Beyond bananas

Cavelle in boatAs featured in The Marketplace - 2016 - May/June:

by Cavelle Dove, Myanmar

I grew up in the most eastern part of Canada, in Newfoundland. My early years were in a very small homogenous rural community, where the most exotic thing that ever happened was that once a month we would drive to a larger centre and buy bananas. Bananas! It was a luxury and a reminder of a larger world somewhere out there.

My family were staunch believers in education; my father was the first person in our community to ever receive a university degree. My four siblings have master’s degrees. Education was a big deal. The other early influence in my life was the local church.

In my teen years I felt a call to international work but I really didn’t know what that was. My father had passed away and we moved to an urban centre and my exposure to international work was limited primarily to missionaries who came and went at my church. When I finished high school, I felt a conflict — I wanted to serve God and work internationally but the only model I knew was the missionary one. My family was conflicted. After much turmoil, I applied to Bible school and thought that now my future direction was sealed. I was relatively confident — I was one of those smartie pants in school, graduating first in my class; I was the church pianist; in the choir; leader of the youth group. A few months later, I got a letter rejecting my application. I was only 16 when I graduated from high school and the minimum age for Bible school was 18. I was shocked and more than anything confused and upset. I was so sure that I had heard the call. Had I heard wrong?

My second choice was university and I struggled initially to find my way. I loved those years — the different people, views, cultures, opportunities. I studied social work and fell in love, not with a person but with the concept of social justice. The scripture from Isaiah — “learn to do good. Seek Justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of the orphans. Fight for the rights of widows” — resonated with me. I had found my mission.

My first international job was in Malawi then in South Africa, where I fell in love with the people and the African sunset. I came back to Canada and worked with the children’s aid society where I fell in love again (but this time with a boy!), then back to southeast Asia where I worked for 15 years with a focus on women and their empowerment. It’s a far cry from my childhood where eating a banana was the height of an international experience!

I’m grateful that I get to wake up every day and use my skills and my values to make a difference in the lives of others, and that I can model this as a legacy to my children.

Finally I’m grateful to work with MEDA, as we all “hear the call” together about how collectively we can have an impact on those who need it most. ◆

Cavelle Dove directs MEDA’s new project in Myanmar, which aims to help 25,000 women grasp new business opportunities in the country’s changing economic environment.