Of all the ways to celebrate International Women’s Day, the St. Albert Baha’i have chosen to honour five special women at a dinner.
This is the Baha’is 23rd year celebrating women, and the theme is #PressforProgress.
The five honourees are Anita Ferri, Billie-Jo Grant, Lucille Mandin, Georgina Scott and Nicole Boulanger.
“They are all inspiring,” said Elaine Tahririha, a Baha’i selection committee member. “Four are hands-on women. They are very practical and work on a local level. With Lucille, she’s a visionary. She calls herself an idealist. She has made huge connections around the world and her vision is global.”
The International Women of 2018 are:
When Anita Ferri became the mother of baby Nicholas, no one suspected he had autism. But three years later, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Ferri learned everything she could about autism and was shocked to find supports dried up after he reached school age. Working with local agencies, she researched, advocated and lobbied to put programs in place for both children and adults.
She is a primary driver in establishing Lifespan Clinic, a support group for autistic adults with access to medical and mental health services, housing and supports needed to obtain an education and employment.
“Anita just jumped out. She didn’t sit around wringing her hands. She set about doing everything to help her child. She identified a problem and worked with other people to get what was needed,” Tahririha said.
Georgina Scott recently retired after 29 years in food services at St. Albert’s Youville Home, a job she loved. She connected with seniors and championed quality meals even when budget cuts were implemented.
Scott also served as a union representative negotiating contracts, counselling co-workers and discussing difficult supervisory issues.
Now retired, Scott puts her cooking skills to use for church events and fundraisers. In the past four years, Scott has volunteered with Grandmothers to Grandmothers, an organization that raises money for African children orphaned through AIDS.
“She’s such a warm, jolly, sunny person. She’s very caring and delighted to serve. Her daughter tells me she also has a fun sense of humour,” Tahririha said.
Children are central Nicole Boulanger’s life. She and her husband Patrick, now married 25 years, met during a Katimavik project. Their great passion was to have a family.
But after two difficult pregnancies, the couple trained to raise foster children and jumped at the chance to adopt their first set, a couple of twin toddlers.
Today the couple is in the process of adopting their fifth child. All were born addicted to drugs or alcohol and each has special challenges.
“Nicole has this huge energy. She’s physically strong and her love and caring is even stronger. One of the things that makes her special is her ability to see each child, and find something to support them,” Tahririha said.
Vincent J. Maloney Junior High School teacher Billie-Jo Grant’s students are not special needs. They are “exceptionalities,” ranging from autism to developmental delays to fragile medical conditions.
She promotes an open-door policy for the entire school population and encourages mainstream students to develop friendships with her “exceptionalities.”
Grant is also Métis and is passionate about preserving her culture and heritage.
“She has this engaging energy. She has the ability to see and understand students. She sees the good in people. When students know someone sees who they are, they don’t want to disappoint them.”
Global educator and humanitarian
Lucille Mandin, a professor at Campus Saint-Jean, taught education for 40 years. Ten years ago, she partnered with the Me-to-We Foundation to create a course that would assist young Canadian students understand the political and cultural realities of Third World countries they visited – countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Togo.
In addition to developing programs, Mandin also spearheaded several fundraising events and the money was sent directly to African charities to support young girls.
Mandin’s mother was instrumental in her daughter’s appreciation for learning. However, academia and research was never enough for Mandin.
“She found a way to make education relevant and take education to transform others in a way she was transformed,” Tahririha said.
The Baha’i International Women’s Day celebration is on Saturday, March 3 at 7:30 p.m. in St. Albert Community Hall, 17 Perron St. To reserve text mitra@780-238-4145. In lieu of admission, donations are requested for Mama Charity’s orphanage in Africa.