April 22, 2013


National Volunteer Week: Crossroads International volunteer serving up real change

Joni WardToronto, April 22, 2013  ̶   Joni Ward had spent years working as a manager at a Ten Thousand Villages store so she was well versed in everything fair trade, but when the opportunity arose to work directly with a fair trade partner in Bolivia she jumped at the opportunity. “I’m proud to be working to help build sustainable communities in the South and to put my time and energy towards working for social change,” she says.

Joni Ward is one of the thousands of Crossroads International volunteers who have headed overseas to share their time and talents since the organization’s inception in 1958. As a fair trade and marketing specialist, she is helping Bolivian coffee farmers establish relationships with potential Canadian buyers. She has arranged for four Canadian micro-roasters to visit Bolivia this week, timely considering that is it also National Volunteer Week (April 21-27) and that this opportunity wouldn’t exist without the efforts of numerous Crossroads International volunteers. “This National Volunteer Week I’d like to take the opportunity to demonstrate that when done well, international volunteering can create a meaningful impact,” says Ward.

And it has. When the partnership with Crossroads International began seven years ago, a volunteer established a fair trade certification guide and a capital needs assessment that led to the establishment of a loan scheme benefitting some of the more than 80 per cent of rural Bolivians living in poverty. The loan gives farmers a real chance at creating a viable business and also helps them to provide necessities for their families and communities such as education for their children, clean drinking water, and improved transportation and communication services in remote areas. Since then, volunteers like Joni have been working to expand opportunities in the Canadian market for Bolivian producers. United Nations research has found that 82 per cent of rural Bolivians lack access to markets, so Joni’s assistance is a crucial component to their success.

Women at Coaine Coffee Producers cooperative carrying green beans bag“What volunteers like Joni are doing is sharing their skills and expertise to benefit the livelihoods of others. It is false to think that international volunteering is about giving hand outs or taking a holiday,” says Karens Takacs, Crossroads International executive director. “We’ve seen real results in the past few years, including two shipments of coffee beans totalling more than 30,000 kilos sent to Canada. Volunteers working overseas are at the heart of our success as an organization.”

“The goal for the four Canadian micro-roasters visiting this week,” Ward says, “is to develop trade relationships with Bolivian producers and commit to importing coffee in 2013. I’m excited and grateful for this opportunity to put my skills to use for such a meaningful cause while immersing myself in Bolivian culture. It may be a small drop of coffee in an immense coffee pot, but I know that my work is contributing towards positive, sustainable change in Bolivia and that my efforts will be supported by other volunteers once I return to Canada.”

About Crossroads International

Crossroads International is a Canadian non-governmental organization that was established in 1958 to strengthen individuals, communities and organizations through mutual learning and collective action. Crossroads partners with local organizations in Africa and South America to eradicate poverty and advance women’s rights.

For more information, photos, or to arrange an interview with Joni Ward or Karen Takacs please contact:

Liane Cerminara

Communications Officer, Crossroads International

Phone: 1-416-967-1611 ext. 288

E-mail: liane@cintl.org








Crossroads International gratefully acknowledges the support of: