Things that happened at EWB in 2014

*Content warning: sexual violence. 

by Chelsey Rhodes

Lately I have been really struggling with the reality that EWB, and the broader EWB community and alumni, simply cannot seem to care about the many people injured by the organization. I’m sad about the people who have written to me over the years (I have emails and messages dating back to 2011) about the long-term impacts they are struggling with.

I’m sharing a few documents that paint a disturbing picture (and I have many more in an ever-growing folder). I’d been sorting through old emails, and I came across an exchange with George Roter and Mark Abbott from 2014. Interestingly, it includes the tidbit that I barely spoke in the so-called mediation in 2013 because of suffering PTSD symptoms (and I was in a separate room?!), which contradicts the public statement EWB released about me and has up on its website still, which they continue to circulate and chapters continue to circulate, which I’ve repeatedly told them to take down because it is false and defamatory. (Do they care? No.)

The emails were written in March of that year, after I had been pressured into a non-disclosure agreement in late 2013. The last reply was drafted but then I never sent it; I suppose I considered it futile. It languished in my drafts for years. I guess I am sending it now.

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Next, I include an email from Mark Abbott regarding a “Serious Incident in Kumasi”, dated June 2014 (only a few months later). This was a violent break-in and attack that caused traumatic injuries to some or maybe all of the 15 people in the EWB house.

*Content warning*

This incident included someone being raped at gunpoint while others hid under the bed.

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Mark Abbott wrote that the injuries to people were ‘not life-threatening.’ Rape is life-threatening, Mark. PTSD is life-threatening. 33% of rape victims develop suicidal ideation, and 13% attempt suicide. Those stats are probably worsened when your entire organization and community abandons you or turns against you, or if you cannot access support to recover.

The awful part is, THIS WAS PREVENTABLE. If only EWB had listened to my warnings only months earlier; if only they had made the changes I suggested; if only they had listened to repeated suggestions by others over the years.

If only they had listened to Alex who was at that same house a week earlier and warned that it was not safe or secure; she felt so unsafe that she wedged a chair under her bedroom door handle each night. When she found out later what happened only a few days after she had left, she sat in her car and cried and had a panic attack.

If only they had listened to the others in the house who also knew it was not safe and said so. I had directly told EWB, repeatedly, that they were ignoring health and safety issues for staff and volunteers, underpaying and not supporting them adequately with safe accommodations and transportation, thereby exposing women in particular to heightened risk of violence.

EWB is liable for the injuries caused to these people. The Canadian government is possibly also liable for this and subsequent incidents under their funded Volunteer Cooperation Program (VCP), and Mark Abbott’s email is clear that Canadian consular officials were informed. I think there have been, and continue to be, many many incidents like this across many similar volunteer-sending organizations, that will eventually lead to a class action lawsuit against these organizations and GAC (formerly CIDA) for negligence and discrimination. [See: Legal Support for Victims of EWB]. There is no reason GAC shouldn’t be made to properly compensate people for negligently and repeatedly injuring them during their ill-advised attempts at getting Canadian university students to travel to the Global South to position a young, friendly (and now, feminist!) face in front of the destructive aspects of Canadian foreign policy and industry.

These programs should be stopped entirely. The organizations (mostly, the executives) benefitting from this funding need to rethink their entire mandate.

EWB should apologize and support everyone who they have exposed to harm and injury, including those who were targeted or retaliated against by their own staff and executives. They should start a reparations program for communities they worked in doing pointless, self-serving, and destructive stuff. The alumni and remaining chapter community should snap the fuck out of it and start demanding this be addressed. This issue is not controversial in any way.

This is what’s true: what happened to people was wrong. How EWB has publicly handled this was, and is, wrong. They have compounded the damage many times over by their refusal to tell the truth and take responsibility and make amends to people. This is how institutional violence works.

I don’t know if EWB supported any of the people in this ‘serious incident’ in June 2014 (or any serious incident) with counselling, or long-term financial support for the injuries or disabilities caused by their negligence. Given the zero fucks they gave about the long-term damage they did to me, I assume not. People staying in the house that night included Canadian staff and student fellows, and Ghanaian staff members.

Aakhil Lakhani was also assaulted that same summer, 2014, and then retaliated against when they reported it. There were other assaults that summer that went unreported. I mean, why would anyone bother to report anything to EWB? Why the fuck is EWB operating and still getting donations, and people are still making excuses for it? [Instead, why not donate to Aakhil’s legal support fund?]

Even reported assaults were not uncommon. Another document we obtained from 2014, a ‘pulse check’, shows that sexual assault, harassment, and other incidents were happening multiple times a year.

Pulse Dashboard


EWB has known about this, for years.

The last document I include is from 2019, when an EWB staff member wrote to the EWB community that there had been a kidnapping of one of their chapter members in the same city as the 2014 incident, but that there had never been any incident there before –an anomaly, they claimed!– so they were not going to evacuate the Junior Fellows who they had sent there. This all happened the same summer that they had concealed the Derek Evans report from the Junior Fellow cohort, which apparently recommended they not be sent at all due to serious unresolved health and safety and management issues. So, EWB repeatedly hid relevant information from students, preventing them from being able to make an informed choice regarding their own safety or to demand better conditions and support from EWB.



I wrote to the EWB Board and said they were going to get someone killed.

They didn’t reply. I don’t think they care.

I wonder, did Boris Martin, CEO (why does a charity need a ‘CEO’?) just forget about what happened in 2014? Did he forget about what happened to me? Has he forgotten about the multiple people who reported Prateek Awasthi to him, and that he didn’t give a fuck so they all left and are still recovering from that? Has he forgotten about all of the other things that have happened under his watch? What is the utility of this forgetting? Why does the Board continue to sanction all of this?

Does anyone at EWB know what they are doing? What is the point of this organization? Has everyone forgotten that too?

Open Letter: “As the one at fault, EWB does not get to decide when it’s over.”


*This letter was submitted by Todd Phillips, a former EWB member and chapter president. We concur with Todd in all that he writes, and especially when he states, “I call on the chapters and leadership, past and present, to take responsibility for what happened and to tell the truth.”


November 12th, 2020

To the members and leadership of EWB, past and present,

I’m calling on the leadership at EWB to answer for their and the organization’s behavior in regard to the multiple counts of sexual harassment, sexual assault and bullying that have occurred. The sheer number of complaints is worrying, but the only point more worrying seems to be EWB’s response, in the past and as well as now. They have, and continue to, ignore the wellbeing of the people involved. They have lied and covered up what has actually happened.

Before I go any further, I would like to state that I am surely guilty of some inappropriate behavior. I do not remember any specific instances, but I am open to being called out on these or any other behaviors that caused people discomfort or unease. I will make amends to the best of my ability. I am striving to improve and educate myself every day on topics such as this, and am hoping I will be better in the future. I do not expect any person or organization to be perfect, but I expect them to care. I expect them to make things right to the best of their ability.

The only public response I’m aware of, EWB’s main response to Chelsey in August 2019, is misleading at best, but most likely, it is just full of false statements. It is empty of truth and heart. Chelsey has repeatedly asked for it to be retracted, and regardless of EWB’s intentions (which are also questionable), it is punishment for speaking out, and serves as a warning to others. This is in addition to re-traumatizing Chelsey, and attacking her character.

I don’t want to dwell on too many specific points. The overall meaning can be lost if the argument becomes about specific points and semantics, but I feel I need to give some examples to demonstrate what I’ve said. To begin, Chelsey has flatly denied anything was consensual, let alone being “emphatic that it was consensual” as stated in the response. Abuse cannot be consensual.

As well, it seems to me that all decisions taken were from a purely legal standpoint, and the person was forgotten. In EWB’s statement, their treatment of Chelsey contradicts itself in the same paragraph. EWB states that “we are confident that we acted appropriately and addressed all concerns that she raised in mediation. That said, we regret that she was not offered more acknowledgement and support at the time.” How can you say you acted appropriately and then immediately say you should have given more support? In my opinion, the only way this makes sense is if ‘appropriately’ means ‘legally’.

As well, I don’t have faith that the new policies are enough when they are so EWB-centric, instead of person-centered: “We hope that recent dialogue can provide closure and allow us all to focus on the future.” Unfortunately, as the one at fault, EWB does not get to decide when it’s over. Any suggestion otherwise takes more power away from the victim. Victims decide when the dialogue, when the healing, when the everything is over, not the perpetrators.

I call on the chapters and leadership, past and present, to take responsibility for what happened and to tell the truth, to make the situation right as much as possible for the victims, and to take real action to minimize the chances of something like this happening again, and if it does, ensuring that it will be dealt with appropriately. Person-centered, victim-centered appropriately, not EWB’s current definition of the word.

I stand with Aakhil. I stand with Chelsey. I stand with all victims. I encourage all others, but especially chapters, alumni and leadership, to do the same.

Todd Phillips
Former EWB Member & Chapter President

Podcast E6: “Is EWB a Cult?”

*Podcast also available on googleplay, iTunes, and podcast apps like Castbox.


Luna Taguchi, former president of the McGill University chapter of EWB, discusses what it was like to realize that the organization she supported was concealing decades of discrimination and abuse. She, like some other ex-EWBers, turned to cult literature to understand the internal dynamics of the organization and why some people inexplicably continued to make excuses for EWB. Luna and Chelsey discuss the “collective trauma” inflicted by the lying and corruption of self-absorbed institutional leaders who eject anyone who challenges them (often deeming them disloyal, radicals, or heretics).  They ponder what it takes to heal and move on, including struggling with feelings of anger and fantasies of revenge. These are part of the process and can be harnessed and turned towards breaking one’s silence and standing up for justice and equity.

Host: Chelsey Rhodes

Guest: Luna Taguchi

For more info:

GoFundMe for Aakhil: 

Musical theme: Shades Lawrence
Buda Bap Beats

Aakhil Lakhani legal support fund


We’ve created a GoFundMe campaign to support Aakhil Lakhani’s upcoming legal challenge to Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB). Please click on the link, donate, and share!

“Aakhil Lakhani spoke out last year about facing sexual assault in 2013 while on a fellowship placement with Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB), and then facing retaliation from the organization when they reported it. See here  and here.

Since Aakhil came forward publicly, they have faced stonewalling and silence from EWB. This has led them to seek legal advice, and they are moving forward with a lawsuit.

Going through this process is very stressful and re-traumatizing, and we want to support Aakhil to have access to health supports and to be able to take time off and rest.

Please donate what you can!”

(If others from EWB network need help with legal support, please contact us.)

An Address to the Federal Council of the Green Party of Canada and Members of Parliament

Below is an August 12, 2020 letter from Celeste Coomber. This was posted on the Green Party of Canada facebook page and Celeste’s personal page. Elizabeth May wrote to her to have it removed. May wrote in emails to Celeste on August 12, offering to break confidentiality she had promised victims who participated in her ‘investigation’: “I am sorry that you have been misinformed.  I am sorry you think the party is covering anything up… I am open to providing information, but it is quite confidential and email is not appropriate… Why don’t you just wait and see before making any more assumptions. OK?”


To the Green Party of Canada,

I am decidedly…not impressed with your latest blunder.

You know, when we elect political parties into power, we do at least hope that they will represent everything we want and everything we strive for. When I consider who I am going to vote for in an election, I think about things like social justice, equality, a better quality of life, not having to worry about vast tracts of pollution across our environment, or about being discriminated against or harassed for being a young woman in a field dominated by men. That last one is particularly important, considering my field of study.

I have been studying anthropology since I was twenty-one years old, and in that time, I have learned a great many things about humans. This includes the fact that anthropology, like engineering, is still very much a male-dominated discipline. Entrenched old ideas and male behaviours have spawned horror stories of sexual harassment and assault in the field, especially concerning male supervisors and their female graduate students over whom they hold authority as well as the reins to their future careers. I have had professors describe to me what can happen to a female anthropologist when it is a man who controls her future ability to publish research. It is HORRIFYING. But women are told to just bite their tongue, otherwise their careers will be dead in the water, killed by the very men who assaulted them. Or worse, the ones who helped cover it up.

Tell me, should I want that sort of person in any position of power? Should I want a man who is complicit in this mass discrimination of and assault against women? Why has this suddenly become an issue of “race” when it is an issue of sexual violence, as well as moral and political corruption? Because the truth is that the people who cover it up, who seek to protect those who cover it up, they prove that they are just as bad as the rapists. Yes, I said it! Rapists! Because that’s what we as young women have to deal with. I get whistles and comments in the street because I am a busty young woman. Does what I wear matter? NOPE! I can be wearing three layers and STILL get comments from random men riding by on bicycles. I am stuck in a culture of misogyny, and now I have an MP that SUPPORTS this?

Oh yes, I have been made aware of the letter you three wrote to the council, Paul Manly, Jenica Atwin, and Elizabeth May. I SAW how you turned an issue of gender and sexuality into an issue of “race.” I wonder, would you still feel the same if it was you or your daughter or sister or mother who had to endure unwanted comments about their body? Would you still feel the same if you faced the threat of being sexually assaulted, being raped, and then being told to shut up about it by someone with more power than you because they could end your career permanently if you don’t do exactly what they say? I think there is a legal term for that…oh right, COERCION. You have recently hired an Executive Director complicit in COERCION regarding sexual assault, and somehow you think that is okay? So much for morals and justice, there, huh?

Do you think that this is the sort of abhorrent behaviour that we want to SEE in a political party? The last time I got this worked up about rape cases and coercion was when I was researching the #MeToo movement and the Brett Kavanaugh case for one of my class projects on Rape Culture. SILENCE. CONSENT. POWER[i]. Those were the keywords that I painted on our presentation in paint as red as blood. The same colour as the blood of the VICTIMS of sexual assault and RAPE in the workplace.

How can you say “We do not discount the experience of women who have been abused. We all want to support Chelsey Rhodes on her path to justice and her experience with Engineers Without Borders”[ii] and then turn around and PROTECT the man who is COMPLICIT in the coverups? Have you learned NOTHING from what has happened to Engineers Without Borders? Total System Failure is an apt name, though the failure is far more widespread. It is a disease!

With this letter I stand in solidarity with all of the men and women who have been assaulted, raped, and attacked for standing up for those who seek to help the ones that those in power have taken advantage of. With Claxton, with Lakhani, with Gokool.[iii] I WILL NOT BE SILENT.

It is explicitly stated in a presentation prepared by members of the Green Party that Prateek was the one who defamed Chelsey Rhodes for stepping forward to tell her story concerning this systemic coverup of sexual abuse within Engineers Without Borders[iv]. And this occurred AFTER it was claimed that an investigation occurred, an investigation into Chelsey’s allegations where Chelsey herself was not interviewed, no report was provided, and no conclusions were given other than “no harassment occurred.”[v] Smells like a coverup to me, and not even a good one. I bet even a five-year-old could figure out that there was no investigation and it was all just swept under the rug. AS USUAL.

It is you and people like you who stand opposed to victims by supporting their oppressors, even rewarding their foul behaviour with positions of power for the sake of “diversity.” If you want new blood and to survive, look to the young, appeal to us, make us want to support you. Do not support the sorts of people who take advantage of others just because they can. This is not a matter of “race” it is a matter of a miscarriage of justice.

And I name you COMPLICIT. Actions speak louder than words when you are a public official. Your words mean nothing if you turn around and do the opposite. The young people will remember, for we are not as dumb as you seem to think. I choose to take my words and make them in themselves an action. I am calling you out here and now because it is the RIGHT thing to do. You need to be held accountable for your bad decisions. I have chosen my side. And now I know that I will certainly not be voting for Paul Manly and the Green Party in the next election cycle because I know that the party as it stands cannot represent and protect me as a Canadian.

You, on the other hand, MPs and patriarchal conservative members of the Council, you will burn your party to the ground with this stance you’ve taken, and the other parties will gather to roast hotdogs and marshmallows over the flames. It’s sink or swim, but you’ve chosen to jump into a volcano.

Enjoy, I look forward to the fireworks.


Celeste Camilla Coomber

Age 26, Resident of Nanaimo, British Columbia


[i] “Presentation on Rape Culture.” Celeste Coomber et. al. April 2019.

[ii] “Letter from Three MPs to the Federal Council of the Green Party of Canada.” Elizabeth May, Paul Manly, Jenica Atwin. August 2020.

[iii] “What do we do when Humanitarians are the Disaster?” Chelsey Rhodes. Briar Patch Magazine. July 2 2020.

[iv] “Laying the Foundation of a Culture of Belonging through Safety and Trust.” Bonnie North et. al. August 2020. Page 12.

We stand with Youth Coalition and with all survivors


Additional disturbing allegations have become public about EWB’s former Director, Prateek Awasthi.

The Total System Failure team has known about these allegations (more details in the linked statement below) since March 2019, after we received a tip from an acquaintance, but did not have permission to make them public. In April 2019, Chelsey Rhodes flew to Montreal to inform the EWB Board and asked them to put Prateek Awasthi and Boris Martin on leave and investigate them (this never happened). Chelsey met with Cameron Charlebois (then- Board Chair) and Rebecca Kresta (current Board Chair). Alex Fox was also present via skype. Charlebois and Kresta promised to act on the information. They did not. Charlebois resigned like a coward, and Kresta stuck around to help cover things up.

Awasthi was never investigated properly or sanctioned by EWB, and was not held accountable for his public retaliations against Chelsey, which included being recorded lying about her. He also harassed 4 different staff (and probably more) at EWB, complaints which were well-documented and escalated to CEO Boris Martin and VP Shivani Patel, and which they ignored and concealed. The EWB executive team and Board are responsible for refusing to intervene and allowing EWB staff / volunteers to be injured and traumatized, and the entire membership to be faced with a year-long misogynistic public disparagement and discrediting of survivors led by a serial bully and harasser. All so that EWB could suppress our whole project which brought forward 35 incidents of sexual assault, harassment, discrimination, bullying, and fraud at EWB.

EWB continues to refuse to deal with this appropriately, continues to lie, and continues to harm their membership, alumni, and community. They continue to refuse to put an independent inquiry in place. Of course, Awasthi and Martin had personal motivations to block an inquiry, as they would have been implicated.

Here is the statement from the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YCSRR), where Awasthi was a member from 2005-2012 while he was working at the UN, which states that “Allegations broadly covered intimidation, bullying, and hostile and inappropriate behaviour- some allegations were of a sexual nature against younger female colleagues. The YCSRR Board’s investigation concluded that the allegations were founded.”

Click on the following link for the full statement:

Youth Coalition Statement

If you have any further information or concerns, feel free to contact us. Also, a reminder that legal support is available for victims of EWB.

Former Director Prateek Awasthi admits he helped EWB cover up abuse

Update: See Youth Coalition’s statement on Prateek Awasthi’s former membership there, and multiple sexual harassment allegations against him that were found to be substantiated. We told the EWB Board about those allegations in April 2019 after we were tipped off about them. They did nothing, even though Awasthi had by then been reported multiple times internally at EWB. 

We just announced we were closing down the project, but we wanted to share some recent media coverage related to harassment cover-ups at Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB).

First, we’ve heard EWB’s founder and former CEO George Roter is currently suspended from the Ontario Liberal Party after our recent podcast and this story in QP Briefing.

Another ex-EWB executive, Prateek Awasthi (who left his Director position at EWB earlier this year) has just had to resign from his Executive Director position at the Green Party of Canada.

CBC news has reported on what happened, including Awasthi’s admission that he helped EWB conceal sexual abuse: 

Awasthi told the party he was part of EWB management’s “efforts to disparage and ignore claims of sexual harassment and assault,” according to an internal investigation report written by outgoing leader Elizabeth May and leaked to CBC News.

It has also been revealed that Awasthi was reported multiple times for harassment internally at EWB in 2019, all while he was publicly disparaging Chelsey Rhodes on behalf of EWB and claiming the issues Total System Failure project was raising were false.

Boris Martin (along with Roter and Mark Abbott) was involved in covering up Chelsey Rhodes’ allegations against Mike Kang in 2013, and it is now revealed that he has been covering up the multiple recent allegations against Awasthi.  Martin remains CEO of EWB despite frequent calls for his removal and people pointing out he has himself been implicated in harassment and retaliation (see here, here, and here)  All four staff who reported Awasthi have left EWB and several spoke to CBC news.

The Board of Directors of EWB, which contains 7 new Directors, continues to refuse to deal with these allegations properly or investigate the executive team (Boris Martin, Shivani Patel) and Board members who participated in the cover-up (Rebecca Kresta, Manissa Patel, and Kaitlyn Gillelan).

This situation now includes top officials in the Green Party of Canada trying to help conceal Awasthi’s past behaviour (when we said “total system failure,” we meant it!).  Awasthi’s resignation was announced on Sunday.

Green Party leadership contestant Meryam Haddad spoke out in support, and denounced the Greens for minimizing and concealing the issue.

PressProgress has more, reporting that Green MPs Paul Manly, Elizabeth May, and Jenica Atwin defended Awasthi’s role in covering up abuse at EWB and presiding over a “misogynistic work culture.” A Federal Councillor who was disturbed by how this was handled and has since left the party, said, “These are three Members of Parliament taking a very disturbing stand on an issue of sexual harassment, abuse or assault… It shocked me.”

Elizabeth May said in an email, “I think we can agree that EWB is a textbook case of what not to do.”

Unfortunately it seems that people cannot help but use this textbook as their rape cultural bible.

More soon, as this unfolds.

Farewell to the Total System Failure project

Hello everyone,

This is an update that we are officially winding down the project and moving on to other things.  We won’t be publishing a written report as we were unable to raise the funds to do so, and frankly, don’t feel like it. (*Chelsey is working on a PhD on these topics so the work will continue in a sense).

We began in early 2019 by attempting to chronicle the dysfunction of the development NGO Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB), as a case study of sorts but also as direct action aimed at changing the toxicity, systemic abuse and discrimination at EWB. The project took on an amazing momentum, which was great but also became rather challenging: the form of the project kept shifting and changing at a fast pace as collaborators came and went, as new information was reported and leaked to us, and as the institution resisted change (i.e. the backlash kicked in). It was a challenge to keep up with organizing, let alone documenting or analyzing what was happening in real-time.

I think we were all a bit stunned as the issues quickly spilled outside the bounds of EWB into multiple other organizations: various charities and NGOs, ‘social change’ consultancies, media organizations, legal and PR firms, and most recently, several political parties (the Ontario Liberal Party and the Green Party of Canada). It has become overly exhausting trying to deal with a litany of rapists, rape apologists, bystanders, harassers, misogynists, racists, bigots, bullies, fraudsters, etc etc etc., and the utter refusal by people in charge of these organizations to deal with these issues appropriately or at all (probably because they are often the ones doing these things).  We’ve watched multiple cover-ups take place before our eyes, well-known leaders lie and manipulate those around them, and respected organizations engage in outright corruption.  It has been rather retraumatizing to have each new organization we encounter repeat the exact same mistakes over and over and over.  So much for social change!

A lot of things are unravelling right now, in the world… it’s okay to take a step back and take a rest sometimes. We’re still working on stuff, just not so publicly.

We may continue with the podcast when the mood strikes us, as we’ve found these conversations really rich and valuable.

Thanks again to all those who helped us along the way.  We’ve learned a lot about the contours of institutional violence and effective forms of resistance, and formed networks of support that will outlast and outsmart our oppressors.


In solidarity,

The Total System Failure team


Podcast E5: “Ontario Liberals Cover Up Sexual Harassment”

*Podcast also available on googleplay, iTunes, and podcast apps like Castbox.


Sam Nami, ex-President of the UofT Scarborough Young Liberals, talks about the resistance he faced trying to get the Ontario Liberal Party to address sexual harassment within their ranks.  Fake investigations by friendly insiders, assailants receiving promotions, bullying, racism, and organizational silence are well known to followers of TSF, but now show the hypocrisy of political parties that publicly proclaim their lofty principles while operating very differently behind closed doors.

Host: Chelsey Rhodes

Guest: Sam Nami

For more info:

Musical theme: by Buda Bap Beats

Open Letter regarding EWB’s unsafe work environments and mistreatment of employees, volunteers, and partners

*the following letter was submitted to the Total System Failure team by an EWB alum, and we really appreciate that they took the time to offer this public support. We welcome letters, submissions, or opinion pieces from the alumni network of EWB (or related organizations), and would love for more people speak up about these issues. Please see our Contact page for information on how to contribute.

I had been a part of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) for about 3 years from 2012 to 2015. My past roles included being a general volunteer for my university’s chapter of EWB, an executive role at said chapter, and a Junior Fellow (JF). I am writing in support of the legal action for victims of EWB’s unsafe work environments and mistreatment of employees, volunteers, and partners.

I was a JF in Malawi with the Water and Sanitation venture. While my experience was generally positive and safe, this was mostly due to luck, and I would like to express concern for the lack of safety and support for employees, volunteers, and partners of EWB both overseas and within Canada. In the pre-departure training in Toronto, there were many instances where the JFs were told that working overseas was seen as the “wild west”. Those in positions of power at the Toronto office such as full-time employees and then-leader George Roter often gave the impression that it was going to be difficult and possibly unsafe, but that was what we had signed up for. While in Toronto I had the understanding that to complain or ask for a change in placement or home would be akin to “not being able to handle” the exciting life of working in another country.

There was little discussion about gender safety beyond not leaving the home after dark and I do not think EWB made a genuine effort to let us know how they would respond and support us should there be harassment or assault during our placements. Looking back on my experience and based on discussions with the returning JFs at the end of the placement, it was very obvious that the quality of support varied greatly from country to country and placement to placement and that there was no oversight to ensure a standard of safety across all placements.

Furthermore, over the years I became increasingly disillusioned with EWB as I believe there was a culture of racism and discrimination at the National Office that benefitted those who were friends with George Roter and others in power and wanted to maintain the status quo, while others who sought to make real change both in Canada and overseas were not given the same respect or roles. It is my opinion that National Office was more interested in gaining investments from large companies and showing off “innovation” without making true space for those they were claiming to “support”, and the overwhelmingly white and Canadian leadership at National Office reflects this.

This is also reflected in the Dorothy campaign which I found to continue to uphold the white saviour narrative by having Canadian volunteers speaking for people in African countries. During the pre-departure training, a lot of the cultural competency training relied on stereotypes and National Office staff making fake accents to represent potential partners in African countries. For these reasons, once my returning JF duties were complete in 2015, I ceased to become involved with EWB because I lost the belief that actual change was possible due to the way National Office was run.

As more information comes to light and based on my interactions with EWB National Office staff, I do not believe that EWB has taken the necessary steps to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their employees, volunteers, and partners nor have they provided the required support and accommodations for incidents that happened during placements. I urge EWB to take the efforts of those who are coming forward seriously and fulfil the action items as recommended to prevent similar incidents in the future and make the organization more equitable and anti-racist.