Harry Qualman

The Crossroads experience totally changed my life. I had planned on being a career civil servant, but instead went on to spend several years in Africa, and eventually completed a Ph.d in African Studies.

I first heard James Robinson, the founder of Crossroads, speak at a dinner function at Howard University in 1961. He gave a powerful talk and encouraged students to get involved with Africa. I was very excited about the possibility of going, but I had no money, and I came from a poor family. In those days you had to raise $1200, which was indeed a lot of money. So I went back to dorm and told my friends that I wanted to go. They put out a shoe box with a little sign that read “Help Send Harry to Africa”. By the end of the week, I collected 37 cents and two buttons!

With a bit of persistence, I managed to put together the money. I had never been on an airplane, and I had never been anywhere other than Connecticut and Washington DC so it was quite a step to suddenly go to Africa. My placement was in Brazzaville, present day Congo. I had a really good experience and I came home all fired up about Africa, wanting to get back as soon as I could. The Crossroads experience was a catalyst for a series of career choices that totally changed my life. I had planned on being a career civil servant, but instead went on to spend several years in Africa, and eventually completed a Ph.d in African Studies.

A number of years later while I was teaching in Quebec, I realized my students had no opportunity to go to Africa and participate in an experience similar to mine. So it occurred to me to contact the Director of Crossroads and see what could be done. We ended up sending two Quebeckers with the American arm of the program in the first year, and subsequently formed our own committee, sending eight or nine Crossroaders overseas a year.

It’s been exciting for me to watch how people’s lives changed directions following their placement. It makes me point that I can point to four or five alumni Crossroaders whose careers have had a major impact on development. Some of them would have never have gone into development had it not been for initial exposure with Crossroads. That’s deeply satisfying for me.

Harry Qualman has been part of the Crossroads family for several decades, serving in many capacities. He has been involved in the leadership of a number of non profit organizations, and is currently the President of the Canadian Amateur Musicians Association of Canada.

 

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