For two decades, and across three continents, a Penticton vice-principal has been instrumental in orchestrating impactful humanitarian projects.
Sandra Richardson has impacted students at Princess Margaret, Summerland and Penticton Secondary School as they work to make the world a better place.
“its an honour to receive such an amazing award by an organization which does so much for the community. As i’ve said to the colleagues who have congratulated me on receiving this award, I am proud of the work I do and wish everyone could have a passion for their work they do on a day to day basis,” said Richardson who was recently honoured with the Paul Harris Fellow and the Rotary Unsung Citizen Award.
Her signature project for the last eight years, was the construction of two orphanages in Arusha, Tanzania. She has taken upwards of 300 students, 20-25 at a time, on 12 trips to developing countries. This includes a trip to coastal villages in Ecuador.
“Her leadership was visceral and heartfelt. In her dealings with all those involved — organizational staff, students and villagers — she was respectful and genuine. She left an indelible impact on all of us. One that resonates still today,” said Chris Terris, a Pen High colleague.
Fundraising drives, totalling over $100,000, have been used to feed kids and build a classroom, dining hall, library, dormitory and kitchen at the Tanzania orphanages. At least 10 of her students are now working in developing countries and many others have chosen humanitarian-orientated career paths because of their experiences with Richardson.
The Unsung Citizen Award is given bi-annually and aims to recognize unsung citizens who have quietly gone about undertaking humanitarian acts that serve to enhance the social fabric on which our community’s vitality rests.
Linda Beaven, Richardson’s teaching mentor, said that “the classroom-without-walls teaching strategy is Sandra’s greatest gift.”
Their friendship dates back to Summerland Secondary when, in 1999, they founded the Good Will Shakespeare Festival. This annual event, which was moved to Vernon Secondary in 2016, has provided 4,000 students from throughout B.C. with a performing arts experience.
“It is impossible not to be transformed by the experience. Sandra is a catalyst for change who has literally made the world a better place. She drives herself and challenges others to do the same because, in her words, ’It’s all about the kids,’” said Pen High teacher, Shaun Johnston.
Rotary members said Richardson is the consummate role model for youth. Her students have hosted community service projects including 10,000 Tonight Food Drive, Toys for Tots and Teens at Christmas and the Maggie Colours for Kids Run. Before mental health in youth became a major public concern, she developed awareness days for students on these issues and recently instituted a “Be kind … just because” program to promote mindful compassion in daily life as an anti-bullying measure.
“Armed with inspirational principles and a passion to infect others with her noble beliefs, she displays commitment to community, resilience and adherence to Rotary’s ‘service above self’ motto. Simply put, for humbly going well above and beyond her formal teaching duties to help needy kids, at home and abroad, she truly epitomizes an Unsung Citizen whose exceptional humanitarian deeds are in fact global in scope,” said Malcolm Paterson in a news release, on behalf of the Rotary Club of Penticton Sunrise.
The five previous awardees, since its inception in June 2016, have been: Ivan McLelland, the late Alan Dawkins, Tracy Fehr, Bob Anderson and Jean Kearney.