Adjectives used to describe the life and career of former Politician and Canadian Liberal Cabinet Minister, the Honourable Sheila Copps, are as broad reaching and dynamic as the range of national and world missions which she has spearheaded, forged and fought for. In over 25 years of public life she has left a legacy. A Diplomat, a rebel, the voice of women for Pay Equity, a Human Rights Heroine, a true and loyal Liberal and a Rat Packer (for those of you who actually go back that far). She was Canada’s first female Deputy Prime Minister and the longest-serving Minister of Canadian Heritage. Wearing her political hat, Ms. Copps has discussed world affairs with more famous international leaders than she can recount. The other truth is, however, that she also loves to kibitz with people from all walks of life and does so with a “joie de vivre” that radiates excitement when you are in her presence.
In her current life and career Ms. Copps remains passionate about making the world a better place. We caught up with her at our OLH apartments, (actually on our roof top deck for a New Years eve party) in Puerto Vallarta Mexico. We talked about her long running commitment toward fundraising and building schools in Haiti. Here is what she had to say:
OLH: Thanks for being here tonight and agreeing to tell us a bit about this amazing philanthropy. In a country like Haiti, which is undertaking a massive rebirth on so many levels including politics, infrastructure and basic daily needs please tell us more about what brought you to focus on schools?
Sheila: I really believe that education is the key to freedom. And Haiti needs educated citizens to lift it up economically and socially.
OLH: What can you tell us about the Foundation history and the work that is being done currently?
Sheila: We started six years ago, with the help of a priest who lived in the country. We had small fundraisers every year, with the hopes of supporting a single school We are now associated with the Fondation Paul Gerin-Lajoie, a Quebec-based foundation which has been building schools in Haiti for more than three decades.
OLH: Haiti is obviously one of the counties in the world most deserving of first world nation assistance and charitable support. You have traveled the planet and seen a full gambit of society and culture. Where do you see Haiti in the future?
Sheila: The next generation will hopefully lift it up from its current status as one of the poorest countries on earth.
OLH: Have you ever been first hand to Haiti?
Sheila: I have not. But we are hoping to organize a fundraising trek there this autumn.
OLH: What can you tell us about the Haitian community in Canada and are they active or involve themselves in this Foundation?
Sheila: The Haitiian community in Ottawa is very active in giving back, and most also support families members back home.
Friends on the rooftop New Years Eve.
OLH: How would one go about getting involved, learning more or making a donation?
Sheila: You can sign up on our website or connect with us via la Fondation Paul Gerin-Lajoie. Attending our fundraiser in the fall would be a great first start or donating online would be terrific.
OLH: So, just to get a little personal. You have made some pretty big national news lately and were back in the spotlight for some very important reasons, which we all have tremendous respect for by the way. Would you mind in closing giving us a few words on yourself, what’s happening these days, what are you up to and maybe a little tease as to what the future holds?
Sheila: Life is an incredible journey and I am on my way to Manila, looking at the possibility of another international challenge which would involve work in Latin America and Asia. More to come.
The OLH Team is proud to be co-hosting the 7th annual fundraising party this coming summer in downtown Ottawa. It will include a full tribute to Haitian food and culture and an exciting event auction. Please contact us for more information or how to join in at firstname.lastname@example.org