Gary O’Connor

(India, 1978)

By Kate Wilson

Crossroader Gary O’Connor has spent nearly three decades working for social change. But he traces the first stirring of his passion for social justice back to his 1978 Crossroads placement.

“Next to the birth of my two daughters, my Crossroads experience has been the most important moment in my life,” says O’Connor. “What I experienced in going to India helped me to grow up; it changed my outlook on life and taught me the values that I’ve been delivering for close to 30 years now.”

O’Connor was 21 years old and fresh out of university when he went to India to work with a rural community development organization.

“I spent a lot of time just observing and listening,” says O’Connor.

O’Connor saw how the needs of a community could be met by starting a small initiative such as building a local well and then work to further develop the community by working on additional, larger initiatives.

He also witnessed the great dichotomy in India between the rich and the poor and the urban and rural communities. He also realized that Canadians, himself included, took a lot of what they had for granted.

“I guess I realized these things and how in my own way I could contribute to meeting the needs of people living in poverty and changing our own lives in North America to be less consumptive and more giving.”

“I learned a lot and grew a lot. It changed my life dramatically.”

His overseas experience made him assess his own life to determine what was valuable and worth preserving.

Gary has worked with organizations including Street Kids International and the Canadian Diabetes Association. He also worked with CCI for ten years.

“I believe in the organization and I was able to contribute to developing it,” says O’Connor. “[Crossroads takes] people at a change point in their life that can be leaders in Canada and around the world and gives them an eye-opening experience that helps to focus their future work.”

O’Connor has seen CCI change over time and he likes what he sees.

“Now the placements are far more focused on delivering a service or a product. The organization has matured considerably and there are far more benefits to the [developing world] now.”

 

Crossroads International gratefully acknowledges the support of: