Capeling-Alakija, Sharon (1944- 2003)

Sharon Capeling-Alakija served with CUSO and headed three United Nations organizations. Born on May 6, 1944 and adopted by a Moose Jaw family, she received a BEd degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 1966, and taught in Saskatoon for a year. Seeking adventure, she joined CUSO in 1967. After teaching overseas, Capeling held several positions in CUSO administration in Canada from 1972 on. Then, in 1981, she headed its West Africa program, based in Togo. There she married, and became widowed from, Nigerian Robin Alakija.

In 1989, Capeling-Alakija became the director of the UN Development Fund for Women. She brought a high profile to, and raised millions of dollars for, the organization. She set up the UN Development Program's office of evaluation and strategic planning in 1994, and was the executive coordinator of Bonn-based United Nations Volunteers from 1997 until her death on November 4, 2003. While with UNV, she oversaw 3,000 volunteers and organized the highly successful 2001 International Year of the Volunteer. Capeling-Alakija received an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 1998, and was appointed an officer in the Order of Canada in 2003.

Carol Cooper

Further Reading

Cooper, C. 2003. “Canada's champion volunteer.” Globe and Mail (December 8).