I opened a school for children with special needs,” Marjorie says. “I needed volunteer help for the school and by accident I met the CCI representative for St. Lucia, Grenada and Barbados, and she told me that perhaps she could arrange for CCI to send a volunteer to St. Vincent for the school. I had never heard of CCI.”

Shortly after Marjorie’s request for a volunteer for the school, a partnership was developed between CCI and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Volunteers with CCI, who are called Cross Roaders, do a four-month international volunteer work placement.

Marjorie volunteered her service to CCI for about a year without the organization being aware of it. In the late 70s, the CCI Canadian director arrived at the St. Vincent airport. He asked a taxi driver if he knew where the CCI office was. The taxi driver delivered the CCI director to Marjorie Jackson’s home in Kingstown.

Cross Roader

“The taxi drivers all knew me as a Cross Roader,” she says. “It was then CCI asked me to be the country rep and I agreed. I had to deal with problems but I always tried to work them out. Sending Canadian volunteers back home was the last resort. It only happened once out of the many years I was involved with the organization.”

She found work easily for the Canadian volunteers within government departments, private firms, learning institutions, and the central sewage company, to list a few job placements. She sent volunteers to Bequia and Union Island. One Cross Roader started a library on Union Island.

Many of the Canadian Cross Roaders volunteered at the school for special needs children. One Cross Roader, Carol Anne, was instrumental in the positive naming of the school, which was, at that time, the only school for children with disabilities in St. Vincent.

Marjorie, a youthful 83-year-old, beams with pride recalling a youth who was physically disabled, socially abused, and a slow learner who became a CCI volunteer on an exchange trip to Canada. On his return, he was able to write and pass his Caribbean Examination Council exams. He is currently employed as a teacher for the hearing challenged at the school Marjorie started and where he was once a student.

He is one of the many success stories of Vincentians who volunteered with CCI in Canada.

“We’ve sent lower income volunteers from St. Vincent and the Grenadines whom we thought would never be able to visit Canada on their own,” Marjorie notes. “What a difference they were when they returned. They were well-rounded, more confident, and vocal. They brought back to St. Vincent new skills that were helpful in starting their own business or obtaining meaningful employment. This might not have been possible if they had not been exposed to CCI and had the opportunity to travel to different parts of Canada.”

Stepped down

Marjorie, a full-time business woman and guardian to her then school aged grandson, Kemi, was responsible for locating host families for the CCI volunteers. On occasion, she was responsible for placing nine Canadian Cross Roaders volunteering in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Many a Cross Roader was housed with Marjorie and her family.

“Government was very involved with CCI exchange organization,” she says. “I was successful in getting the country to recognize CCI. The prime minister’s wife would take messages to Canadian Crossroads when traveling to Canada.”

In 1990, CCI presented Marjorie with a plaque in recognition and appreciation of her commitment to international development education and her significant contribution to CCI. In 2004, she officially retired as country representative. Sylvester Vanloo of the St. Vincent Banana Growers Association is currently the country representative for CCI.

She noted the changes within CCI over the years, the extra paperwork, and the faster pace, were reasons for her resignation.

“I felt a younger person should be involved and it was time to step down,” she says. “However, I am still involved with CCI without the heavy responsibilities. Just before I stepped down we had an awards dinner to recognize the volunteers who had gone to Canada. The Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, gave the feature address.”

Age has not slowed Marjorie; she is still actively involved with various community projects and still owns and operates a thriving catering business. She’s always willing to help the less fortunate or anyone in need without expecting any personal gain in return.

“Through my involvement with CCI, I’ve traveled to various Canadian and global destinations. I’ve met wonderful people through CCI and many whom I’ve visited and still keep contact with. I could write a book about my involvement with CCI.”

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