U of G Encourages Employees to 'Leave for Change'

February 09, 2011 - News Release

Adventurous taxi commutes through fields and over ditches were among the memorable experiences Jacqueline Murray gained during a month spent in Ghana last year.

The professor in the Department of History spent last August in the capital city, Accra, as part of Leave for Change. Under the program, employees use vacation time to volunteer their knowledge and skills during short assignments in developing countries.

Murray shared her expertise in law and language with the Ghanaian group Child’s Rights International, working on projects in juvenile justice and child labour.

Besides the “exciting” transportation, Murray met many people who made lasting impressions on her.

“I remember having a conversation with this young man who had to start working when he was just six to support his mother and younger brother after his father had died,” she said. “He told me that he would stop the younger children on their way home from school and ask them to show him what they had learned. That was one of the ways he learned to read and write. I met so many remarkable people like him who were extremely kind and extremely friendly. It was a life-changing experience, and you get so much more from it than what you are able to give.”

This year is the fifth anniversary of the program offered by the University of Guelph.

On Feb. 10, Murray and another Leave for Change participant will share their experiences at an information session from noon to 1:15 p.m. in Room 442 of the University Centre. Representatives from U of G's administration, Leave for Change and the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) will also speak.

“We’re very excited to be celebrating our fifth year as a participating employer for this program,” said Annette Boodram, manager of human resources and planning. “To date, the University has sponsored 24 employees and will sponsor seven more in this next year. It is truly a remarkable experience.”

Leave for Change is offered through Uniterra, a joint initiative of WUSC and the Centre for International Studies and Co-operation.

Canadian volunteers are assigned overseas for two to four weeks. Uniterra screens all applications, interviews short-listed candidates and chooses participants. Employees must attend training before leaving for their volunteer assignment in 2011.

“What’s really magnificent about the program is that you work on projects that are capacity building and have a lasting impact,” said Murray. “You travel to a developing country, share your expertise, and then your work is there as a resource for them to have in the future.”

For more information on Leave for Change, call Boodram at Ext. 56495.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or lhunt@uoguelph.ca, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982 or dhealey@uoguelph.ca.

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