MSW, RSW, Registered Social Worker
I am a social worker, social justice advocate and storyteller. As a storyteller, my philosophy is that storytelling is a tool that can give individuals an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding, respect and appreciation of self, culture and diversity. I have performed at festivals and with schools telling traditional stories and working with students to develop their own style of storytelling. This process has included telling their stories through spoken word, shadow puppets, hand puppets and murals reflecting their interpretation of the story. I traveled the Newfoundland collecting material that was traditionally used and co-developed a book “Over The Big Fat Waves; A Collection Of Newfoundland & Labrador Rhymes, Songs and Language Games”. I have a particular love for traditional Newfoundland material and how Jack fits into the story, how they reflect our distinct culture and the connection they have to stories told in other parts of the world.
What are you most proud of professionally? And who or why?
I am most proud of the work I have done to establish the Newfoundland and Labrador Parent-Child Mother Goose Program: a preventative, early intervention program that supports families and fosters secure attachment and healthy development within families. I developed a partnership with government and community stakeholders and I served over 1,000 families and facilitated over 20 training workshops throughout the province. I was also instrumental in establishing the Australian Parent-Child Mother Goose Program by facilitating training programs across the country. I am grateful I was able to do this work in Partnership with my good friend and confidant, Lori Fritz.
What's your vision for Atlantic Canada in 10 years? What’s our biggest opportunity now?
The biggest opportunity in Newfoundland at this time is the deep cultural connections we have to place. Thinking about communities on the Bonavista Peninsula and things like Bonavista Biennale, Port Rexton Brewery, Bonavista Social Club and Fisher’s Loft. Fogo Island and the incredible opportunities that the Shorefast Foundation has created for the people of the island. Gros Morne National Park, where the landscape is incredible and the Woodypoint Writers Festival draws top Canadian writers, musicians, storytellers and artists. The East Coast Trail that runs from St. John's in both directions along the coast for hundreds of kilometers. I am hopeful these connections will continue to grow for this stark and stunning place.
What was your greatest stage of growth? What made it a shift for you?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. My greatest stage of growth has always been at times of difficulty. I now try to move through the difficult times and experience them fully knowing that when I come out the other side there is usually a gift of knowledge or strength at the end. This has been helpful in my practice as a counselor, allowing space for people to be where they are and feel what they feel and not trying to fix things but sitting in it with them and offering whatever it is they need to move through it.
What's your favourite or most read book or podcast? Now or at each of your greatest stages of growth?
One of my favourite writers is Elizabeth Strout – she captures something in her characters that touches me deeply and I can find myself laughing and crying as I move through her books. My favourite podcast is The Moth - listening to stories of peoples lives has always intrigued me.
What's your deepest learning from this past year? How did/will you apply it?
I have always been an advocate for social justice and I recognized that being actively engaged in community brings about positive social change. There have been many accomplishments in my life as I have had a variety of roles both as a volunteer and as a paid employee working in the community. My recent experience at the University of Toronto was a time of deep learning. The experience deepened my knowledge about mental health and addictions and the barriers those who are dealing with these kinds of issue face in accessing supportive services. It strengthened my commitment to continue to support marginalized individuals and families in the community.
Who's inspired you, directly or indirectly? How have they inspired you?
I have been inspired by so many women in my life it would be hard to limit it to one. Melba Rabinowitz was the biggest influence in me choosing a career committed to social justice. I started working for her when I was 12 years old and continued to work with her in a variety of roles throughout my life including sitting on the board of Gemma. Lori Fritz a teacher who has been with me all the way through the development of the NL Parent-Child Mother Goose Program and one of my biggest advocates. Jan Andrews a great Canadian Storyteller and writer. Many of the women who attended the Parent-Child Mother Goose Program and wrote incredible letters of support to the government to ensure we were funded year after year. The women I have worked with in Child Protection that reminded me of my privilege and inspired me to keep working for change toward equity in our society. Jean O’Neil who welcomed the children at Holy Cross Elementary School every day and could always see a star in even the most challenging of children and continues the work long into her retirement down in Dominica sharing her skills and knowledge with the children there. My daughter Emily Fearon who inspires me to keep my hand in the creative aspects of my life and who challenges me not to get too comfortable as there is always work to be done. And…
What would you have done differently?
I have always felt my life has led me to the place I am today so based on this there is nothing I would have done differently. I love my life. That does not mean it is always easy but I am happy.
What were your priorities and how did they help you overcome some of the struggles you've faced? What motivated you to make the choices you've made? What are the principles you live by?
One of my priorities was a commitment to community. This has helped me develop a strong network of supports, which I have accessed when I have needed them for both professional and personal reasons. I live by the principle of social justice. This has motivated me many of the choices I have made and strengthened my commitment to working towards developing strong communities. It supported me in a variety of roles both as an educator and advocate.
Social Worker, Counsellor, Community Advocate, Educator, Storyteller, Traveler, Artist, Quilt Maker, Lover of Life