Not Ready to Retire? Recreate Yourself Instead


After 25 years as a teacher, Marilyn Farmer was not ready to stop sharing her knowledge with the world and instead of retirement, chose an unconventional path to continue following her passion for education.

Marilyn has always had an interest in social development.  “To have more immediate impact and far reaching benefits, education is central to change”, believes the retired teacher. So, in 2017, she packed her sandals and years of experience, and went on an adventure of a lifetime, to Laos, where she volunteered with Cuso International as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher with the Institute of Foreign Affairs for six months.

Marilyn’s role was to teach English to different grassroots organisations who are members of The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  Learning English allows these associations to access useful information on the internet to learn about best practices they can apply to advance their important work. Marilyn’s background provided her with the professional skills and experience to instruct pro-bono lawyers, a women’s union, and a government department of rural development.

Marilyn feels that as a mature professional, she now had the respect of the government officials, lawyers and other senior representatives that she did not have as a young woman working in development at the start of her career. This is a valuable advantage when working in this capacity.

With all these years of experience, she is not ready to retire or stop doing what she loves. Considering her excellent health and positive energy, Marilyn wants to continue her life adventure in education, while re-inventing herself, internationally. “Cuso International has allowed me to express my professional skills and passion, while giving back to others in a less conventional way”.

None of the initial concerns of leaving one’s life behind proved to be insurmountable for Marilyn. She was able to rent her Montreal condominium and technology today made it easy for her to maintain steady contact with her mother and her university aged daughter. Although she had a slight hesitation about leaving her behind, she states, “I also wanted to fledge her and be a mentor as a strong and positive role model”.

Additionally, volunteers are well briefed in advance of leaving Canada for their placements. On the ground, Marilyn had on-going contact with Cuso International staff and other volunteers, including Facebook groups for connections and support. Volunteers never worry about being out-of-pocket as costs are covered, including airfare, accommodation, health care, permits or visas, and they are provided with a stipend allowing them to live as the locals do.

Marilyn was excited to be part of this community of experts like her in Laos. She developed a strong, social network while doing meaningful work with a purpose. “Your network and opportunities grow from this experience. It opens doors and expands beyond what you initially expect. You develop yourself but you’re there because of the people you are working with”.

And, Marilyn loved her experience volunteering with Cuso International so much, she has decided to volunteer again, as a teacher for another six months in Myanmar this year.

Retirement and the need to escape the cold Canadian winters offers Marilyn the opportunity to reinvent herself while continuing to pursue her career passions internationally and making a positive difference. “Re-creation”, not retirement!

To learn about non-retirement opportunities with Cuso International and how you can volunteer and change the world, visit our website at