By Kathryn Dunmore
 
Raised in the small Caribbean island of Dominica, West Indies, Sally St. Lewis was instilled with a sense of community through her parents, family and village; and Sally carried this in her travels across the world, and especially as a Red Cross volunteer for over 60 years.

Sally St. Lewis, a Red Cross volunteer for 60 yearsTo honour her dedication of 50 years to the Red Cross both here and internationally, Sally was awarded the Order of the Red Cross, which recognizes outstanding humanitarian service, dedication and achievement on behalf of the Society and the world, in Ottawa in 2011. 

As a student nurse in England in the 1960s, Sally decided to give back and started to volunteer with the Red Cross. In the late 60s, Sally moved to Canada. First settling in Hamilton, Ontario, Sally worked across Canada, including the Artic, in a number of First Nations and Inuit communities.

Finally settling in the Ottawa area, wherever she has lived, Sally has been involved with her local Red Cross.

“I didn’t know the word ‘volunteer’,” said Sally. “I wanted to do something to give back because that’s what we did. There is always something to do, and I started by doing whatever needed to be done, such as rolling bandages, licking stamps, and addressing envelopes – this was before computers. Whichever city I lived in, including Ottawa, I went to the Red Cross office to see what can be done.”

For the past 30 years, she has been an active volunteer with the Ottawa branch, a first aid provider, disaster response volunteer and been involved in leadership roles at the branch, regional and zone levels, serving as President of the Eastern Region Zone Council from 2003 to 2006. Sally retired from her regular job in 1996 but still kept working in community health, taking care of others with her innately nurturing way, including as working as an international health delegate for the Red Cross/Crescent.

As International Health Delegate, she has gone to Tanzania, Serbia and the U.S. with the Red Cross (hurricane relief). She has also responded to disasters here at home, including the 1998 ice storm, and has helped with administration in two Northern floods.

“I’m proud of my relationship with the Red Cross, since I was a very young child at a small Red Cross branch on my island more than 60 years ago,” recalls Sally. “Red Cross is my home. Contributing to my community was how I was raised; it’s not a chore and it’s a privilege to give back.”