Everyone must “be bold for change,” and four Langley women were thrown into the spotlight this weekend for leading by example.
In her own words, Langley Rotarian and South African-born entrepreneur Dean Rohrs spoke of the need for equality and the courage it is going to take to make it happen, she said, pointing a finger of responsibility at everyone during the 6th annual Rotary International Women’s Day Saturday afternoon at Newlands Golf & Country Club.
“Our whole social structure, that has been so slow to change from a very male-dominated society where women have to fight for equality. I wish I could say something different, but patriarchy is prevalent around the world – the same as racism and homophobia are. We can’t hide from it, not even here,” said told the crowd of about 160.
“It takes great courage to have men change from this model and accept equality of all sexes,” she added. She and her husband Rhino emigrated to Canada from South Africa in their 50s, and started their life all over again and she spoke of several times when she overcame fear to push for equality on both continents.
“There’s still a glass ceiling for many of us, but we do have the chance to break through it and to become our own,” said Rohrs, who late in life (at age 60) pursued her childhood goal of becoming an African game ranger.
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It was that experience in Africa that prompted her to draw on her own courage to do something to help make a difference for young girls in a northern village there, where she’s helped build four schools that educate, feed, and offer safety as many as 2,000 children.
“Our walk to bring peace and equality to this world is never over until the job is done. Our task to eradicate violence and injustice against both men and women in any form is never done,” said Rohrs, who started her career as a nurse in Africa, and now works alongside her husband Rhino in supplying soil stabilization products for road construction .
Women’s rights are basic human rights, insisted the woman who became a Rotarian in Africa and joined the Rotary Club of Langley Central (the event’s hosts) four years ago.
She said that quest for equality is not restricted to women in Third World countries, but right here in Canada, maybe even right there in the room.
“We know what needs to be done, and we need to do it. Every single person on this earth can walk their freedom walk… if they have the courage to work together to bring to the world what it really needs: peace, equality, and opportunity for all, said Rohrs, who is also incoming vice-president for Rotary International.
“Each of us needs to draw on our courage to make the changes needed,” she concluded, receiving a standing ovation.
Trio of ‘unsung heroes’
The motivational energy of the day didn’t end there.
During the luncheon, Bev Dornan, Shirley Stewart, and Alice Johnson were also recognized as this year’s Langley Women of Distinction.
They were each presented with bouquets of flowers and plaques acknowledging their tireless commitments to the community and called “unsung heroes,” by emcee and fellow Rotarian John Peters.
“It makes you realize that one person can truly make the world a better place,” Peters said, reflecting on the trio and the list of their accomplishments that he read off for each.
“This event draws our attention to the fact that women are still often not treated as equals, and sometimes the way they are treated is horrifying,” Peters told the Langley Advance.
“I am always dazzled and inspired by the contributions our women of distinction have made, and I think we all leave the event determined to ensure that all women have the opportunity to be treated as equals and realize their potential.”
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“Bev Dornan has shown a life-long dedication to others and to her community,” he said, when inviting her to the stage.
Dornan was applauded her work in implementing the Starfish backpack program in Aldergrove to provide weekend food for hungry children, but she was also acknowledged for her volunteer efforts outside or Rotary, as well.
That list included involvement with the Langley and B.C. chambers of commerce, the Aldergrove Festival Day Society, the Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation, Relay for Life, and her six-year tenure as a Township councillor.
“She is in fact known as a person who is always willing to fill in where needed,” Peters said. “Bev’s story is an outstanding example and model for women in leadership.”
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The spotlight was thrown on Johnson for all the work that she’s done over the past several decades – especially in Willoughby.
“Alice is a long-time resident and volunteer in the Langley community… Alie feels we have a responsibility to give back to her community, no matter how small,” Peters said.
Johnson started the Women’s Institute in Willougby a quarter century ago, and was credited with reorganizing the WI in Fort Langley. And, for an equal period of time, she served as secretary of the Willoughby Community Hall Society.
While she’s participated in the Pitch-In Canada efforts, her passion for history motivated much of her volunteer endeavours. She was an active member of the Langley Heritage Society and the heritage advisory committee, president of the Douglas Day committee for seven years, instrumental in restoring the original Willoughby Elementary, and an active member of the Langley Centennial Museum’s history group.
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And rounding out the trio, Stewart was given kudos for all her community efforts.
She’s help fundraise for the Langley Lodge, and the Salvation Army’s taking on the coordinator role when no one else was available and helping organize other events such as the church’s Coldest Night of the Year walk-a-thon, the Ride for Life concert, and their hamper program.
“Shirley has been involved many major and minor events in the Langleys over the past 20 years, with an attention to detail and a passion for making the event a success.”
She’s lent her talents and expertise to the Spirit of BC Committee for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, managing the Langley office and organizing promotional events in the community such as the torch relay at the Langley Events Centre. She also served as the executive director for the five-day provincial Summer Games in Langley in 2013, and a coordinator with the seniors provincial games held in Langley in 2015.
While she worked as executive director for the Fort Langley Business Improvement Association – helping organize three annual Cranberry Festivals, worked as communications and event coordinator for the chamber, was involved with the Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation – helping organize several galas and other events.
She helps Douglas Park Community School Society with their fundraising, including the car parking and concessions during the annual Langley Good Times Cruise-In, volunteers each year with the Langley Christmas Bureau, is a long-time member of the local Soroptimists Club, and helped restructure the Langley Legion and organize a Highland Games.