What is it that empowers you most?
My friends and family empower me. Without them, I am certain I would not have been as resilient in the face of adversity the way I have.
Education and information also are empowering. I love to learn. I feel like it allows me to empower others in a way I could not without it. Right now I am learning about disability and the differences that lie within all of us. Differences can be an incredible strength. A power. Embracing my differences throughout my learning has been a very empowering experience.
What is it that you love most about yourself?
I am really coming into who I am, at this time in my life. I love so much about who I am and who I becoming. One specific thing I really love about myself is my eagerness to learn. About people, their stories, about mental health, cultures, and beliefs. Essentially, all the things. My philosophy in life is that everyone has something to offer, even if it’s hidden for a time. Seeing the strength and beauty in others is something I value very much, and I feel fortunate that this is part of who I am.
What makes you feel most beautiful?
My intelligence makes me feel beautiful. I have many different kinds of intelligence, from both sides of my family and have used it to find my true gifts in life. For so many of us, growing up and being compared to others, never feeling “good enough,” is a way of life. Finding that intelligence was part of who I was meant to be, really shifted things for me. I did have value. I can make a difference. This is truly beautiful.
Who is your biggest role model and why?
My mother and aunt both have guided my life in a beautiful way. My mother passed away when I was 18 and it changed me forever. The foundation of strength and belief in the strength in others was something that is difficult to describe. She was one of a kind. Her mental illness did not define her. She was unstoppable in so many ways, and that drive to support our community, and value differences instead of seeing them as a challenge, is something that continues to shape who I am.
Who are your favorite cultural heroines and why?
Canada is so fortunate to have such a rich culture, full of historic and current heroines. I feel like I am especially lucky to know the amazing people I do, who were or are heroines within their community.
My grandmother Hermina narrowly survived the war and immigrated here with very little. She remains the matriarch of our family, and I aspire to be as strong and influential as she is. She has taught our family what it means to be a survivor.
My grandmother Patricia was one of the first nurse practitioners at Klinic, and was at the forefront of the feminist and contraception movement. Her perseverance for policy change and for our community wellness still inspires me to this day.
Judy Dunn is a mental health heroine and continues to support the movement of suicide prevention and normalization of mental illness. Each year, the event she helped create, shares this message, supporting change within our community. www.andrewdunn.org
My beautiful friend Charlene Hallett is one of my favorite cultural heroines. She is learning so much about her amazing indigenous culture, and I have been very grateful to grow because of her knowledge. She is an amazing example of how one can move mountains when you put your mind to it.
The power each one of these amazing people possesses (and so many more!), is really a testament to the strength that lies in all of us, and when we find our true passion and gift, change can happen. We can all be heroines.
If you could pick one fictional female character to be for a day who would it be and why?
I honestly have to go with Wonder Woman. I love the idea of having such a great power to do good in the world when there is so much pain and destruction. I feel like she could walk into a situation, and be heard for the strength she brought forward. Maybe I’d want to change the outfit, though…
What is your biggest life goal?
Happiness. Being from a long history of trauma, I seek happiness and peace in my own life. I know everyone does to some extent, it just becomes more complex when you have differences.
Another big one, which is what makes me tick, and brings forward passion and happiness, is to have the ongoing opportunity to positively influence our communities, in a lasting and meaningful way. Mental wellness for all! Being able to learn from and support Canada’s amazing indigenous population in our Northern communities would be an amazing experience, which I have been working at for many years. This is one of the main reasons why I created Inspire.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
Inspire has so far been my biggest accomplishment. I am currently enjoying speaking with organizations and families I respect and admire. I am truly honored to have the opportunity to share my personal life experiences to benefit others.
Another would be arriving at this amazing place in my life, where stability and opportunity have found me. Being married to my best friend, raising 4 amazing children, including my sister, and seeing her develop past the trauma that we grew up in feels like an incredible gift.
What is your favorite quote?
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead
When I began Inspire, I naively thought that I could change the world alone, or at least change things in my own community. Along the way, I discovered, you are only as strong as your team. This group that I am blessed to stand beside is the only reason we are able to make the contributions we have, and without these committed citizens, I would be able to achieve my dreams.
If you could tell your 12-year-old self one thing what would it be?
“You will survive this.” That time in my life was very difficult. I was coming home from being in foster care for many years, into a home that was in crisis. The trauma I experienced during that time, will always be a part of who I am and still affects my mental health to this day (Both negatively and positively). To all those who struggled with things in their past, and especially their childhood, it does get better. You are strong. You can survive this.
What does feminism mean to you?
“Feminism is the radical notion that women are people”. I remember growing up with the misconception that feminism was all intensity and no real substance. I, for a time, believed it had only to do with women. In reality, feminism is about that all people are worthy of being respected and valued. That society is wrong to segregate anyone because everyone is a valuable and amazing part of our community, no matter the gender they identify as, their sexuality, colour of their skin, religion, or ability. I am so grateful to know now, that feminism is the valuing of all people because we are all different and unique. This is what makes humans great.
Angela is the Founder & Executive Director for Inspire Community Outreach Inc. in Winnipeg, Manitoba