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In praise of Parish Reps

April 13, 2018

By Mike Ziemerink

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PWRDF’s work in relief and development is life-changing for those in need, but supporting the work as a volunteer can be transformative too.

This National Volunteer Week (April 15-21) PWRDF wants to shine a light on the extraordinary impact volunteers make on PWRDF’s work around the world. Take the example of three parish representatives: Pat, Jeff and Sue. They all spend their spare time sharing the work of PWRDF with their church community, raising awareness and funds.

Pat Sharpe – Diocese of New Westminster, British Columbia

Pat Sharpe has been attending St. Lawrence Church in Coquitlam since 1984, just after her daughter was born.

Pat’s commitment to the church has a long history in her family. “My parents and my grandparents were involved in church but I’m probably the most involved.” She started her work with an Issues and Action Outreach group within the church and also served as a Warden before becoming a PWRDF Parish Representative 13 years ago.

She feels a special connection to PWRDF through her grandmother. “She loved what PWRDF did. It was important to her. She would talk about it all the time, its work. When she died, we asked for donations to be made to PWRDF in her memory,” Pat says.

Focusing on disasters as well as making sure she mentions good news, she raises money and awareness for PWRDF. Pat manages a bulletin board within her parish that gives information about current issues facing the world including information about PWRDF.

Pat has highlighted specific efforts by PWRDF in order to get her parish excited about development work and to raise funds. She regularly brings out a “giving tin” and asks for funds to raise money for items, such as the solar suitcase, a project within PWRDF’s All Mothers and Children Count program to bring electricity to birthing clinics.

Pat also uses resources such as PWRDF placemats during church events, placing giving envelopes in the pews and selling Christmas cards to raise funds. Her parish’s Sunday school also supported this year’s World of Gifts Guide.

Geoff HangerJeff Hanger – Diocese of Edmonton

Jeff Hanger is the Parish Representative at St. Mary’s in Ponoka, Alberta. He has been a volunteer since 2016 and keeps his passion for development in the forefront of the work he does to support PWRDF.

Jeff holds a degree in third world development and believes the way to get people involved in development is to allow them to relate the issues back to themselves and their own first-hand experiences.

Jeff has organized three large events during his short tenure as a PWRDF volunteer, all of which were very successful in raising awareness and funds for PWRDF. The first event focused on fair trade in food policy. Guests attending the event were seated at tables for dinner. Some tables were deemed to be the “haves” and received larger portions and extra food, other tables deemed to be “have nots” were given less food. Some other tables experienced simulated “natural disasters” during the dinner and lost some of their food in the process.

“I wanted people to see it’s all about where you live,” Jeff says about the event. This exercise allowed participants to see the inequality of food distribution in the world and put themselves in the shoes of the less fortunate. “When people are able to see or experience first-hand how unfair the system is, they are more likely to get involved and contribute to change.”

Jeff also created events to raise awareness for refugees, as well as an event to raise awareness for PWRDF’s All Mothers and Children Count initiative with St. Mary’s twin parish in Burundi. During these events, Jeff used skits, videos, re-enactments, and silent auctions to raise awareness, funds, and help the attendees relate more to those in need.

“I often ask parishioners, many of whom are over 60, to try to remember what it was like during the war, or at a tough point in their lives when raising funds for development work,” Jeff says. “It’s more effective when they can relate to the context.”

Jeff has taken it upon himself to not only get his fellow parishioners involved with these fundraising events for PWRDF but to get people outside the parish involved and aware of the work PWRDF does.

Sue HeenanSue Heenan – Diocese of Nova Scotia and PEI

Sue Heenan has been a PWRDF Parish Representative at St. John the Evangelist in Lower Sackville, N.S. for more than 14 years. She stays on top of ongoing projects and enjoys finding new and creative ways to raise funds and awareness for the issues PWRDF tackles.

Every Sunday Sue puts information about PWRDF’s work in the weekly bulletin as well as how they can contribute. She never fails to mention the blue envelopes passed around at every service to raise money for PWRDF. She will often challenge her parish to meet fundraising goals.

During 2017’s World of Gifts campaign, Sue started a “goat challenge” to raise money to purchase goats in support of PWRDF’s All Mothers and Children Count program. “In just two weeks the challenge had raised enough money to purchase 22 goats,” Sue says.

For the last two years Sue has organized an annual variety show in benefit of PWRDF. Each year the show has raised more than $1,000. “The show really has something for everyone,” Sue says, describing the variety of acts that have taken the stage in the past, as well as for the upcoming show May 12. Belly dancing, singing solos and local bands as well as other talents have all had a place in the show. Sue believes she is on track to meet the same fundraising achievements during this year’s show.

Sue has become very creative in the ways she volunteers and raises money for PWRDF. She recently organized a dinner for parishioners featuring a traditional African meal. All the proceeds went to help fund development projects with PWRDF.

When asked why she has continued to volunteer as a parish representative for 14 years her answer was simple: “I just love to be able to do good and spread the word about those in need.”

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