DAVID STEWART MEDAL AWARD CEREMONY
June 14th, 2005
Remarks by Christine Stewart presenting the David Stewart Medal to Kathryn Anderson
Remarks by Kathryn Anderson
Closing Remarks by Patricia Rebolledo at David Stewart Medal
Remarks by Christine Stewart presenting the David Stewart Medal to Kathryn Anderson
“Thank you for the opportunity of presenting this year’s award in the name of my husband David Stewart. Horizons of Friendship honours me and my family by presenting this award in the name of David. David would feel humbled and honoured by this recognition of his role in founding Horizons. He would be proud of the ongoing work and successes of Horizons of Friendship. My thanks and congratulations to all the staff, Board members and volunteers who contribute each in their own way to those ongoing successes.”
I am touched by the fact that this year’s recipient of the David Stewart medal, Kathryn Anderson, has dedicated so much of the last 20 years to human rights and solidarity work in Guatemala. Throughout Central America, the needs remain immense and seemingly endless despite the many years of the successful and dedicated work of Horizons of Friendship and so many others. None of the other countries of the region however, seem to exhibit to the same degree the intractable problems of continuing violence, injustice, inequality and corruption as does Guatemala. The blatant and growing discrepancy between rich and poor, - the growing gap between rich and poor of access to resources and opportunity of all kinds. Guatemala, in my view, is not showing progress in so many vital areas.
What a tragedy! A country which abounds in natural beauty, a very rich indigenous culture, a tourist industry, an economic infrastructure which could benefit all, - most importantly, a hard-working, proud, hopeful indigenous population who lack for nothing so much as that opportunity and peace.
Among other activities I have undertaken post-politics, is some work in human rights with the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Centre for Human Rights in Washington. I had been part of one of their delegations to Brazil and was subsequently asked to join a group going to Guatemala on the eve of Presidential elections there about a year and a half ago. I didn’t hesitate to accept the invitation as I was horrified to know that General Rios Montt, a former President of Guatemala and, in my view, responsible at that time for acts of genocide against the Guatemalan population, was once again on the Presidential ballot. He did not win, but his influence is still obvious.
I mention these things only to highlight the importance I attach to the work of Kathryn Anderson. So many people have such pressing physical needs but when you suffer the realities such as those experienced by so many Guatemalans, the fundamental need is to know that someone ‘out there’ cares, understands, is beside you to help you to carry and overcome your burden. Ultimately Guatemalans have to solve their own problems but I believe they need the solidarity, the compassion of others, the commitment to justice and peace of others who will join them in their struggle for justice and peace. Kathryn Anderson is a very important Canadian leader in this effort on behalf of Guatemalans. She walks with Guatemalans in a quiet way and draws others in along the way.
Let me tell you a little about Kathryn Anderson. ———“Kathryn Anderson, a human rights activist and adult educator for over 20 years is the co-founder of Breaking the Silence Network, a group committed to solidarity work and dedicated to promoting human rights advocacy between peoples in Canada and Guatemala. Working out of the Tatamagouche Centre in Nova Scotia, Kathryn has demonstrated her leadership and volunteer spirit by motivating others to be active in social justice work, and building alliances between people and organizations North-South. —Among her many accomplishments, she has organized over 15 human rights and community development delegations to Guatemala, and over 25 visits of Guatemalans to Canada. She provided volunteer leadership to “Project Accompaniment” in the early 1990’s as Guatemalan refugees returned to their homeland, and she helped establish a Fair Trade coffee market for small producers of coffee in Guatemala. — Kathryn is also the author of “Weaving Relationships: Canada-Guatemala Solidarity”, a remarkable book in comparative ethics that reveals the impact of the solidarity movement, and presents “solidarity” not as a work of charity but as a common struggle with those who are marginalized and impoverished in this world. Kathryn’s passion for justice and leadership makes her a worthy recipient of the David Stewart Medal.” To quote one of her nominators for this award, “Kathryn is a true mentor, dedicated friend and colleague and a shining example of Canadian voluntarism and leadership, and a most worthy recipient of the David Stewart Medal.”
My husband David was in many ways a similar person. He walked in the shadow of his wife’s and others’ limelight yet with his compassion for others and commitment to justice, not only in far-off lands but here at home in Cobourg where he practiced law, he provided encouragement, love and support to not only me but his family and so many others around him. He was strongly dedicated to Horizons of Friendship as a co-founder and president for so many years. I know he would wish to express an ongoing encouragement, love and support to all those associated with Horizons today, and to Kathryn Anderson.
I would like to end with a quote which I cherish – a quote from Robert F. Kennedy:
“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of those acts will be written the history of our generation.”
Congratulations to Kathryn Anderson for her significant part in writing the honourable part of the history of our generation.”
Remarks by Kathryn Anderson
“I cannot begin to tell you how deeply honoured I am to be here today with you at Horizons of Friendship, an NGO for whom I and many others I know across Canada have the greatest of respect. It is also an honour to receive a medal in the name of David Stewart, whose life exemplified his commitment to voluntary work towards the establishment of a more just world. I was astonished and overwhelmed (not to say embarrassed) when my receiving of this Award was announced, without any prior warning, during a community fundraiser for the Read by the Sea Festival, a great literary festival in the Tatamagouche area that I invite you all to in July (an event totally run by volunteers, I might add!).
My response then was the same as my response today. I am accepting this award on behalf of the entire Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Solidarity Network, which is a whole community of volunteers throughout the Maritimes. A few of those volunteers conspired together to nominate me without my knowledge, including Steve Law, Sr. Mary Corbett, Beth Abbott and my partner, Wilf Bean, along with a good friend of Breaking the Silence, a man of enormous integrity and commitment, Carlos Aldana. I do want to thank them publicly. However, I think they know very well that if they had asked me first, I would have expressed my reluctance to be nominated because I firmly believe that solidarity is a community enterprise, built on relationships of mutuality with our Guatemalan friends and with one another. Due to particular circumstances in my life, I am privileged to be able to give more time than others may be able to give. However I accept this honour on behalf of all the many volunteers who do what they can, in the midst of busy lives, as workers, parents, students, retirees.
I want to share with you what first motivated me to get involved in Guatemalan solidarity as well as a bit about Breaking the Silence, our movement of volunteers. (I hasten to add that NGOs, such as Horizons of Friendship, also play a tremendous role. I see this award as recognition of the way we in Canada collaborate closely, as NGOs and volunteer-based solidarity groups.) I will read a short excerpt from my book, “Weaving Relationships: Canada-Guatemala Solidarity”. This book is not about me. It documents the history and meaning of Canada-Guatemala solidarity in Canada. However, in the Preface, I do tell a little of my own story. …
In 1988 I moved from Montreal to work at Tatamagouche Centre, a United Church educational centre, where I worked until 1995. Since 1996 I have been primarily a volunteer, in Guatemala and in Canada. My partner, Wilf Bean, formerly with the Coady International Institute in Antigonish, is now Program Director at Tatamagouche Centre.
In 1990, with United Church of Canada support, we at Tatamagouche Centre invited two Guatemalan women from the Kaqchikel region to spend a month with us. These women, who had suffered tremendously from the repression and violence of the 1980s, came to visit communities throughout the Maritimes, sharing their stories and their weaving skills with us. A friendship began that exists to this day.
A year later, Tatamagouche Centre and Oxfam jointly sponsored an exposure tour of Maritimers to Guatemala. We spent time with those women and with their women’s groups. As well, we met with CONAVIGUA (a group of widows who joined forces for survival and mutual support and still play a vital role in the work of justice and healing in Guatemala), and also with street children, with relatives of those who had been massacred very recently in Santiago Atitlan, with trade unionists, and others.
We returned home transformed and inspired by the amazing courage, resilience and hope of the people we had met. We could no longer say we did not know about the massive repression of workers, students, and professors, of the genocide of Mayan people and of profound economic and social injustice. We decided to move beyond an exposure tour. Thus the Maritimes-Guaemala Breaking the Silence Network was formed.
This coming week-end the Breaking the Silence Annual Meeting takes place, with more than 50 people converging on Tatamagouche Centre for the week-end. Most participants are former members of our annual delegations (we no longer call them exposure tours, as those who come on these trips represent Breaking the Silence and commit themselves to follow-up work on their return from Guatemala.)
We will hear the stories of our Interns, each of whom lives with a Mayan family for 5 to 7 months. They work with our partner organizations in areas such as gender, community agriculture and nutrition, and cross-cultural curriculum development. As well, our recently returned human rights accompaniers who offered protection to witnesses in the genocide case against Rioss Montt and Lucas Garcia will update us on the present situation in Guatemala.
Taking our lead from our partners, we will spend much of our time planning how best to deepen our relationships with them. Most Breaking the Silence support is not about money. In the beginning we made it policy that our work was in the area of human rights, through education of Canadians, forming an Urgent Action letter-writing network, sending human rights accompaniers to Guatemala, and so on. In a way, our policy has changed since the Peace Accords, in that we do offer some financial support on occasion to small projects of our partners. Still first and foremost our philosophy is to build and deepen relationships of mutuality. We see ourselves primarily as learners, as receivers from people whose courage and determination is so great. In return for the great gifts they give us, we offer, with great humility, support as we are able. Our support has often been to write letters and lobby politicians and governments. This is in response to requests, all too frequent, from our partners regarding human rights violation. Often our letters are to pressure the Canadian government, as for instance right now around Glamis Gold. Our solidarity continues to include recruiting, training and supporting human rights accompaniers.
Our solidarity also is about supporting our partner, the Highland Committee of Rural Farmers, through a joint venture in fair trade coffee with Just Us Fair Trade Coffee Roasters in Grand Pre, Nova Scotia. As part of this project we educate Maritimers about fair trade, including in our efforts both the Oxfam Make Trade Fair campaign and the Maquila Solidarity Network. (Never wanting to miss an opportunity, I have brought along some coffee to sell. I’m sure I was nominated in part so I could promote our fair-trade coffee sales!)
Another aspect of our solidarity is our support for a junior high school, Nueva Esperanza, New Hope, where the grandchildren of both victims and survivors of the genocide in Rabinal can now receive an education based on the Maya-Achi cultureWe support human rights work with the founders of the school who are still under threat for their truth-telling about the genocide. We are establishing a scholarship fund, and we have sponsored a Maritime carpentry team to go and work with the students and parents in the construction of the school. We are about to send another team down in January.
Our solidarity is also about working together with our Guatemalan partners to offer, in an appropriately modified form, the well-respected leadership and popular education training program we offer at Tatamagouche Centre so as to contribute to the leadership development and democratic practice of the people’s organizations in the region.
And I could go on!
I will close with a quote that is the basis of our work:
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine,
then we can work together”
A quote from a Maori woman
Closing Remarks by Patricia Rebolledo at David Stewart Medal Ceremony
“Finally, it is a pleasure for me to close this event. I want to once again congratulate Kathryn Anderson for her contribution to a better world, for making the necessary link between the North and the South and for her invaluable contribution to Guatemala. A link that now –more than ever – needs to be strengthened. Thanks for showing a real Canadian spirit, based on respect and solidarity to others.
In the early nineties, Horizons was also part of Project Accompaniment, a real effort by Canadian NGOs and solidarity organizations to provide support to the thousands of refugees returning to Guatemala.
It is wonderful to see the role of Canadians in development issues, especially in Central America. As you know, we also give a David Steward Award to a partner in Central America. This year the Award will go to the MONSENOR ROMERO COOPERATIVE SERVICES, based in Nandaime, Nicaragua.
A French Canadian, Father Santiago Giroux, founded this organization. Horizons was among the first supporters of this organization in the late ’80s. The organization has matured, and it has many youth volunteering their services.
The Cooperative also receives support from Le Spirale, a Quebec based solidarity group. We will present our Nicaraguan partner the award in a special ceremony to be held in Costa Rica in the month of July.
Many thanks Kathryn and congratulations for your hard work!”