Meet Heather Shapter, Executive Director of Crossroads International

Meet Heather Shapter, Executive Director of Crossroads International

For this edition of Spotlight on our Members, we met with the Heather Shapter who was just recently named Executive Director of Crossroads international, a leading Canadian volunteer cooperation agency advancing equality for women and girls and eradicating poverty in some of the world’s poorest countries in Africa and South America.

CCIC: Congratulations on your new role as the Executive Director of Crossroads international!  What are you most looking forward to working on in your new position with Crossroads International?

Heather Shapter: I am looking forward to so much! It is such an honour to be joining an organization that has been fighting inequality in some of the world’s poorest countries for 60 years! I am excited to be joining arm and arm with an extraordinary cadre of professional and passionate staff, volunteers, partner organizations and funders to create decent jobs and to empower women to become leaders and live free from violence.

CCIC: What are some of your biggest takeaways from Women Deliver and how do you see those inspiring and informing the work of Crossroads International?

HS:  I was so moved by demonstration after demonstration of outstanding leadership of young women from around the world. One young Zambian woman named Natasha Kaoma, for example, talked of how when she was a teenager, she really wanted to empower other young girls to address the barriers around menstruation and going to school. In college, she said that she asked her friends to give her any amount of money they could so she could start to make a difference. They gave her 30 cents, 50 cents – until she had collected $300. She used that money to bring together adolescent girls, to listen to their concerns and to let them know something different was possible.

A few years later Natasha and her team were reaching 30,000 girls with menstruation hygiene management awareness and training. 30,000!  This really had me look to see the limits of my own thinking around what it takes to scale programs. I will be bringing ongoing inquiry to Crossroads so together, with our partners, we can look newly at a bold pathway forward to realize the organization’s vision of ONE WORLD where poverty is eliminated, equality prevails, and the rights of women and girls are fulfilled.

 CCIC: Crossroads is a proud signatory of CCIC’s Leader’s Pledge on Preventing and Addressing Sexual Misconduct with a webpage dedicated to the organization’s ethics.  What advice do you have for other NGOs as the sector seeks to better address power imbalances and sexual misconduct, abuse and exploitation? What is Crossroads doing in this regard?

HS: Crossroads has committed to addressing the risks and realities of sexual violence by engaging its stakeholders, including personnel, partners, volunteers, and beneficiaries in strategies which support active bystander response, are survivor-focused and reinforce the message that sexual violence prevention is everyone’s responsibility.  Crossroads’ believes that the societal power imbalances which foster sexual misconduct, abuse and exploitation are best addressed through collaborative, multi-stakeholder approaches which aim to recognize, address and transform power imbalances, across the NGO sector and beyond.

CCIC: Crossroads International is a valued member of CCIC.  Could you comment on what your CCIC membership has meant to Crossroads and share how you would like to see this relationship grow in the future?

HS: Crossroads is proud to have been a long-standing member of CCIC and I am very excited to be leading our organization into the next chapter of collaboration with CCIC’s members.  At Women Deliver, Minister Monsef acknowledged the Canadian INGO sector for breaking down the silos between our organizations to come together with a compelling case to the Canadian government that resulted in the historic funding announcements made for women and girls’ empowerment. Clearly, the future that the Feminist International Assistance Policy and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent is not going to be accomplished by any single entity. CCIC is a critical collective agent through which Crossroads is very excited about expanding its engagement with its respected NGO colleagues.

Heather Shapter

Heather Shapter

Executive Director, Crossroads International

Heather Shapter brings over 20 years of non-profit leadership experience to Crossroads with extensive program and business development experience.  Heather started her career in the development sector as a Project Manager for CARE Canada, and later served as the Women’s Economic Empowerment Advisor for BRAC in Bangladesh.  She also spent two years in Haiti as Save the Children USA’s Women’s Economic Opportunity Specialist.  Since then, Heather has worked in senior-level roles for Prosper Canada, Global Impact and has managed large scale volunteer team initiatives.

In the corporate sector, Heather led the NGO division for Bluedrop Learning Networks where she helped partner organizations scale their employment and entrepreneurship programs for marginalized young people and women. Bluedrop’s work was recognized by such prestigious bodies as the Clinton Global Initiative.  She has also run an international consulting practice for many years that focused on leadership development and leveraging organizational culture for breakthrough results.

Heather’s journey in the NGO and private sectors has spanned five continents and brought with it extensive experience in building local community capacity. Her life has been dedicated to the end of poverty through the empowerment of women and children.  She brings to the Crossroads International Executive Director role a vision to build on the organization’s success and leap forward with bold and innovative leadership.

Heather has an MBA from Queen’s University and a BA from Memorial University. She lives in Toronto with her two sons and her husband, Gerry.

Interview with Gerardo Almaguer, Développement international Desjardins

Interview with Gerardo Almaguer, Développement international Desjardins

In this edition of Spotlight on our Members, we met with Gerardo Almaguer who has recently been appointed as President and Chief Executive Officer of Développement international Desjardins (DID).

He spoke to us about his plans as he embarks in his new role. He also shared his thoughts on the importance of innovation and the private sector in international development.

CCIC: What are you most looking forward to working on in your new role as President/Chief Executive Officer of Développement International Desjardins?

Gerado Almaguer (GA): At DID we have adopted a rather ambitious strategic plan that will guide our work until 2021: this plan presents great challenges and opportunities for myself as the new CEO of DID!

One of the ambitions that I am particularly interested in is to increase our capacity and commitment to investment. DID has been actively involved in this field for more than 20 years now, and we would now like to go even further to strengthen our impact and better contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. From experience we have seen that our investment initiatives are also a lever for governance, financial and risk management activities, all of which are very important to the inclusive finance sector.

I am also very excited about our ambition to be recognized as a leader in building the capacity of agricultural and commercial entrepreneurs and the environments in which they operate. I, myself, managed the Financial Centre for Entrepreneurs set up by DID in Panama as well as the PASAC project (Support for the agricultural finance system in Columbia) that we are carrying out in Colombia, one of the objectives of which is to support the development of agricultural businesses. Through these types of initiatives, we can have a concrete and direct impact on the economic empowerment of disadvantaged communities, and women in particular.

Finally, strengthening and formalizing our culture of innovation is at the heart of our strategic ambitions – how can we not be motivated by such a goal!

CCIC: What is the role of innovation in your work?  Can you share a concrete example of a project that demonstrates the positive impacts of new ways of working?

GA: Innovation is everywhere, both in our internal processes and in our efforts to contribute to financial inclusion and poverty reduction in the countries we work in. Innovation is an engine of development and we need to continue to learn how we can best incorporate it into our work to maximize our impact.

Last April, DID concluded a project that aimed to show that by improving access to financing we can facilitate innovation and accelerate the use of these innovations by agricultural producers.  We carried out this project with the support of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and in collaboration with the Institut de l’environnement et des recherches agricoles (INERA), the Réseau des Caisses Populaires du Burkina (RCPB) and Université Laval.

After 3 years of activity, the project has demonstrated the expected results! By establishing a dialogue between the various actors in the agricultural sector (farmers, input suppliers, financial institutions and research centres), this initiative has produced the following concrete and positive results:

  • farmers have adopted more innovative, productive and environmentally friendly practices,
  • the area used for agriculture has increased, and
  • affected families have seen their living conditions and food security improve.

CCIC: What do you see as the role of the private sector in working to support development objectives?

GA: Several analyses show that without the contribution of the private sector, the public sector alone will not be able to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. As a result, we must find new ways to maximize our contributions to achieve these objectives, both in terms of technical assistance and development financing.

This is a consideration that directly concerns DID and we intend to respond to it with, among other things, an increased commitment to investment. With this in mind, we have made the strategic choice to expand our role. In addition to acting as an implementing organization, we will now function as a development investor. In doing so, we are setting up a new investment fund that will support innovation among our partners.

CCIC: Développement international Desjardins (DID) is a valued member of CCIC. Could you please comment on what your CCIC membership has meant to DID and identify how you would like to see this relationship grow and improve in the future?

We see many benefits from our membership with CCIC! Our membership has allowed us to get closer to NGOs that share our concerns and with whom we see many interesting opportunities for collaboration. CCIC is also a valuable source of information and analysis, and an effective voice to donors and other stakeholders associated with the international aid sector.

I hope that in return, DID will contribute to enriching CCIC’s background and discussions based on our experience and most recent innovations.

New CCIC Member: Operation Eyesight Universal

New CCIC Member: Operation Eyesight Universal

We are happy to welcome Operation Eyesight Universal as CCIC’s newest member! Operation Eyesight Universal was founded in Calgary in 1963 and is an international development organization working to restore sight and prevent blindness in developing countries.

They work in partnership with local hospitals, governments and community development organizations, building essential resources that give all people, including the poorest, access to the eye care services they need.

Through their innovative model of hospital-based community eye care, they ensure sustainable service for entire communities. Community health workers are trained to conduct door-to-door surveys. They screen entire families for eye health problems, refer patients to a vision centre or hospital for treatment, and educate communities on eye health and other general health topics such as nutrition and maternal health.

Worldwide, 253 million people are blind or visually impaired, and 80% don’t have to be. Operation Eyesight Universal aims to eliminate avoidable blindness – For All The World To See!

For more information, visit their website here.


Interview with Glenn Mifflin, Cuso International

Interview with Glenn Mifflin, Cuso International

Photo: Glenn Mifflin, CEO of Cuso International with Eyibio Magdalene Effiom, a beneficiary in the cassava value chain from Odukpani Local government Area of Cross River State. Eyibio completed her Entrepreneurship Development Training, and started her cassava farm after completing her training in July, 2017. She got a grant from Cuso International to implement her business idea and she currently produces and processes cassava.



Cuso International was first founded in 1961 by a group of university graduates and has since become an established volunteer coordinating agency. Looking to the future, are there any inspiring, innovative or exciting initiatives that Cuso International would like to share with our readers


Ian Smillie, in his book The Land of Lost Content, A History of Cuso recounted that Cuso was formed in 1961 out of the idealism of internationally-minded Canadians and the need to co-ordinate the pioneer initiatives of volunteer aid groups. The organization had humble beginnings but with high aspirations – driven by Canadians who believed they could change the world. Today, 58 years later, Cuso International is a well-established international development organization that is currently working in 20 countries, including with Indigenous groups in Canada.

Although volunteer placement is part of our legacy, our DNA, we are more than just a volunteer-for-development (V4D) organization, we are working differently today, partly because of how the world has changed, partly because the requirements of our partners have changed, partly because of donor and funder requirements, and partly because there are different opportunities and needs that did not exist before.

Among our unique attributes, Cuso International is truly a Canadian development organization that has built strong program credentials in: gender equality and women and girls’ empowerment; maternal and newborn health; and youth economic empowerment. So, in addition to placing more than 2,000 Canadian volunteers in the past five years, we have worked with poor and marginalized women and men from conflicted areas of Colombia to create lasting jobs, helped young entrepreneurs establish businesses in Nigeria boosting economic independence, supported and strengthened SME’s, mainly led by women in Tanzania, and improved health outcomes for mothers and babies through midwifery training.

We have included Innovation Funds in our projects that have allowed local partners to create and implement new development models for local communities, particularly for the benefit of women and youth. And, under the current VOICE program, we have engaged over 600 e-volunteers in 17 countries as of February.


Glenn, you joined Cuso International first as a board member and now as the CEO, but your professional background is in the private sector. What motivated you to take on leadership roles in the international development sector?


Yes, I built a strong career in the private sector before I joined Cuso International, first as a Chartered Accountant with Clarkson Gordon (now Ernst Young), for over a decade and a further 25 years with a mid-stream energy company. However, both my wife and I have a long history of volunteer service, so I was so pleased when presented with the opportunity to serve on the Board of Cuso International. This was a real opportunity to be involved with an organization that makes a real and lasting difference in the lives of so many people around the world. An opportunity based on real and sustainable outcomes.

As you can appreciate, initially, my primary Board responsibilities was with the Board’s Finance and Audit Committee. This posting gave me good insight into both the financial details of the organization’s programing and the details of the tremendous outcomes of the programs themselves. When the CEO role became vacant, the opportunity to continue to make a real difference was important for me to fulfill.


Cuso International has had its ups and downs like many international development organizations in Canada. What words of wisdom might you share with other organizations and leaders in the sector who are facing challenging times?


I would not presume to offer words of wisdom to other leaders or other organizations in the sector. If anything, I have benefited more from the skills, ability and thoughtfulness of the sector than I have given back.

And, I was not part of the great history of contributions that Cuso International has made around the world. I can say however, that I am proud of being a little part of that history – a history that can boast over 16,000 placements in over 100 countries. In my meetings and discussions with our returned volunteers and with several of our friends and beneficiaries, I can say that the most common description of the experience is that it is truly transformational.

I will also say that the sector benefits greatly from the support of the Canadian government.  We need to remind our elected officials of the importance of our work, that Canada is committed to international development, and the difference we make in the world is an important reflection of our Canadian values.


Glenn, is there a single motto or phrase that informs your work at Cuso International?


Skills to share, futures to build.


Cuso International is a valued member of CCIC. Could you let us know why Cuso chooses to be part of this dynamic community of members?


Staying connected to our sector through CCIC supports our mission. We are stronger and more effective when we work with like-minded organizations to support the greater good.

Interview with Ida Kaastra-Mutoigo, World Renew

Interview with Ida Kaastra-Mutoigo, World Renew



Ida Kaastra-Mutoigo is the Executive Director of World Renew.

CCIC:  World Renew has been successfully working since 1962.  Reflecting on your organization’s nearly 60 years of experience, what would you consider as World Renew’s greatest success and how could others in the Canadian international development sector emulate this success?

Ida Kaastra-Mutoigo: If I compare our work with other international development agencies, I would say we have significant expertise in the area of building the capacity of local partners, especially in their ability to sustain their work in communities with quality programs in disaster response, agriculture, food security, MNCH (maternal newborn child health), village savings and loans, peacebuilding and gender justice.  We have been doing the partnering model since the 1970s.

We have also developed an effective global volunteer and partnership programs that links volunteers, volunteer groups and/or churches with our partners and communities they work with in the Global South.  For an organization of our size, I think it is quite phenomenal that last year and together with our US office base, we placed 468 volunteers overseas, engaged 3,268 volunteers for serving over 279,000 hours and engaged 256 churches from North America in partnerships with communities in the Global South.

CCIC: In December 2018, World Renew published a blog post titled “Where Partnerships Transcends Religious Divides”.  In this blog post, you speak to a World Renew partnership that delivers school programs in Senegal that serve both Christian and Muslim populations.  What do you view as the advantages and disadvantages of being a Canadian faith-based organization working in international development?

Ida Kaastra-Mutoigo: The most significant advantage of being a faith-based international development agency is that this enables us to be more sensitive to and foster programs that are more effective in integrating people’s faith, worldviews and values for change and development.  This is why we find it quite easy and effective to work in multi-faith environments that encourage inclusivity of every faith group in the community development work and humanitarian assistance work we do.  Working largely in partnership with faith-based that are local to the contexts in the Global South has the additional advantage of ensuring sustainability in community development programs long after the outside international development agencies has left or ended their contributions.

In every culture, tradition and faith there are beliefs or perspectives that hinder people’s ability to flourish.  If these mindsets and foundational barriers are not addressed, even the best programs in humanitarian assistance, health, agriculture or food security, technology, economic development will only go so far or end up failing.  I could give numerous examples from living and working in the Global South about how development efforts are either fostered or impeded depending on people’s views on gender roles, their assumptions about other ethnic groups and their own perceptions about their power to overcome forces of injustice and poverty.

The biggest disadvantage of being a faith-based agency is that people and donors, especially institutional donors, may at times misunderstand our purpose and motivations.  Sometimes it seems there is skepticism about faith-based organizations with misperceptions that their programs may be more exclusive or coercive than non-faith agencies.  There are also misperceptions that faith-based agencies have lower quality in programs or organizational management.   This is most unfortunate since funding decisions by donors then become discriminatory and huge opportunities for making an impact get missed.  Thankfully, some independent assessments are being done that inform the public that faith-based international development agencies can be just as effective if not moreso at times than non-faith agencies.  Of particular note is the recent article from MoneySense where at least three faith-based international organizations, including World Renew, were listed in the top ten international charities for 2019.

CCIC:  In 2012, World Renew rebranded from its previous name, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC).  Could you please share with us something that World Renew is currently working to improve, and describe how you envision this improving the organization’s ability to accomplish your mandate?

Ida Kaastra-Mutoigo: One of the things we are seeking to improve is our marketing and fundraising.  One of the reasons for changing our name is to acknowledge that an increasing level of our donations, often half of our budget or more, is given by sources beyond our faith community.  Thus, we have invested more efforts and staffing in this aspect of our work.  As donors start to connect more closely with our work, they often remark that the high quality of our programs and the way we work with local partners is something they appreciate and yet seems hidden as an opportunity for others to also join.  Essentially, we are trying to get better at telling our story even as we continue to be known for and keep improving the quality of changing the story with communities.  We are also moving forward well in becoming certified in our CHS (Core Humanitarian Standards).

CCIC: Ida, you have been employed at World Renew for several years, and are now the Canadian Director.  As a woman leader in our sector, would you have any words of wisdom to share with aspiring young professionals who wish to someday wear a leadership hat?

Ida Kaastra-Mutoigo: In short, I would say “go where the energy is”.  Leadership is about managing one’s own energy first and then identifying ways to guide others to use their energy in ways that flourish their lives.  Remember, the only person a leader can really control is themselves and all other power is largely superficial or temporary.  I get my high level of energy only by God’s grace and wisdom to serve over 30 years in this sector of international development and now 12 years as Canadian Director with World Renew.  I have discovered what sustains and grows my energy so I do not waste time on things, including fears, that diminish it.  I pursue whatever learning opportunities can continue to develop my skills, direct my energies to priorities and passions that I have prayerfully considered and never assume that I have become the best I can be.  God is not finished with me yet and neither is he finished with anyone else I may be connected to.  Thus, it is important to extend grace to everyone else as well, always searching to understand and respect them as valuable gifts from God.  My greatest joy is to encourage anyone in my circle of relationships, whether they are staff, partners or communities; in their efforts and journey to discover and become all that God created them to be.

CCIC: World Renew is a valued member of CCIC.  Could you please comment on what your CCIC membership has meant to World Renew, and identify how you would like to see this relationship grow and improve in the future?

Ida Kaastra-Mutoigo: Our membership in CCIC is valuable because it is a collaboration focused on learning and advocacy with the Canadian government.  I have gained a lot of expertise for our work and my leadership role through conversations and events that are organized by CCIC.  For example, when there was increased pressure for protecting children and others who are at high risk in our development programs, I learned from other members of CCIC what they were doing and what we could also use in terms of policies and practices to promote this.  The relationship that CCIC has with Global Affairs Canada (GAC) has also been instrumental in addressing common issues or challenges that international development agencies face in their partnering or use of GAC contributions.

In terms of how this relationship could grow or improve, I would suggest that CCIC keeps listening to its membership on what the most important issues and opportunities are when designing events or organizing meetings to strengthen collaborative relationships with GAC.  So far, the topics have been very relevant to World Renew’s work in international development and we greatly appreciate CCIC’s role in arranging, pursuing and managing these collaborative opportunities when we do not have the resources within our own agency to do this on our own.

Interview with Pascal Paradis, Lawyers Without Borders

Interview with Pascal Paradis, Lawyers Without Borders


This month CCIC chatted with Pascal Paradis, Executive Director of Lawyers Without Borders


CCIC: Lawyers Without Borders Canada currently works in Latin America, Haiti and Africa. Among other activities, you are participating in the observation of the trial of Berta Cáceres (environmental leader murdered in 2016) in Honduras, with a coalition of national and international organizations. What are the issues associated with the work that you do on politicized and contentious files? What lessons do you draw from it?

Pascal Paradis: Our work very often focuses on complex and delicate files, which are strongly anchored in the country’s current social and policy debates. The rule of law, governance, human rights, and access to justice are very political concepts. However, we engage on these issues from a legislative perspective rather than a political one. All of our interventions are based on international and national law.

Our objective in a strategic litigation file, or in the observation of an emblematic trial such as that of the people accused of killing human rights defender Berta Cáceres, is to ensure compliance with applicable standards. We must then find a delicate balance between international development work and advocacy for greater justice. An important lesson is that by remaining focused on the legal framework, we retain credibility and a level of independence which are crucial.

CCIC: Taking into account the fact that your mission is to strengthen access to justice and legal representation, how do you choose your partners and the emblematic cases on which you work?

Pascal Paradis: The partners are chosen according to the values and principles of action of LWBC. The partners must also choose us on the basis of their values! We seek to be aligned on matters of integrity, commitment, collegiality, complementarity, assertion of human rights, professionalism and responsibility.

The emblematic cases are almost always chosen by the partners first, LWBC being there to respond to capacity building needs related to methodology, application of international law, investigation, witness preparation, etc.

The strategic litigation of emblematic cases consists in selecting among multiple files of human rights violations the one that is most likely to lead to a conviction, on substance or procedure, by a national court.

The selected file can also be the most symbolic based on the nature of the crime, for example rape, sexual slavery or crime against humanity, or the social or political status of the perpetrator of the crime, like when a case involves the prosecution of a former dictator or senior state officials. The ruling will then create a case law which will be useful to get justice in other cases.

CCIC: Lawyers Without Borders Canada receives financial support for its programs from the Quebec and Canadian governments, and you also have financial partners from the private sector, as well as from the Quebec Bar. What can you say about this diversity of donors and the challenges that you face?

Pascal Paradis: Most of the funds we receive for our programs come from the Government of Canada through a range of international cooperation programs. It is important for us to rely on such a partnership that demonstrates the trust placed in LWBC. We are also very proud to count on the support – including financial support – of a large part of the legal community, including most of the major law firms in the country, the Bar, and several private companies. It is a matter of credibility, and also an illustration of the commitment of Canadians toward the mission of the organization. It also allows us to have access to a lot of volunteer services.

Having a diversity of donors is extremely important for the financial security of the organization in the long term. The objective is to avoid potential crises that would be caused by our dependency to only one donor.

For this reason, we continue to develop partnerships and organize fund-raising events, such as our annual benefit show.

CCIC: You joined the Board of Directors of CCIC a few months ago. What are the unique perspectives related to your experience at LWBC that you want to bring to the CCIC Board? And what do you hope to take away from this experience?

Pascal Paradis: I have a great deal of respect for the role that CCIC plays in Canada. It is an excellent spokesperson for the international development and humanitarian aid community, a creator of synergies, a centre of analysis and reflection, a forum where we can gather and speak with a united voice to other stakeholders. I hope to be able to contribute by sharing the unique experience of LWBC as an international cooperation organization that is highly specialized on legal issues, among other things. As for me, I am already getting a lot out of it in terms of cross-country dialogue and best practices. I find CCIC very innovative in its thinking around international cooperation.

CCIC: During the most recent CCIC Annual Conference in Ottawa, you participated in a panel organized by the CCIC-CASID Next Generation Program on the collaboration between academics and international development organizations. What lessons do you draw from this collective reflection and from LWBC’s own practices?

Pascal Paradis: Research is an integral part of all our international cooperation projects because the objective of sharing international law and international good practices at the national level requires the consistent involvement of international and national experts who, together, produce reports, studies, analyses, briefs, etc. on the basis of which concrete actions are undertaken.

We are also part of the Canadian Partnership for International Justice, which brings together several of the most distinguished Canadian jurists involved in the fight against international crimes (war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide), as well as the main civil society organizations active in this field. The idea is precisely to link research to action on the ground.

It is a partnership that benefits both academic groups and international development organizations. Academic groups of LWBC contribute, through their research, to support human rights and, in so doing, acquire training. This contributes to the empowerment of the next generation. In addition, it allows future lawyers and other students with a marked interest for human rights to deepen their knowledge, develop their own network, and learn about the work of LWBC. LWBC enjoys easy access to a group of experts who can contribute their knowledge to our projects.