Serving others in faraway places

Human security and peace-building are values Grant Tosh holds in high esteem.

Collaboration: Tosh Grant conducts a health survey with a village chief in a remote community in Laos.

Collaboration: Tosh Grant conducts a health survey with a village chief in a remote community in Laos.

Human security and peace-building are values Grant Tosh holds in high esteem.

They are values that earned Tosh a $2,000 Coast Capital Citizenship Award for his extensive volunteer work in Laos.

In an email interview, Tosh explains that he is working for the Bamboo School Foundation, a German-based non-governmental organization.

Tosh’s team works in remote rural villages that have little access to public health care, education, water and sanitation, roads, or electricity.

“In the same era as the Vietnam War, the United States waged a ‘secret war’ on Laos, dropping 270 million cluster bombs, making Laos the most bombed country in the world per capita,” he says, noting 80 million of these bombs failed to explode. “This contamination is now a major cause of poverty, preventing people from using land and denying access to basic services such as health care and education, as well as accounting for tens of thousands of casualties in the post-war period.”

Grant is currently evaluating the impacts of the foundation’s past projects, including the construction of schools, dormitories, water systems, and health clinics in remote mountain communities, as well as their health and hygiene training programs and outreach services.

“In the past three years I have been involved in the co-ordination and implementation of many of these projects, so it is especially interesting for me to understand what impacts on villagers these projects have had, and how we can improve in the future,” he says. “This evaluation also fulfills the requirements of my primary research project towards the completion of my masters.”

Grant is currently working toward his masters degree in Human Security and Peace Building at Royal Roads University.

“It adopts ideologies from human rights, human development, international development, and conflict resolution, as well as others,” he says. “The ultimate goal of the human security approach is to protect the vital core of all human lives in sustainable and equitable ways that fulfills basic needs and enhances human freedoms and human fulfillment.”

Grant says he is honoured to be recognized by Vancouver’s large credit union.

“I appreciate the recognition Coast Capital Savings has given me for my contribution and commitment to the causes I care about,” he says.

Despite the fact he is away for long periods of time, Grant, who attended local Silver Creek Elementary, JL Jackson and Salmon Arm Secondary, still calls the Shuswap home.

But Grant is well-travelled having taken many trips to distant parts of the globe, including a year of primary school in Australia.

These adventures with his parents, Ian and Linda Grant, are what inspired his love of travel and interest in other cultures and ways of life.

“I am also grateful to have experienced traveling and living in many countries and with living outside of a capitalist system, such as in Laos, where values reflect interdependency and importance of family, community, the natural environment, as well as the importance of enjoying life and rather than striving arduously to gain material possessions at the expense of others, and the expense of one’s own physical and psychological well-being,” he says, condemning “the common definition of progress or modernity as meaning technological and economic advancement.”

While Laos has been Grant’s part-time home for the past five years, his family’s Silver Creek home is where he lives for four months every year and where the “biggest piece of his heart” resides.

Following graduation from Salmon Arm Secondary, Grant earned a BA in social sciences and anthropology from UVic.  After completing his MA, Grant plans to continue working in the field of social development and poverty alleviation with larger organizations such as those affiliated with the United Nations.

Originally hoping to work with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Grant was disappointed that the Harper government merged the department with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development (DFAIT).

He says the move takes away much of the autonomy and funding and puts greater emphasis on commerce objectives than on social development or poverty alleviation.

“It shows the world that our priorities here in Canada are increasingly based on economic gain rather than fulfilling the basic needs and social needs of our own population and of others around the world,” he says.