Barry Fleming recalls the 1970s as a transformative time for Cuso International in Africa. As a field officer in Zambia, and later the Regional Director of the Cuso East, Central and Southern Africa program in Tanzania, his role was to identify the areas where the organization could make the most difference.
“We had a lot of teachers at that time,” recalls Fleming. “But we realized we needed very specialized skills to support these countries in their transformation to become more self-reliant.”
Fleming, a former teacher himself, had first joined Cuso International to experience the challenges that he had been learning about in his first job at OXFAM Canada.
“Cuso International gave me the opportunity to go overseas and witness firsthand what I had been talking about all those years.”
After spending close to 5 years in Africa, Fleming returned to Canada and completed a Masters in Public Administration. He then went on to work for the Public Service Alliance of Canada for the next 12 years. In 1985, he took a leave of absence to go work with the Public Sectors Union in Geneva. That role gave him the opportunity to go back to Africa, the continent he had come to love so much.
For the remainder of his career, Barry Fleming worked with unions, including the Union of the Workers Compensation Board in Vancouver.
Since retiring in 2001, Fleming has volunteered for many political campaigns, Amnesty International, and as a trustee on Port Moody Library Board.
“Once you’ve committed yourself to social justice, you never retire from that,” says Fleming. “The best part of CUSO’s legacy is the core that it leaves you with, the core that says: ‘that work was important; those people were important; and, I must never forget them.’”