Managing International Development Programmes, 1974-94

Kaye Thomson was born in Australia, attended the University of Melbourne and emigrated to Canada in 1964 after which she became a Canadian citizen. Her curriculum vitae from 1974-1999 follows. 

Kaye spent over 25 years managing international development programmes in Ottawa for CUSO, WUSC and the Canadian Public Health Association. She also held six overseas postings in Bangladesh, China, Lesotho, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Tonga. Kaye had wide experience in programme design, monitoring, reporting, budgeting and evaluation; public, media and government relations; contract negotiations and implementation; fundraising and delivery of briefing and information materials. She supervised programme staff, technical assistance personnel, international students and scholarship trainees and conducted study tours for senior government officials visiting Canada from various developing countries. 

Kaye joined the new Executive Director of WUSC, William McNeill, in 1974 as special assistant and participated in his introduction of a Canada-wide WUSC membership programme for educational institutions, alumni and the general public. This fundraising effort showed wide Canadian support for WUSC programmes focused on education, human rights and the alleviation of poverty, racial discrimination and oppression. WUSC continued its support of student refugees and co-operated with the United Nations and its agencies as well as international non-government organizations and community groups in developing countries. WUSC received financial assistance from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and provincial governments, foundations and was supported by 47 Canadian university and college campus committees. Kaye helped to revive a new WUSC CARAVAN touring WUSC college and university campus committees with handicrafts from community groups in various developing countries for fundraising and student involvement in development education.  

WUSC opened its first Field office in Lesotho in 1976 to support a Canadian International Development (CIDA) funded technical assistance programme to place Canadian university graduates to teach in secondary schools. WUSC also recruited a Canadian university nurse trainer from Brandon University for the University of Botswana. Negotiations began in 1975 with the Chinese government to hold the 1977 WUSC International Seminar in Beijing, where it was just opening its “Friendship Door” to foreigners. Meanwhile the 1975 WUSC seminar was held in Egypt with 50 university student participants and 3 faculty advisors. 

Kaye participated in administering the United Nations Volunteer programme in Canada and the WUSC Refugee Programme in cooperation with UNHCR. In 1981 the Canadian Department of Immigration signed an MOU with WUSC to bring student refugees to Canada as Landed Immigrants – a unique human rights programme that continues to this day. It is supported by WUSC education institutional members waiving tuition and residence fees and WUSC local committees on campus providing both personal and financial help. 

In 1982, (after a period from 1977 to 1978 when Kaye was employed by CUSO as Director of Programme Funding) Kaye was appointed Field Director, WUSC China Programme in Beijing and Co-Director, Canada/China Human Development Training Programme. This CIDA-funded bilateral technical assistance programme enabled Kaye to establish the first non-government office in China since the revolution for WUSC.  She managed both Canadian and Chinese office staff, together with the Chinese government Co-Director, for the administration of Chinese government selected civil servants to participate in individually designed, tailor-made work study placements in Canadian corporate and educational institutions across Canada. A special WUSC Ottawa team handled these complex assignments. This multi-million dollar programme continued for ten years and was a model for non formal education unique in having both Canadian inter-governmental and national scope. It assisted the Government of China in its efforts to modernize.  

The Chinese Ministry of Education signed a bilateral agreement with Canada in 1983 to receive 15 Canadian post-graduate teachers of English literature linguistics, journalism and writing to be recruited by WUSC for one year placements in Chinese universities. This programme was monitored by the WUSC field office staff in Beijing. 

  • 1984-1987:  Deputy Director, WUSC Education & Training Programmes 
  • 1987-1988:  Deputy Director, WUSC Overseas Programmes 
  • 1988-1989:  Manager, WUSC Overseas Programmes 
  • 1989-1990:  Field Director, WUSC Malawi Programme 
  • 1990-1991:  Field Director, WUSC Lesotho Programme 
  • 1991-1994:  Field Director, WUSC  Malawi Programme 

During this ten year period Kaye administered a CIDA funded nine million dollar scholarship programme for the universities of Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Malawi. She managed the WUSC field programmes in Lesotho and Malawi to send some 250 professional Basotho and Malawians to Canadian institutions for long-term training and to African institutions for short-term training. Kaye also administered the Government of Canada Fund for small indigenous group development projects ($250,000 per annum) and reported to the Canadian High Commission on their progress. Kaye signed a Memorandum of Understanding with UNICEF to provide them with four WUSC volunteers to work with indigenous community groups advocating for HIV/AIDS prevention programmes in Malawi. 

WUSC was now providing CIDA-funded technical assistance personnel for overseas programmes in Bangladesh, Botswana, Bhutan, the Caribbean, China, Costa Rica, the Comoros, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malaysia, Malawi, Peru, Swaziland, Tunisia and Zimbabwe and was providing Canadian field staff in all of these countries to administer the programmes. Some examples of Canadian government bilateral aid programmes involving WUSC follow. 

Bangladesh1984 A programme funded by CIDA to bridge the gap between field workers and research scientists at the International Centre for Diarrhoea Disease Research in Dhaka. The WUSC recruited group comprised an epidemiologist, a physician trainer, a nurse educator, a training materials developer, a health economist and a computer specialist. 

Tunisia: 1984 A CIDA-funded technical assistance programme in the Republic of Tunisia to provide 30 Canadian advisors to conduct courses and on the job training in health, agriculture and administration in both Canada and Tunisia for two years. 

The Caribbean1986 The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States approached CIDA to provide them with technical assistance tailored to the needs of approximately twelve diverse island states. For example, St. Lucia needed a higher level of knowledge and experience in taxing hotels and businesses involved in tourism; Grenada needed training for its civil servants managing its public sector programme; Dominica wished to revamp and upgrade its statistics branch capacity and some of the smaller states were requiring help with their governments to perform effective audits of operations. WUSC provided the services of a resident Project Director, Mrs. Barbara Hoffman, and Ottawa staff to recruit and deliver the personnel and to provide training opportunities for civil servants from these islands. 

Returning from Malawi to Canada in 1994 Kaye left WUSC and joined the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) in Ottawa as Programme Officer for the Southern Africa AIDS Training Programme. This second phase of a $24 million CIDA bilateral programme delivered institutional support and capacity building training (called School Without Walls) to some 150 indigenous community groups in nine southern African countries: Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The CPHA field office was in Harare, Zimbabwe. Kaye liaised with the CIDA officials and programme auditors in Ottawa and the CPHA field staff and prepared reports and advocacy materials. She also served on the Board of the International Coalition of AIDS & Development Agencies in Canada (ICAD) as the CPHA representative. 

Kaye retired at the end of 1999 and now lives in Sidney on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. She is happy to see the continued flourishing of WUSC and its vigorous cooperation with other Canadian NGOs actively supporting aid programmes to developing countries and promoting awareness of the problems of education, health, poverty and racial discrimination overseas and in Canada. She considers it an honour and a privilege to have been part of the growth of this renowned organization and to have worked side by side with so many inspiring people committed to WUSC and its many well respected programmes and staff. 

Author profile

Kaye Thomson joined WUS Canada in 1974 as special assistant to the Executive Director, Bill McNeill. She managed the annual WUSC seminars to Egypt China and Thailand and the new WUSC membership programme as well as the introduction of CARAVAN which replaced the former WUSC Treasure Van. Kaye managed the UN Volunteer Programme for Canada and the new WUSC refugee programme in cooperation with UNHCR and the Canadian government’s immigration department. During her 16 years’ service with WUSC Kaye was appointed Co-Director (with her Chinese government counterpart) of the Canada/China Human Development Programme in Beijing from 1982 to 1984; Field Director of WUSC Malawi from 1987-89; Field Director of WUSC Lesotho from 1990 to 1992 and back to Malawi as Field Director from 1992 to 1994, Later Kaye joined the Canadian Public Health Association in Ottawa on the Southern Africa AIDS Training Programme until her retirement in 1999.