New CCIC Member: MEDA

New CCIC Member: MEDA

We are happy to welcome MEDA as CCIC’s newest member! MEDA – Mennonite Economic Development Associates – is an international economic development organization whose mission is to create business solutions to poverty.

Since 1953, MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates) has been implementing effective market-driven programs globally.  MEDA combines innovative private sector solutions with a commitment to the advancement and empowerment of excluded, low-income and disadvantaged communities (including women and youth) with core expertise in market systems and value chains, climate-smart agriculture, financial services, and impact investment. MEDA partners with local private, public and civil society actors, strengthening individuals, institutions, communities and ecosystems, and thereby contributing to sustainable and inclusive systemic change.

MEDA works to:

  • Alleviate poverty
  • Support sustainable business growth and livelihoods
  • Help women move into more valued and equitable roles in their economies
  • Support businesses and small entrepreneurs gain access to financial services including investment, adopt clean technologies/climate-smart approaches, and minimize their environmental footprint
  • Improve local economies


For more information, visit their website here.

Canadian Lutheran World Relief: A Long-Standing History of Responding to Injustice Around the World

Canadian Lutheran World Relief: A Long-Standing History of Responding to Injustice Around the World

Interview with Rev. Dr. Karin Achtelstetter, Executive Director of CLWR

As we commemorated World Humanitarian Day just a few days ago, we wanted to profile one of our members who has had a long experience working in humanitarian assistance around the world. In this edition of Spotlight on our Members, we spoke with Rev. Dr. Karin Achtelstetter to learn more about the work of Canadian Lutheran World Relief.

CCIC: What do you think other organizations can learn from CLWR’s work?

Karin Achtelstetter: Next year is our 75th year responding to disaster, conflict and injustice around the world, and we’ve learned a lot in that time. But I think the most important thing isn’t what we’ve already learned—it’s that we’re still learning. That posture is critically important in our sector.

I’m proud that we’re continuing to grow as we learn from the local organizations we partner with around the world, as we learn from the people our projects serve, and as we learn from our colleagues in this work through networks like CCIC. One of the ways that learning has shaped us the most is in the way we respond to the global refugee crisis – everything from emergency humanitarian assistance to long-term development support to refugee resettlement in Canada.

CCIC: Since World Humanitarian Day was only a few days ago, could you share how CLWR works to address the humanitarian-development nexus and to address both short-term needs as well as long-term sustainable development?

KA: Our story as an organization begins with displacement, with help given to refugees of war back in 1946, and we’ve grown to an organization that focuses on a holistic response to displacement, forced migration, and food insecurity.

Much of our humanitarian assistance work around the world continues to focus on internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees in places like Ethiopia, Uganda, DRC, South Sudan, Jordan, and Myanmar. Approaching this work from a human rights-based perspective means that we must not only pay attention to meeting short-term needs, but also address the ongoing barriers to advancing human rights and improving quality of life.

So, in a place like Myanmar where so many Rohingya have been displaced, we’re working with women and girls in IDP camps to provide basic language, literacy and leadership skills so that they can take a more active role in community decision-making processes and accessing services. With a view to the future, these skills will also prepare them for future resettlement as it will allow for increased interactions with their ethnic Rakhine neighbours.

“Approaching this work from a human rights-based perspective means that we must not only pay attention to meeting short-term needs, but also address the ongoing barriers to advancing human rights and improving quality of life.”

CCIC: CLWR have designated young adult board members. How do you perceive the role of young people in your work and how has your board been influenced by those young adult members?

KA: Young people aren’t just the future of our work – they’re our present. We’re so proud that as our founding generation passes the torch, there are so many young Canadians who are so committed to challenging injustice.

Youth engagement can’t just be a way to try to convince young people to donate, because they want and deserve more than that. We need their perspectives and we need them to challenge us as an organization to be the best we can. Their voice is so valuable, so a board without young adult board members is unthinkable for CLWR. Young adult board members very often bring new perspectives to critical discussions about our work and future, and they make sure we’re linked to their communities and hearing those voices we need.

CCIC: We are proud to have CLWR among our membership. What does CLWR value about its membership with CCIC and how would you like to see this relationship grow in the future?

KA: CLWR really values its engagement in various CCIC working groups including the Food Security Policy Group, the Humanitarian Response Network, and the Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy Group. Having the chance to network, learn, and advocate with other CCIC members on relevant issues strengthens our ability to carry out our mission and provide quality programming. As a primarily Winnipeg based organization, we are excited by CCIC’s recent efforts to provide more opportunities to members outside of Ottawa/Toronto and would like to see this continue to grow.

“Young people aren’t just the future of our work – they’re our present. We’re so proud that as our founding generation passes the torch, there are so many young Canadians who are so committed to challenging injustice.”

Rev. Dr. Karin Achtelstetter

Rev. Dr. Karin Achtelstetter

Executive Director of Canadian Lutheran World Relief

Rev. Dr. Karin Achtelstetter is Executive Director of Canadian Lutheran World Relief.

Prior to CLWR, she was the General Secretary of the World Association for Christian Communication. She also has extensive experience working with CLWR partners including The Lutheran World Federation, ACT Alliance and the World Council of Churches.

As an ordained Lutheran pastor and through her years of executive leadership experience, she has firsthand experience working with churches, grassroots communities and project partners around the world.

In her work with CLWR, Karin champions a focus on empowering girls and women throughout CLWR’s programming.

Hospital-Based Community Eye Health – a Model to Empower Local Communities

Hospital-Based Community Eye Health – a Model to Empower Local Communities

Aly speaking with one of Operation Eyesight’s beneficiaries in Kenya. The man had just received cataract surgery at the new eye unit at Kerugoya County Referral Hospital, Operation Eyesight’s partner hospital in Kirinyaga County. 

Interview with Aly Bandali, President & CEO, Operation Eyesight Universal 

CCIC: Congratulations on being recognized by Charity Intelligence as one of the Top 10 Impact Charities of 2018.  What do you think earned Operation Eyesight Universal that recognition? 

Aly Bandali: I believe we received this recognition because we leave a lasting impact in the communities we serve. Over a decade ago, Operation Eyesight made the decision to move from an aid agency to a development agency. That was the catalyst, because then the focus of the organization shifted from giving a hand out to giving a hand up. With this mentality, we developed our Hospital-Based Community Eye Health model, which focuses on empowering local communities to take ownership of the issue of avoidable blindness.  

Operation Eyesight taps into local resources rather than sending human resources from Canada, which helps us leverage our buying power and gain an economy of scale when we’re working internationally. It’s also empowering for communities to know that there are fellow community members helping other community members – local Kenyans helping Kenyans, for example. This helps us leverage donations and maximize our impact in many ways.  

CCIC: Operation Eyesight Universal applies a unique model of Hospital-Based Community Eye Health. What do you think are some of the lessons you have learnt from applying this model that other organizations might be able to learn from?  

AB: Operation Eyesight has always maintained a firm commitment to sustainability and quality, and the development of our model based on these two factors gives us the ability to focus on leaving communities versus staying in them. Empowering communities to develop their own health-seeking behaviour is a way for us to work ourselves out of a community, rather than be known for being in that community on a long-term, dependent basis. Ultimately, our goal is to work ourselves out of business! 

Our model shares the focus between supply and demand. Most NGOs tend to focus on supply, building capacity in the community when it comes to hospitals, equipment and training. But unless the community is empowered and creates their own demand, there’s no sustainability in that. Other organizations can learn from our model, linking supply to the communities themselves, so they can own it and be part of the development, and building the trust as you link the two together.  

Another part of our model that others can learn from is the focus on leveraging research done by others in the past. For example, focusing especially on women as community health workers has a significant impact on building communities, developing trust and sustaining relationships with our partner hospitals. In the countries we work, women and girls are typically underserved because of cultural biases towards men and boys. By giving women the opportunity to become community health workers, we provide them with opportunities to contribute to the economic growth and social activity of their families and communities. We also ensure women and girls are given the same level of access to eye care services and the same quality treatment as men and boys. When a girl can see to go to school, it’s going to have a generational impact on her ability and her family’s ability to be productive, educated and socially engaged.   

CCIC: What goals and milestones are you particularly looking forward to working towards in the coming year(s)?  

AB: Having a list of countries where we are no longer needed, and ultimately working ourselves out of a job.  

CCIC: Operation Eyesight Universal is new to the CCIC community, welcome! Why did you become a CCIC member? 

AB: Your president and CEO, Nicolas Moyer, paid me a visit and told me about the refocus of the organization, the new strategic direction CCIC is headed in, and the role you play in facilitating connectivity and networking. This appealed to us because it gives us an avenue for building as well as being part of the international development community here in Canada. We look forward to having a peer network and leveraging CCIC’s expertise to develop key relationships. We’re working on the international stage, but because we’ve been based in Calgary for 56 years, we’re a bit isolated from the main centres like Ottawa and Toronto. Being a member of CCIC gives us the ability to connect with like-minded organizations nationally.   

Aly Bandali

Aly Bandali

President & CEO, Operation Eyesight Universal

Aly Bandali is the President and CEO of Operation Eyesight Universal, a Calgary-based international development organization that works to prevent blindness and restore sight in developing countries around the world. 

Aly has enjoyed a 25-year career in human resources and leadership in Calgary in non-profit, technology, and oil and gas. His speciality areas include leadership development, talent management and human resource business strategy. He has been described as a leader who is business-focused, entrepreneurial, results-oriented, innovative, professional and passionate about making a difference. 

Aly holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Alberta. He has served in a number of volunteer leadership roles in the HR community in Alberta and nationally. He was awarded the Fellow Chartered Professional in Human Resources Designation in 2016 by CPHR AB (Chartered Professionals in Human Resources Alberta) for exceptional service, impact on the HR profession and HR career. 

As a father of two wonderful children, Zaman and Ayesha, and husband to Farah, Aly places high value on strong family and community connections. He values honesty, integrity, and giving back to the community. 

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.