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Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers 2018 CESO Recipients

CESO is congratulating 11 of its expert volunteer advisors for receiving the prestigious Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers for their work in improving the lives of women, men and children in Canada and around the world.

Here are this year’s recipients (in alphabetical order):

Benoit Bouchard

Benoit Bouchard has completed over 100 assignments with CESO partners in Canada, West Africa and Asia, sharing over 40 years of experience from the IT to improve institutional and business systems of municipalities and businesses.

Among his many notable accomplishments as a CESO volunteer, it is Mr. Bouchard’s approach to individualized training that has made significant impacts. Whether it’s developing a website for a local microfinance institution in West Africa, or enhancing a tax-collection platform for small governing institutions in Philippines, he dedicates his time to understand the needs and objectives of the businesses and institutions he works with. Moreover, he makes himself available to trainees long after the assignment has been completed.


Carmen Gagnon

One of her most notable accomplishments as a CESO volunteer is her work with local government municipalities in the Philippines with the e-Governance program. Since the beginning of the program in 2007, she has generously assisted municipalities in creating and maintaining an automation system of the Business Permit and Licensing System. In 2016, VA Gagnon helped the local partner to re-develop the system to make it more user-friendly. She has worked with over 40 local government units to manage and finalize their respective strategic plans on information system management (ISSP). Her support has been invaluable in improving service to local businesses, transparency and accountability, and in increasing revenue of the municipalities.

Beyond her work in the Philippines, Ms. Gagnon has worked with associations and businesses in Canada, Latin America and Africa, employing her IT expertise to improve their sales and processes. She has generously contributed her time as a volunteer through her continued dedication to CESO’s mission of creating stronger economies and better lives.


Rishi Kumar

In his role as a CESO VA, Rishi Kumar has been an exemplary ambassador for Canada. He has worked with partners in the Americas and Africa, as well as with Indigenous communities in Canada. A professional project manager and a mechanical engineer, Rishi has supported businesses and communities to improve operations, as well as develop technical processes and training materials tailored to their needs. In La Paz, Bolivia, he worked to support policy development for corporate governance and organizational excellence of the municipality. He also worked with two universities to improve management practices.


Bruce McPherson

Since first starting to volunteer with CESO in 2011, Bruce McPherson has made significant contributions to Canada’s international development goals. Bruce has effectively used his international project management and capacity development experience to positively impact clients and partners and creating environments where micro, small, and medium -sized enterprises (MSMEs) can thrive.

To date, Bruce has completed over 20 assignments in Canada, Asia, Africa and South America. As the Lead Volunteer Advisor for CESO’s partnership with the Philippines Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), he provides strategic leadership and oversight of the MSME-focused assignments, particularly among women entrepreneurs to empower and sustain their economic progress. In a recent partnership evaluation, two DTI Regions that Bruce had worked with demonstrated significant gains for women owned and operated businesses in productivity, marketing, and sales and revenues, and to a certain extent better family income distribution.


Maureen Moore

Maureen Moore has been a CESO volunteer since 2012. Over the past six years, she has completed 11 assignments in Canada and Latin America. Maureen is to be most commended for her work in sustainable agriculture and the development of women’s empowerment in remote communities.

Last year, Maureen worked in Simiatug, Ecuador, an indigenous community in the high Andes. She delivered training in business planning and simple bookkeeping skills to community groups of weavers, co-operative staff and micro-entrepreneurs. The local weavers, mostly women, sold their products to a local co-operative. These are in turn sold too locally owned micro-businesses who then incorporate the work into high-quality bags, shoes and decorative household items. The training will enable the co-operative and micro-businesses to grow while continuing to employ and support local weavers in the region.


Gerry O’Connor

Since he first started to volunteer with CESO in 2004, Gerry O’ Connor has been providing excellent assistance to our partner organizations and clients in the Philippines. Together with regional partners and other CESO volunteers, Gerry has played a significant role in creating and implementing a local advisory program that trains and utilizes local business experts to provide advisory services to entrepreneurs.

In over 30 assignments, Gerry has demonstrated his dedicated approach to building capacity of SME entrepreneurs and supporting institutions in reaching their objectives. Most notably, he helped ginger farmers in the Philippines to create a long-term business plan that will guide the local government to support farmers and create a lucrative market for the local crops, including ginger. The project resulted in the identification of new growth markets and enabled farmers to diversify their income.


Lynn Palmer

Lynn Palmer started her volunteer work with CESO in 2012. Since then, she has worked across the globe and with Indigenous communities in Canada, supporting businesses and associations in business development strategies. She has worked with the government of Nunavut to help them develop a Mentorship program to support employees in their current positions and prepare them for future roles, while embracing Inuit culture.

Lynn’s approach to her work is inclusive. She unreservedly shares her knowledge, skills and experience gained through 35 years of a working, and she embraces the ability to give back. The experience she has gained through CESO has been transformative, and Lynn is continuously learning and meeting people who also want to do their part to make the world a little better.


Fred Reynolds

Throughout his tenure as a CESO volunteer, Fred Reynolds has notably dedicated himself to opening up opportunities for businesses and associations he worked with. Whether it is in refreshing a brand, or improving operational scope for international markets, Fred collaboratively works with partners to find innovative solutions. One of his most notable assignment was his work with the Escuela Nacional de Ciencias Forestales – a post-secondary institution dedicated to enhancing theoretical and practical knowledge in forestry in Honduras. Fred worked with the administration, professors and students of the university to improve production processes for its business units, as well as to develop a strategy to reform the current curriculum. The project resulted in the development of operational plans for each department, which helped the institution diversify their revenue. It also resulted in the consideration of a major curriculum reform to ensure students get practical experience and to ensure stability of the university. Throughout the project, Fred worked closely with administrators and professors to find realistic and attainable solutions. This attitude is present throughout his assignments in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Bolivia, Vietnam, Armenia, Serbia and Cameroon.


Sam Weller

Since becoming a CESO VA, Sam Weller has generously shared his professional experience to support communities and individuals with their goals. Sam’s first CESO assignment was with the Tsawaineuk First Nation in Kingcome Inlet where he got his feet wet, both figuratively and literally. Access to the village was by flat-bottom boat and visitors must wade ashore. His assignment was to evaluate the organizational and staffing needs of the band, which was a great learning experience and his report was warmly received. Sam undertook several other First Nations assignments over the next 13 years – the latest being a mentoring assignment with the Gwich’in Tribal Council in Inuvik.

He has also worked internationally, working with communities and businesses to improve their administrative and financial management practices. He was chosen as a Lead Volunteer Advisor for a project in Bolivia, working with an agricultural institute to develop a long-term, five year plan to improve their business capacity.


Susan Wetmore

Susan Wetmore has made outstanding contributions to sustainable development, in Canada and globally, having completed more than 40 CESO volunteer assignments within 15 years. Her considerable experience in hospitality makes her an ideal asset for small business owners looking to improve their operations. Susan works primarily with restaurant and hotel owners helping them with everything from building cafés, staffing a new hotel kitchen, or creating new take-out services.

She has worked in Africa and the Americas, lending her expertise in the business of tourism and hospitality.  Most recently, she returned to Benin after completing an assignment to follow up with the local partner. Since her visit in 2016, the partner has established two new conference rooms and improved the services offered, allowing the hotel to create new sources of revenue.


Roger Wheelock

Since his first CESO assignment in Guyana in 2013, Roger Wheelock has contributed immensely to the organization’s mission and vision of creating stronger economies and better lives. He has generously shared his expertise and experience with members of Indigenous communities in Canada, as well as with tourism businesses and institutions in the Americas, Asia and the Caribbean. Roger dedicates his time providing exemplary advisory and mentoring services, ensuring mentees and trainees are well-equipped to succeed.

Roger has now completed 15 assignments, working in Guyana developing sustainable tourism initiatives with remote Indigenous communities; in Colombia planning strategies to bolster incomes of small family farms to ensure continuity of small farming communities facing urban development; and in Inuvik mentoring a small Inuit-owned tourism company to enhance tourism strategies. In Jamaica, Roger worked as a Lead Volunteer with a community where he worked with leaders and residents to create new opportunities and build capacity, particularly for women and young people, in tourism. Today, the BRED Treasure Beach community has seen increased revenue in tourism, creating alternative livelihoods for locals.

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