Morinville – For the past 18 years the St. Albert Bahá’í community has sponsored an annual celebration of United Nations International Women’s Day by recognizing the contributions women make to society. Those contributions include generosity of spirit, courage, creativity, determination, steadfastness, leadership, enthusiasm, love, caring, and other attributes that enrich the communities in which they live. This year, three Morinville women will receive applause for their efforts towards those aims. Brandi Robertson, Rebecca Balanko and Kaileen Chisholm are among six women to be honoured in St. Albert at a special ceremony Mar. 8.
The recognition, in addition to covering women of all ages, also covers a wide variety of categories. This year the committee sought entrants in multiple categories: health, education, multicultural, Aboriginal initiatives, unsung heroine, science, the arts and youth empowerment. Nominators also had an opportunity to identify exceptional women who did not fall into one of the identified categories.
Morinville mother Brandi Robertson (not actual last name) was nominated in the Child Advocate and Unsung Heroine categories by Morinville and Sturgeon County residents Leah Elzinga, Eva Scrimshaw and Sarah Hall. The nominators said Robertson was raised in a family where helping and caring for others was natural, one where she watched her mother dedicate many hours helping her community despite raising a son with a disability, a point of view they say helped form Robertson’s “compassion and caring for disadvantaged persons.”
Child advocacy has been a large part of Robertson’s adult life. She has worked in group homes with extremely challenged youth, travelled to South Africa to work at a special needs school, adopted a special needs child and fosters other with challenges of their own. Her incredible ability to deal with the most difficult of situations was a quality that prompted the three Morinville women to put Robertson’s name forward.
In recent years, Robertson, a survivor of child sexual abuse herself, became a spokesperson for Little Warriors, a group dedicated to educating the public and helping survivors of abuse. Robertson has been a dedicated advocate for the organization through her fundraising efforts and letter writing campaign to the government, activities her nominators say have prompted so many to get involved with Little Warriors Be Brave Ranch project.
Robertson said she was humbled by the honour. “When I heard about my nomination I felt completely overwhelmed and emotional,” Robertson said, adding it came as a complete surprise and caught her off guard. “It took a few days to process it all, but I’m completely honoured by both the award itself and the amazing women that have preceded me in receiving it. Those are some large shoes to fill, but I’m honoured to try. Those of us dealing with any kind of struggle to raise awareness or building a dream to better others often get completely lost in the work. Head down, working away and ignoring a lot of what doesn’t serve to focus us on our goals.”
Robertson said the award has made her recognize that while she was quietly going about her work, someone took notice. Though not comfortable with the attention, she hopes it motivates other to get involved by giving help and a voice to so many causes that need assistance.
As to her own efforts in child advocacy, the recognition has inspired her to push on. “It encourages and inspires me to do more and try harder,” she said. “To do more of the things that people took notice of in the first place. Not to garner more attention for myself but to spread the message further, louder and in the right directions.” Robertson went on to say she felt the award was less about her and more about understanding she was moving in the right direction with her work. “I believe that when you are doing the right things with your life and what your purpose really is, people take notice if it’s being done from a place of sincerity,” she said, adding will continue to advocate even harder for traumatized kids, looking forward to any opportunities that may materialize in the future. “This all started as a way to help my own child. Now, especially after this recognition, I’d feel like a fraud if I stopped before the dream is realized for as many kids as I can in the biggest possible ways. I’m truly blessed.”
Other local winners included Kaileen Chisholm and Rebecca Balanko. Other International Women’s Day award recipients include Eryl Jones of St. Albert, a woman who was nominated in both the Education and Senior categories, and Corissa Tymafichuk and Andrea Payne, two young women who were nominated in the Human Rights category for their work with the Paul Kane Social Justice League in raising awareness of human trafficking.
Opportunity to attend celebration
The celebration event will be held Mar. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Cornerstone Hall in St. Albert. Admission is by donation with a suggested donation of $10 at the door. Proceeds from the event will be donated to “Because I am a Girl”, a global initiative of Plan Canada to end gender inequality, promote girls’ rights and lift millions of girls – and everyone around them. To reserve a seat please call Mitra at 780-458-5214 or Elaine at 780-460-2151.