A Lifetime Connection to Crossroads

Françoise Goutier (Mali, ’79, ’81)

“I still believe that it’s not just working with people, but getting to spend time with them.”

Françoise Goutier has spent fifteen years of her life living and working on the African continent as a geologist as well as with Médecins sans frontières. Her fondest memories, however, are of her time as a Crossroader in Mali.

“Mali remains my first love,” says Goutier. “It was the first [African] country I visited, so it marked me.”

Françoise first stepped on Malian soil in 1979. Fresh out of Cégep and thirsty for adventure, Françoise applied to be a Crossroader and was accepted. It would begin a lifelong love affair with Africa and a lasting involvement with Crossroads.

“The work we did as Crossroaders was a way to learn about the country and to gain an appreciation for who these people were who lived so far away from us in Africa, and to get to know them,” says Goutier. “What I truly appreciated was getting to go back and also receiving those coming to Canada.”

Françoise returned to Mali in 1981, as the team leader for the group heading out that year. The added responsibility provided her with a different take on the overseas volunteer experience and deepened her understanding of the local people.

“The first time, it was me living my experience. The second time, I had a role to play, and so I would question myself about whether I was fulfilling my responsibilities,” says Françoise. “But in going back, I knew people and I was able to deepen my relationships, so that really helped.”

Following her second placement in Mali, Françoise returned to Canada and moved to Vancouver. While she stayed in touch with her Crossroads colleagues from her new home in BC, it was not until she returned to Montreal in 1990 that she would resume an active role with CCI, joining the board of Carrefour (the Quebec arm of Crossroads had its own board back then). She went on to become treasurer and later Chair of CCI’s national board, from 1994 to 1996. The experience not only allowed her to pursue her passion for international development and volunteering, but also to meet a wide array of fascinating people from a variety of backgrounds.

“It helped me lose some of my preconceived notions. Sometimes, people say lawyers are all like this, or doctors are all like that, even though they may not know any,” says Goutier. “When you go to see a doctor, they’re the doctor and you’re the patient. But, if you’re working with a doctor, for example, at Crossroads, you’re working on a common project, so it changes the dynamic. So that was interesting, being able to work alongside people with different experiences and expertise.”

While Françoise’s work on CCI’s board was stimulating, what she treasures most are the simple moments she experienced as a member of the Crossroads community – the laughter, the sharing, and the connections.

“I still believe that it’s not just working with people, but getting to spend time with them,” says Goutier. “I remember going to the Saint Hubert BBQ with visitors from Mali. We got to talking about the differences between chickens in Mali and here, and we laughed and laughed. Those are really magical moments.”

To this day, Françoise continues to support Crossroads as a donor and member of the James Robinson Society.

“I’ve always been a member of the James Robinson Society,” says Françoise. “And I think it’s important to have occasions, like the fiftieth anniversary, that bring people together. We must not minimize the fiftieth anniversary, it’s very important. Those who are there should go, it’s important for staying in touch.”

“But all of those people I worked with at Crossroads, I love so much. Certainly, we do not keep in touch as much now. But just because you haven’t heard from someone in a while doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten you.”


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