April 24, 2022
By Roslyn Macgregor
My history with PWRDF started in 1984 when I met Mary Baker, a soon-to-be best friend and mentor. Mary was the first diocesan rep for PWRDF in its beginnings after the Springhill Mine Disaster in 1958 and she was the first chair of PWRDF Montreal. She was an educator and encourager and a dynamic, committed supporter of PWRDF. She pushed and cajoled and people learned and gave. In time I became actively involved with PWRDF Montreal, and have continued in that commitment with Mary on my shoulder. This includes giving my time, talent AND treasure, and even leaving a legacy to PWRDF in my will.
Mary and I also shared a love of Haiti, which is where my eyes were first opened to the plight of those who are marginalized. It was 1971, and I was sent as a Sister of St. Margaret to Haiti for two years. A ‘missionary,’ I was the one converted to a lifelong commitment of “bending the arc toward justice.” I was shocked by the extreme poverty, lack of resources, and political instability and interference perpetrated by inside and mostly outside forces. Yet, my heart still lifts remembering the dynamism, resilience, faith, and commitment of the people. I was young and had so much to learn.
I was responsible for an afternoon literacy programme for girls, roughly ages 7 to 15, who were called “restaveks.” Most worked for host families as domestic servants and were unable to attend school. We were teaching basic reading and writing in French in a large open-air classroom at Ecole Ste-Trinité after regular classes ended. At the time, resources were not yet available in Haitian Kréol, and French was essentially a foreign language to them.
One moment of realization that the world is not just came when one of our students was hit by a truck, so badly that her leg had to be amputated. I found her at the hospital in Port-au-Prince. The Sisters ran École St-Vincent pour les Handicapés, and I was able to get medication for her wounds from Sister Joan. I witnessed a doctor taking the medication for someone else. We were able to replace the nicked medicine, but most patients weren’t so lucky. Patients’ families sometimes slept under the patients’ beds and provided meals. Many are the stories that both broke and opened my heart.
The people of Haiti were imprinted on me, so when the 2010 earthquake tore the island nation apart, I sprang into action with friends new and old. I helped develop a group in Montreal we called “SolidHaïti” a play on solidarity. We collected and sent sleeping bags and other needed emergency supplies and equipment. Then we approached PWRDF about developing a programme together “Apeti pou aprann” (Appetite for Learning) to help children return to school near the epicentre area of the earthquake. Jean-Jacques Rousseau reminds us that to the ancients the word “education” meant “to nourish.” In nourishing children, we helped nourish their spirits as well as assuring their futures. Mothers walked miles to prepare traditional rice, beans, and vegetables. The pamphlet was bilingual – French/English and brought many people together with a common focus on making a difference. “Apeti pou aprann” spread across the country, with Anglican Sunday School children especially becoming involved. That’s what PWRDF does. We make a difference.
Our PWRDF Montreal group is enthusiastic and committed. We have come up with creative ways of encouraging individuals and parishes, friends, relatives and colleagues to learn more about PWRDF and to support PWRDF partnerships and programmes. One of our members told us she’d given her husband a cow for Christmas. Love it! That set us off giving cows, goats, chickens, etc. as Christmas and birthday gifts and encouraging others to do so.
About seven years ago, we began to rally around an annual diocesan PWRDF project that would create an opportunity for education and fundraising and bring us together with a common goal. We held a Water Walk for Pikangikum in Lasalle and another in Bedford. We created a partnership with McGill University Health Centre and held a seminar at the hospital with Zaida Bastos as one of the main speakers. This linked with our diocesan participation in All Mothers and Children Count for a second year.
Whenever I think I can’t be further inspired by PWRDF, I attend another event or read about the awesome outreach in Canada and all over the world, and am inspired again. Often to tears. I love that we work in partnership with other individuals, communities, and organizations in emergency earthquakes, fires, and floods and for refugees from the War in Ukraine. I love that all is done with great respect and the training of local people to continue the work. The staff at PWRDF in Toronto encourage and assist us in so many ways. I support PWRDF for all of these reasons, including that overhead costs are well within the accepted range for credible charities.
“Therefore” as Ebenezer Scrooge says to Bob Cratchit at the end of A Christmas Carol, “I am going to increase your wages…” Put another way, I will continue to support the inspiring work of PWRDF by leaving a legacy in my will. The work of PWRDF is essential. I want to give after my death, and I want to give and receive a high five from Mary Baker when we meet up on the other side of somewhere.
To learn more about Planned Giving, please email Manita Swati, Senior Advisor, Major Gifts and Planned Giving.