Mark Leger

(Ghana, 1991)

Capacity building is not just some development concept that people talk about in universities and NGO board rooms, it is actually meaningful when you see it in action. Crossroads taught me that.

By Kate Wilson

Journalist Mark Leger works at a refugee camp in Ghana, teaching Liberian refugees the principles of grammar and helping them publish their own newspaper. He is not working as a Crossroads volunteer – his placement in India was sixteen years ago, but he knows that his involvement with CCI has made this experience possible.

When looking at the course his adult life has taken, journalist Mark Leger can actually trace much back to what he has experienced with CCI.

“I’ve been a Crossroader since I was 22 and so the organization is such an important part of my identity.”

Leger went to India in 1991 and worked at a medical centre, helping staff travel into the bush and treat patients who could not travel into the hospital. Leger’s involvement with CCI has extended beyond the three months of his placement, however, as he has continued to volunteer in “just about every aspect” of the organization since he returned to Canada.

“I wanted to be able to offer people what I had, to have a similar experience,” says Leger. “I also wanted to receive people from Africa and from Asia and give them the same kind of experience.

At that time I also saw Crossroads moving towards this emphasis on capacity building so I wanted to be part of that as well.”

Now working in Ghana, helping the country’s free press to establish itself, Leger is able to see the capacity building approach that he learned about and supported through CCI.

“Sometimes when you talk about capacity building, it can sound very theoretical and it’s not grounded in anything,” Leger says. “This experience has really helped me understand why it is important, that it’s not some development concept that people talk about in universities and NGO board rooms, but it is something that is applicable and it is actually meaningful when you see it in action. Crossroads taught me that.”

Through CCI, Leger has been able to integrate the technical skills of a journalist with a deeper understanding of international development and a keen awareness of human rights.

“I didn’t understand the complexity of a place like India and people still don’t have any idea of how complicated Africa is in terms of all of its beauty, its heart and its poverty as well.”

While this perspective applies to his overseas experience, it also informs the stories he tells about his own community in New Brunswick.

“It’s amazing how I’ve grown through the organization – my appreciation for other cultures and other experiences,” says Leger. “It’s such a big part of my life and it’s such a big part of who I am that it’s difficult to imagine not having done it, you know, who I’d be.”

 

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