A temple in Laos (Photo contributed)

A temple in Laos (Photo contributed)

Red Deer woman volunteers professional skills to help fight third-world poverty

International assignment taking her to Laos in southeast Asia

A Red Deer woman will see her volunteer and financial skills go a little further than usual in a new assignment.

Chris Fletch will travel to southeast Asia on Wednesday to help people in Laos for six months through CUSO International, a nonprofit Canadian development organization.

CUSO’s goal is to help reduce poverty and inequality in developing countries by providing volunteers who are skilled professionals to train local volunteers to help ensure sustainability of their organizations.

She’ll work in the capital city of Vientiane with an organization that is striving to provide benefits to employees. She has a diploma in business and is finishing a bachelor of Commerce and will be helping people in Laos learn best practices in financial management, and creating train-a-trainer documents that they will be able to use themselves.

She expects that she will learn new skills in Laos that she can offer in the community when she come home. “It seems like a win-win all around.”

Fletch is employed as operations manager at Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery, and also helps out other nonprofits in Central Alberta. She was treasurer of Treehouse Youth Theatre until recently, resigning to take on her CUSO assignment. She will take leave of absence from work without pay to go to Laos.

Fletch, 37, said she was looking for new challenges and opportunities to improve herself and grow as an employee so she can give more back to the community. She became intrigued with CUSO, and that eventually led her to applying for the volunteer position.

Fletch, 37, is married to Danny and they have two sons, Zack, 13, and Alex, 18, who is graduating from Lindsey Thurber Comprehensive High School this month. Zack plays for the Red Deer Royals marching band and after a trip to a competition in the Netherlands this summer, he will join his mother in Laos for one semester.

She admits the biggest challenge will be the language, which is Lao, and she’ll be taking a crash course in language, customs and culture when she gets there. They do speak a lot of English in the workplace.

Every year CUSO sends several hundred volunteers to places all over the world, and she was thrilled to be selected “from little old Red Deer” as most volunteers are from the larger cities, Fletch said.