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International Women's Day: inspiring work by women for women

For International Women’s Day, we’re taking another look at some of the amazing work being done by our staff, volunteers and delegates – it’s inspiring work, by women, for women, and for their communities.

Hiring women labourers in MozambiqueMoving towards change: Hiring women labourers in Mozambique
The Canadian Red Cross is committed to making sure that gender equality and social inclusion considerations are actively included in all programs. The aim is to actively respond to, or transform, gender and other social inequalities. This shows what proactively seeking gender parity can achieve. The Canadian Red Cross purposefully sought out women daily labourers when rebuilding a hospital in Mozambique after Cyclone Idai and as such received more than 200 applications from women. The most proficient were hired, many of whom had children and some of them with breastfeeding babies, who were accommodated on the hospital site.     
From just one woman daily labourer, recruited in the beginning, there are now 14 women and 16 men working on the rehabilitation and reconstruction of parts of the hospital.  Each of the teams (e.g. masonry, carpentry, painting, plumbing, etc.) have an equal number of men and women.
 
Award-winning volunteerMember of the Far East Welfare Team Receives Korean Ambassador for Peace Medal
Jacqueline Van Campen, now a resident of Victoria, BC, was once a member of the Far East Welfare Team. She was recruited by the Canadian Red Cross in 1953 and spent a year in Japan and three months in Korea near the front, where she worked in various Maple Leaf Clubs. These were Canadian centres set up to provide rest and recuperation (R&R) for Canadian and Commonwealth soldiers.
Jacqueline served as a Welfare Officer, providing much needed emotional support to the soldiers.  “In many ways, we acted as a sister or cousin to the boys”, says Jacqueline. “We would read to them, discuss the news, play the piano, help them to write home and listen to their stories, which included the loss of fellow soldiers in combat and “Dear John” letters.”
Jacqueline was previously awarded two medals for her service in Korea, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal for Korea and the UN Korea Medal, which you can see on the cover of her book “Medals on My Kitchen Wall”, and recently awarded the Korean Ambassador for Peace Medal for her historical humanitarian contributions.
 
A mother's love knows no boundsLast year, communications aid worker Calli Forbes travelled to southern Ethiopia, where the Red Cross has been delivering supplies to families fleeing violence. Most families are living in overcrowded host communities, with little access to food, clean water and health services. During her time visiting Red Cross distribution sites, she met with mothers and their young children who graciously shared their experiences with her. A Mother’s Love Knows No Boundaries highlights a mother’s love in providing for her children in difficult times.
“I ask the 28-year-old mother what brings her here today and she tells me they fled when violence in the villages started escalating. ‘We fled with nothing but our children,’ She recalls. While she remains composed, it’s difficult not to see the sadness behind her eyes.”


Nicole, pictured left.As a family violence outreach manager based in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Nicole Greville believes we all deserve lives free of violence – every day and in every way.
“Today, I believe violence has become normalized in politics, in Hollywood...and many other ways. You’re always hearing about violence, particularly against women and gender-diverse people, so this work is important in our community,” says Nicole.
Nicole works for Waypoints, an organization that has been helping women, children and men affected by domestic, family and sexual violence in the Wood Buffalo region since 1982. Funded in part by the Canadian Red Cross, Waypoints offers people support, education and information focused on violence and abuse prevention. All its programs and services are free. Waypoints also runs an emergency shelter for women and children, operates a 24/7 crisis phone line, and facilitates public education workshops.

Across Canada and internationally, the Canadian Red Cross collaborates with community groups, governments, Indigenous leadership, and law enforcement to address sexual and gender-based violence. Red Cross support has enabled Waypoints to significantly expand its outreach and counselling efforts, says Nicole.

 
Barb swimming the English ChannelThirty years ago, in August 1989, Barb McNeill of Summerside, PEI, swam the English Channel, one of 15 Canadians to date and the only one from PEI who has done so.
As a child, Centennial Pool in Summerside became McNeill’s second home. After finishing Red Cross swimming lessons at age 11, she took lifeguarding courses that would lead to a career managing that pool for 42 years. Her 34-kilometre English Channel swim from England to France was completed two years after an equally challenging 35-kilometre swim across Northumberland Strait from Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick, to Summerside.
 “Over the years, I have taught tens of thousands of children Red Cross swimming and I loved it,” said McNeill. “I continue to swim for fitness now and when people are in the pool and ask for help, I always volunteer my time.” Read her full story in Red Cross swimming shaped my life while saving others.
 

HelpingJoanna Stepien, a labour and delivery nurse, went to Mozambique with the Canadian Red Cross following Cyclone Idai. Here she details not only her experience in travelling to this devastated land, but also shares the story of Maria and her twin boys in A determined mother, an emergency c-section, and mighty twins: A happy dispatch from Mozambique
“Today marks the final day of my deployment to Nhamatanda, Mozambique with the Red Cross transition team following Cyclone Idai. Six weeks ago today, I boarded a plane not knowing what the following weeks had in store for me,” wrote Joanna. “Now, I reflect on both the amazing miracles of life I was honoured to be a part of, as well as the heart wrenching tragedies that are faced by families of Nhamatanda and surrounding communities. I’ve learned more from this experience than I can begin to explain.”
 

Canadian Red Cross volunteer DebbieThe James family were one of many households in Ottawa impacted by the Great Ice Storm of 1998.  They managed through the many chilly nights without power but realized they could have been more prepared. Debbie made the decision, when the time was right, to join the Canadian Red Cross. On September 21, 2018, when tornadoes tore through the Ottawa/Gatineau region, Debbie had been volunteering with the Red Cross for 13 years. Her decision to give back made a difference to many impacted by the tornadoes.
“I was shocked at what I saw. Homes were in shreds. Homeowners and families were in shock and walking in a daze. First responders were exhausted and lying spread eagle on the ground. I was so glad I made the decision to come.”
Read her full story in Debbie James: A Red Cross volunteer making a difference
 
There are many inspiring women working for us, with us and volunteering their time for their communities – you can read more of such stories at redcross.ca/blog.
 
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