Building a Bridge to Africa
by Hailey Chan
When you walk into Peter Taylor’s home office, you’ll find four stuffed bookshelves organized by topic: leadership, training and human behaviour, to name a few. On the wall hang dozens of Native American art pieces and photos he’s taken of his family sit on his drawer. Classical music plays in the background of his own leadership development practice, Peter Taylor & Associates Inc. Taylor was a recipient of the 2015 Volunteer Recognition Award. A member of the Institute for approximately 30 years, he is also a founding member of the Durham chapter, of which he is a past Chair.
His journey in learning & development began when he moved to Toronto from Montréal with a gig at Humber College teaching labour relations. “I caught the bug,” Taylor says.
“I want people to get satisfaction from what they’re doing as well as having a positive impact on others,” he says. In 2009, he led the Bridge to Africa project to Kenya to respond to Stephen Lewis’ challenge to address the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa. At an annual Institute conference dinner, guest speaker Lewis “got up and made the most passionate speech,” Taylor recalls. “I wasn’t the only one who was very moved that night…the majority of us had tears.”
After four years of fundraising, logistics and making connections in Africa, they hopped on a plane to Mombasa and Malindi in 2009. For one month, the team adapted training materials from St. Francis Xavier University to help locals pass on their skills to a broader audience. “Everyone had their own unique focus – the commonality was that they wanted to learn how to pass on their knowledge and they all were very supportive of each other.”
Taylor listened to locals talk about quitting smoking and how to prevent AIDS. “One woman was coaching Olympic swimmers and was there trying to pick up skills to learn how to do that better.”
Closer to home, he is an active member of the local Durham chapter of the Institute, which has grown from 10 members to 65 since it was founded in 2002. It is these experiences and more that Taylor was recognized for his contributions at the annual conference awards dinner in November 2015. “I was blown away…I was gobsmacked. It is hugely significant and was totally unnecessary,” he jokes. “Volunteering to me is something that people do because they enjoy it.”
“The Institute is perfectly positioned to help people realize that performance and learning can have a hugely positive impact on our international competitiveness and our standard of life,” Taylor says. The current federal government is “much more aware of the desire of people to learn, develop and better themselves. I think were at the right place at the right time,” he says.