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Volunteers provide economic advice all over the world
03 August 2005
by Kate Wright

William Gollan has travelled the world, but he wouldn't consider his adventures much of a pleasure cruise.

From China to Russia and a number of stops in between, Gollan is part of the Canadian Executive Service Organization (CESO), a not-for-profit, volunteer-based organization that provides economic development expertise to Canadians and clients in nine countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central and South America and six emerging market economies in Central and Eastern Europe.

"These aren't pleasure trips," he said, with a laugh. "You're working 12 hours a day, days and nights."

Roughly 4,000 members across Canada volunteer their time and expertise to poor countries, to assist in business and other areas identified by the country.

To be accepted into CESO, volunteers must submit a resumé and then be interviewed for the positions.

"It's like a job interview, but more intensive," said Gollan. "After you're accepted, when a requirement comes up for your area of expertise, your name pops up and you can be sent out."

Gollan, who spent 21 years in the Army and who's expertise lies in logistics following a 24 year career as distribution manager for Co-op Atlantic, recently returned from a mission to the Philippines.

"I worked in Tagar City with a distribution company that delivered bakery products for a huge bakery with 250 stores," he said. "The working language was English, but there was a regional dialect I just didn't understand. They were wonderful people I had never worked for a nicer group."

Gollan spent two full weeks studying the company's distribution system in order to make the proper recommendations for improvement.

"I now know the island very well," he said.

Gollan also organized six seminars offered to employees to further their understanding of the new systems Gollan was crucial in putting together.

"The attitude of the people there is that long hours and hard work are good things," he said. "It's not just hard work they expect, but results."

Gollan has also spent time in China, where he worked to set up a distribution centre for a retail giant boasting 400 retail stores, to Russia, where he taught selling techniques to the staff of a large retail plant store.

He has also been sent to month long mission trips in Poland and Serbia.

Gollan insists he wasn't put up in five star hotels during his trips abroad.

"When I was in Poland, I lived in an old military factory and the only rooms were the detention cells, so I lived behind bars, which was very tough," he said. "In Russia, it was worse. There was a lot of crime outside my hotel and after dark, I wasn't allowed to go out. It was very lonely."

While learning about the customs of other cultures and sharing his expertise with people across the globe, Gollan said he's come to appreciate what he has at home.

"I wasn't a tourist - I learned that we Canadians are the luckiest people in the world," he said. "I also learned there are some wonderful, smart people out there. There are some great entrepreneurs out there who are doing it and with a little help, are going to do well."

Gollan said the work of CESO often goes undetected because of the nature of the job, but he feels the group should be recognized for their efforts.

"There are people in CESO all over the world and we provide services from plumbing to medical," he said.

Gollan hopes to make a trek to Honduras this fall, where he will work with a gas company that delivers petroleum looking for help in scheduling and delivering their product.

"My wife thinks it's great, but she worries a bit," he said. "But this is important - we are helping people."

Know more about Canadian Executive Service Organization