Staff Spotlight: Wayne McRann


Tell us a little about DWC and your role at the organization.

Developing World Connections was founded in 2004, with our first group volunteering in February 2005 after the Asia tsunami. From Sri Lanka as our first project location, we have now added 12 other countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Our projects are all related to construction of infrastructure to help eliminate the causes and effects of poverty. Typically we build schools, medical facilities, livelihood generating facilities, water and sanitation projects and agricultural projects.

I am the founder and president of Developing World Connections and along with overall management responsibilities, I am responsible for establishing and maintaining the relationships with our developing world partners, as well as with our corporate partners in Canada.

How did you get involved in the volunteer industry?

I first encountered international volunteering with my Rotary club, as we conducted a home rebuilding project in Guatemala post Hurricane Mitch. During the trip, I spent considerable time with the family of the village chief. When I first saw Maria, their six year old daughter, she was asleep in the mud of their living room floor. She was a healthy, sweet child and she became my shadow for the entire time I was in the village. When I returned the next year, Maria was no longer the vibrant little girl of a year ago, but was now thin, gaunt and bedridden from tuberculosis. Several nights during my stay I sat with Amilca, her older brother, while he tried to keep her fever down with a damp cloth.

With her parents and a doctor from our group, we decided that when we left the village, we would take Maria with us to a tuberculosis sanitarium. However, by the end of the week her condition was much worse and she was unable to travel. By the time we finished our long hike out of the jungle, word awaited us that Maria had passed away. This event changed me. I realized just how privileged I was; how if Maria were in Canada or the USA, she would have gotten the proper care she so desperately needed. From that point forward, I committed to do whatever I could to help alleviate the burden of poverty in the developing world.

After several more volunteering trips, I began to realize that not only did we make a great difference in the lives of our project beneficiaries, this work was also having a huge impact on us. The opportunity to serve internationally added a whole new very positive dimension to our lives. At the time, there was little opportunity for people outside of organizations like Rotary to be involved in international volunteering, so we decided we would start an organization that would offer the opportunity to anybody and everybody.

What makes DWC unique?

There are a number of things that make DWC unique in the international volunteering sector:

  • We are committed to and follow strong principles of development effectiveness, rather than aid effectiveness.
  • Our projects are always construction related and include facilities for improvement of education, health care, community services, water and sanitation and agriculture.
  • We commit to building long term relationships with the communities where our volunteers participate. We partner only with non-profit organizations that are well established and respected in their communities and we expect accountability.

What characteristics make a good international volunteer?

A good international volunteer is one who goes into the experience with an open mind and a desire to serve, share of themselves, work to their physical capabilities and learn enough from their experience that they can then contribute in a greater way to global peace and understanding. A good international volunteer leaves their ego and expectations at home and, rather than try to change their host culture and community, embraces the differences they experience.

How do you prepare the volunteers for their projects?

The process of volunteer orientation starts several months prior to arrival in the host country. The volunteer is provided information about DWC operating principles, the host country and culture, the project, what to expect, how to conduct oneself, safety and security, travel, accommodations, food and packing lists. Each volunteer group is assigned an experienced Trip Coordinator and a Team Leader. Whenever possible the Team Leader conducts at least one orientation session, either in person or by conference call, allowing opportunity for a lengthy question and answer period. When the volunteers arrive in country, an orientation is then conducted by our Host Partner. This orientation focuses on their operating principles, safety and security, cultural differences and expectations.

How do you ensure your programs are sustainable and mutually beneficial for you, the community and the volunteers?

We spend considerable time seeking out host country partners and communities who are committed to sound development principles. Because we return to the same community several times over many years, we have ample opportunity to monitor the projects and ensure they are meeting the needs of the project beneficiaries.

We ensure the volunteers have daily opportunity to work through cultural barriers by working side by side with local people, engaging with families, visiting community facilities and participating in community events. The benefit to Developing World Connections is achieved through providing a meaningful experience for the volunteers and meeting the infrastructure needs of the project communities.