I recently retired from Dalhousie University, Faculty of Law, where I taught from 1975 to 2008 and also worked at Dalhousie Legal Aid Service (DLAS), a community-based poverty law legal aid clinic. I wanted to find a way to link my community engagement with poverty and justice issues to personal involvement with the same types of issues at a global level.
I had walked in the Oxfam March for Millions fundraising event in Hamilton, Ontario in the 1960’s and, many years later in 1996, I decided to again become involved with Oxfam, in Halifax. After volunteering with regional activities I wasencouraged to put my name forward for the regional position on the Oxfam Canada National Board. This led to subsequent positions on the Oxfam Canada Board as Vice-Chair, and then Board Chair from 2002 to 2007. Presently, as the Past Chair, I remain an Oxfam Canada Board member.
Over the years I have been involved in many Oxfam campaign and program activities. Many of these are linked to regular regional and national Oxfam activities. One particular highlight was chairing a session with someone from one of our Ethiopian partner organizations, HUNDEE Oromo Grassroots Development Initiative, at the Oxfam National Assembly.
As a board member, I have also been asked to participate in interesting press conferences, such as one to deal with trade policy issues when the G8 Finance Ministers were in Halifax, and one in conjunction with other local representatives of INGOs, to discuss the inappropriateness of mixing humanitarian aid with military activity.
It has been very rewarding for me personally to have the opportunity to work with and get to know many able individuals working in the field of international development in all corners of the globe. In my volunteer experience there constantly arises a very positive sense that in the bigger picture one is engaged in a very important and worthwhile activity with other great people accomplishing good ends.Certainly one highlight was participating in the Concert for Asia event held in Halifax on January 11, 2005, speaking to some 6,000 to 8,000 screaming rock fans and accepting a cheque for $103,808.83 payable to Oxfam Canada.
Through my many experiences with Oxfam, I have learned a great deal about the challenges and opportunities that exist in international development work, and a lot about the dynamics of facilitating and participating in decision making, especially at a board level where there are diverse perspectives and experiences that are appropriately engaged in the process.