A lifetime of making a difference

Charles Brown

By Laurier Brown

”The people I met at Crossroads have been the most stimulating people I have met in my life,” says Charles.

With an involvement stretching back more than forty years to the very beginnings of the organization, Charles, 81, has seen several generations of CCI volunteers and staff working to make a difference

In 1959 Dr. James Robinson was only just beginning to organize and seek funding for Operations Crossroads Africa (which later became Canadian Crossroads International in Canada). When Robinson spoke to a United Church group about his vision, they were so moved they raised funds to support his efforts. As Charles tells it, Dr. Robinson gave the money back, saying ‘use this money to send Canadians,’ and a local committee was born. When friend Don Simpson spoke about his overseas experiences, Charles offered to do what he could.

In 1963, Charles took a leave from his law practice to lead a group of Americans and Canadians to Uganda. They worked on community projects building schools and hospitals. “At that time, more important than the job we were doing itself, was the opportunity to live and work with Africans,” says Charles. “You get to know people in a different way when you are carrying a huge log. My eyes were opened to the world. It was certainly different in rural East Africa than in London, Ontario.”

Upon returning to Canada, Crossroaders did 200 talks in their community about their experience. “The idea was that you would learn about Africa, and come back here and give talks,” says Charles. “It was like a germ that would come back and spread. We wanted Canada to be a world focused country.”

Soon after Charles became chair of the National Committee. For more than 20 years he was active in CCI in governance, recruitment and orientation. More recently, Charles served, with other alumni from across the country, on the Alumni Advisory Committee, which was charged with making recommendations of how alumni can be most effectively engaged in CCI’s program. He currently sits on the Crossroads leadership gifts committee.

”I had always been concerned with how to improve the world we are in. CCI provided an opportunity to build bridges between Africa, Canada and the United States. We were trying to build a better world, but what has kept me involved is the quality of people running the program,” says Charles. “In the beginning we were as much interested in spreading the word, as our contributions overseas and that duality remains important to Crossroads today.”


Crossroads International gratefully acknowledges the support of: