This Year's International Women's Day Award Recipients: Women Who Make a Difference
Anne Bradley – Education
Nominated by Marni Pearce
Anne Bradley is a community leader who is an award winning educator, a published author, an excellent speaker and a dedicated community volunteer. Anne was born in Troy, New York and has lived in other parts of United States and in the Netherlands. Today she is happy to be a St. Albert resident along with her husband and twin boys.
These days she can be found at one of Edmonton's inner city schools working with under privileged children improving their reading skills. Anne says success with her work in the Reading Recovery Program depends on teamwork. She says it's the cooperative approach, teacher, parents, and herself working together that brings the reward for the child. Her reward is seeing the joy in the children's eyes when they know that they are making progress in their reading. Getting kids excited about reading is her goal.
She volunteers at the school organizing physical activities, coaching soccer, supervising a running club and recently arranging a purchase of snowshoes, another new sport for these mostly disadvantaged children.
She is active with the Local Council of the International Reading Association and was a guest speaker on Literacy Day, April 2006. In 2004 she did a presentation at the International Convention at Reno, Nevada.
Anne is Vice President of the St. Albert Nordic Ski Club. She and her family are active with the Triathlon Club and very much enjoy Cycling. It may be of interest that Anne, from New York State, met her Dutch husband while cycling in the Canadian Rockies!
On six occasions they have welcomed Dutch students to their home while they have been studying and needed a place to live. Typically they participate in daily family activities and whatever celebrations that occur.
When asked what brings her joy she replied that it is the work she does and seeing her boys growing.
Candice Jwaszko - Humanitarian Environmentally Conscious Educator
Nominated by Anne Jwaszko
Candice Jwaszko is passionate about not being apathetic. In her words, "You only have one life – do something you love and do it with passion!" And everything Candice does, whether working with victimized children in India, teaching scuba diving in Thailand, earning a Specialized Degree in Environmental Biology, or teaching bilingual sciences, Candice does with passion, determination and amazing energy.
Her mother, who raised her as single parent, was always so proud of the accomplishments of both Candice and her sister and passed on a wonderful legacy. In spite of difficult times Candice's mom created a "magical" environment full of happiness, encouragement, creativity, spirituality and deep-felt love for each other and for nature. These gifts became ingrained in Candice and she passes them on naturally and abundantly to others. A heart-felt, "You're amazing!" is often heard as Candice passes on encouragement to friends, peers and students.
Candice has a special connection for people with special needs. Consistently over the years, Candice has brightened the lives of children, youth, adults and seniors with disabilities by volunteering and serving at Camp He Ho Ha, Catholic Social Services, Transitions, Peal Villa, Special Olympics and the Youville Home.
Candice has also traveled widely and participated in many international humanitarian and development projects over the years. Working with cultures from around the world has confirmed and strengthened her core values of family and community.
After obtaining her Science Degree, Candice chose to enter teaching. This would provide the vehicle best suited for sharing her passion for science and for raising both consciousness and skilled crusaders to help preserve and heal our environment. Beyond the curriculum, she encourages her students to dream great dreams and have the courage and perseverance to see them through.
In her grandmother's words, Candice's "background in both educational and life experiences, gives her a profound richness and passion to both motivate and inspire others to live life to the fullest."
In fact, Candice's background is so broad that the committee created a special category just for her – Humanitarian Environmentally Conscious Educator.
Elizabeth Atkins - Courageous Support Worker
Nominated by Steven Atkins
Elizabeth Atkins is a caring, courageous woman who has leadership abilities and strength of character that's not often seen. Her talents and endeavours are many and varied. In her early years her artistic and creative abilities came to the fore as she became an accomplished pianist who also plays cello, saxophone, clarinet and sings. To this day, music gives Elizabeth peace and strength.
Elizabeth is married, has a family of four, and lives a principled life balancing studying, working and being a wonderful wife and mother, according to her devoted husband. She is a person who meets all challenges head-on.
A significant challenge began when her military husband returned home injured in1993 after serving a tour of duty in Croatia. His personality had changed and it affected life at home. During this stressful time period, while her children were still quite young, Liz shouldered more than her share of work and responsibilities at home and also completed a Certificate Program in Childhood Development and Education in order to do her best for the children under her care in a day home. She also assisted in a classroom of children with special needs.
In 1999 things changed dramatically for the family. Her husband returned from a second tour of duty a totally changed man. Through 1999-2000 they struggled on, not understanding the changes. Bravely she carried on doing her best to be at his side as his anxiety and depression peaked and ebbed. Now there is a name for this disorder: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is a malady that severely affects many people who have lived through the atrocities of war.
In 2000, as she loyally struggled with this development in her home she got a job with the Alberta Alcohol & Drug Abuse Commission. Her caring and compassion for those with whom she met led to further training as an Addictions Counselor 1.
By 2000, the National Defense Headquarters was starting to name Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and recognize that it had devastating effects on soldiers and their families. As Headquarters started to shed light on this problem, Liz turned her attention to the great need for a Social Support Program for the families across the country. In 2003 she participated in the National Family Needs Analysis and that resulted in the creation of a new program, the National Operational Stress Injury & Social Support Program. Since then she has lectured nationally on this topic. Presently she is the Coordinator for Alberta providing spousal and family support programs in Calgary, Cold Lake, and Edmonton. This spring she will extend her work to CFB Wainwright.
Like most of the women nominated, Liz does not see her contributions as anything special. She says, "It's just what I do".
Kaela St. Pierre - Outstanding Youth
Nominated by Marteen Lindstrom
When we think of Kaela St. Pierre the words compassion, empathy, energy and happiness come to mind. Kaela St. Pierre lives to connect. Age, sex, one's means, one's popularity or lack thereof make no difference to this remarkable young woman. Her activities bring strangers together to give them a real sense of welcome and belonging.
Only three years ago Kaela was a stranger in this community having just moved from B.C. She joined the Student's Union in 10th grade just to get to know a few people and immediately became a key member in facilitating events that enriched the Paul Kane school community. Now in Grade 12, as Events Coordinator, she has organized many fun activities at her school such as the Taste of Kane, Battle of the Sexes, Halloween Activities and B.Y.O.B. (Bring your own banana). She also played an integral part in the Grade 10 Orientation.
On a more serious and profound level, Kaela participated in this year's Challenge Day, a powerful event that strips away the barriers, assumptions and silences that keep people apart. It's this lack of understand and connection that lays the ground-work for bullying and oppression. Challenge Day is about "getting real". Kaela said that it was a day that brought everyone together and proved everyone was equal. Now Kaela is a member of the "Be the Change" follow-up committee.
Her teacher calls her an "ambassador". Kaela chairs many committees, reports to the Parent Council, and mentors and guides other younger leaders. She has represented Paul Kane in community activities and at Provincial conferences. The number of hours and activities she has organized and participated in as a member of the Paul Kane's Octagon Club are too numerous to mention but include participating in the MS Supercities Walk, Operation Christmas Child, collecting for the Food Bank and serving meals for the homeless.
Kaela gets a great deal of satisfaction by making others happy.
In the words of her teacher, "Kaela has a deep compassion for her fellow human beings; she is empathetic to the needs of others, is always willing to step up and offer a helping hand wherever it is required. She does this intuitively and selflessly, never for recognition, but because she cares so deeply for others."
Sandra Brenneis - Music
Nominated by Elaine Borle
In the Bahá'í Writings we are told music is like a ladder for our souls, a means whereby they may maybe lifted up unto the realm on high. Our next nominee is being honoured for just that – for creating and nurturing musical "ladders" that have galvanized the efforts of citizens of Sturgeon County and lifted the souls of thousands.
Several years ago, at a Good Friday service, Sandra found herself wondering what Mary, mother of Jesus, would have felt like, standing at the foot of His cross. That wondering was piece of a project that would touch lives in a way that Sandra could not have dreamed. "That project," as Sandra put it, "was one that God decided Sandra would do before she herself had consented to it."
Not long after that service Sandra's parish priest, so impressed with a song that Sandra had written for her sister's anniversary, suggested that she write a musical for the choir which might help raise some funds for a desperately-needed seniors' facility in Villeneuve. Even thought she felt totally out of her comfort zone and unsure of her abilities, she said she would try.
What followed were countless wakeful nights. Desperate for sleep, yet so inspired, Sandra had no choice but to get up and write down the music she had been given. Those sleepless nights led to the production of not one, but two musicals performed by a cast made up of the choir members from St. Peter's Church. The first, "Mary's Veil," played to sold-out audiences from 2002 to 2005. Sandra's second musical, "Lost Apostle," has just wrapped up its second year of production. The "Lost Apostle" is set both in the time of Christ and in modern day. Not just for Christians, it speaks to everyone; it gets us thinking about how we respond when given the choice between service to a higher good or the pursuit of money and power.
Proceeds from Sandra's musicals and the sale of CDs have provided close to $300,000.00 for West Country Hearth, the 70-bed aging-in-place facility now located in Villeneuve.
Ever humble, she does not take credit for her musical creations. She says simply that it was a response to a real need and not far out of the ordinary. It was just a way to get things done. A magnificent stone fireplace made of hand-picked stones in the foyer of West Country stands as a metaphor the strength of individuals in the community. Each rock is interesting but to small on its own to have a significant impact. It is only by being joined together that the rocks become a source of strength and heat.
On top of using her God-given gift of music for the inspiration and benefit of others, Sandra is the mother of four wonderful children, Kesia, Tyler, Travis and Chad and a psychologist for the Sturgeon School Division.
For Sandra, love and service is the way to lead a more meaningful life. She is a recipient of inspiration and an inspiration to others.