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Concordia Volunteer Abroad Program honoured with top prize

by Kelly Duval September 3, 2013
Concordia Volunteer Abroad Program honoured with top prize

The Concordia Volunteer Abroad Program (CVAP) won financial support and a morale boost from the McConnell Family Foundation, when they were awarded the Community Service Learning Award on June 13. The program plans to use the grant money towards improving sustainability in Montreal and Uganda.

Photo by Wallis Blanchaer

“It really is an honour to be recognized [by the McConnell Family Foundation] because of their stature and the types of organizations they benefit,” said Daniel Lavigueur, executive director of CVAP. Although Lavigueur has been to Uganda four times, this is his first experience there as an executive director.

The organization consists of over 10 full-time employees, 40 international volunteers, and 10 local volunteers. Assigned different projects upon their arrival, volunteers’ varied work includes working alongside nurses to produce health assessments at a local orphanage and helping to construct daycares and other facilities. Short term projects include organizing events where locals have the opportunity to win sustainable prizes such as pigs and goats. While students’ cannot always see the end result of their work before coming back home, objectives are accomplished over the long-term.

“That’s bang on exactly what we do,” said Lavigueur. “The program is about experiential learning. It’s been an unbelievably rewarding learning experience for me.”The Community Service Learning award is given to organizations whose programs are based around “volunteer work designed to achieve community goals and to instill in students a sense of civic engagement,” as it states on the McConnell Family Foundation website.

CVAP will use the prize money to help improve the organization’s environmental sustainability. Last

“One of the areas we have a lot of waste is through our use of fuel,” said Lavigueur. CVAP currently uses three large gas-guzzling vehicles in Uganda: two 14-seater vans and one SUV. These vehicles are needed even for small trips and grocery runs, since there are no other vehicles available. To reduce fuel consumption, they plan on purchasing a small motorbike and bicycles for the volunteers. The program also plans on replacing desktop computers in Montreal with energy efficient laptops.year an environmental impact assessment strategy was drawn up that highlighted areas to improve sustainability.

Additionally, CVAP is continually coming up with opportunities for students interested in cross-cultural research, looking at expanding partnerships within the community and assessing different community-based organizations to find that perfect fit for curious students.

“I would definitely recommend it,” said volunteer Megan Chafe, a recent Concordia graduate who returned from Gulu earlier this month. Chafe will go on to study international development next year and hopes to return to Gulu for an internship next summer.

CVAP’s previous executive director, Jamie Robinson, worked on the grant application for months. Although it was a heavy undertaking, Lavigueur said it was worth the effort as the application was representative of what the organization was about.

The program’s projects are guided through their partners in the city of Gulu. “We try not to come in with our own projects… we try to execute them through partnerships and to address the needs of the community,” said Lavigueur.

CVAP’s partners include the Sports Outreach Ministry, the St-Jude’s Children Home, and the AIDS Support Organization.

“Our mission is being recognized,” said Lavigueur. “It’s validation [means] we’re on the right track.”

 

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