The Next Step

World Vision Canada’s founder is set to retire, but he doesn’t plan on taking it easy.

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For the past 19 years, Dave Toycen has been president of World Vision Canada, but the long-time gig will soon end, as he’s about to retire. However, the Wisconsin-raised, Toronto-based philanthropist wouldn’t exactly use the term retirement to describe what comes next. “It’s more of a rest,” he says.

Over the last two decades, Toycen has helped raise millions of dollars. In 2014 alone the organization brought in $400 million to help give impoverished children and their communities access to clean water, education and health care. For the 67-year-old Toycen, that has meant a gruelling travel schedule, visiting remote villages, crowded refugee camps and disaster zones worldwide, and meeting with world leaders to lobby for child-focused development dollars.

Now, though, he’s ready to slow down, but not stop. Once World Vision finds a successor, Toycen will spend some time at home with his wife and four grandkids, and seek spiritual guidance on the next chapter of his life. But he insists he won’t be quitting “the cause.” “What retirement really means,” he says, “is that you still do significant things in life – you just may not get paid for all of them.”

“I do believe that the more we have, the more responsibility we have.”

Toycen has seen a lot since joining World Vision in 1973, when he took a part-time job producing radio spots while doing graduate work at a seminary in Los Angeles. Some of the images will never leave him – rows of tiny, reed-wrapped bodies after the Rwandan genocide and famine-stricken children in Ethiopia.

But he has seen incredible hope, too – like the nine-month-old girl in Honduras who was so neglected that he doubted whether she’d live. After he and his wife sponsored her, however, World Vision helped build the family a house and provided counselling to the girl’s parents for mental health issues. She ended up going to high school. “We were all part of that,” says Toycen. “That’s something I’ll never forget.”

Toycen retires at a time when the number of refugees worldwide is the highest it’s been since World War II. “One of the most devastating aspects of poverty is that it creates instability and violence,” says Toycen. There’s reason for optimism, though. In the early 1990s, 12.4 million children died each year from common illnesses like malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia. That has been cut in half.

But we all need to play our part. “I do believe that the more we have, the more responsibility we have,” says Toycen. While he may not be playing his part from an office anymore, he’s still going to do what he can. “I’ll remain involved around the cause of children,” he says. “How that takes shape, I’m not sure, but I will figure it out.”

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