Jamaican Canadian is Woman of Distinction


Jamaican-born Mary Anne Chambers has been chosen as the 2010 Woman of Distinction for Community Service by the Young Women Christian Aassociation (YWCA) in Canada.
At the presentation ceremony held Wednesday, May 12, at the Toronto Convention Centre, a total of eight women were honoured in a variety of fields, such as Community Service, Education, Corporate Leadership, Community Leadership, Health and Healing, Mentorship, Social Justice and Young Woman of Distinction. Jamaica’s Consul General to Toronto, George Ramocan and wife, Lola Ramocan, were in attendance.
Born in Kingston and a graduate of Immaculate Conception High School for Girls, Mrs. Chambers migrated to Canada in 1976. A former Vice-President at Scotiabank, she served as Ontario Minister of Children and Youth Services and Minister of Training, Colleges and University.
Speaking with JIS News, Mrs. Chambers, who is a lifelong advocate for children and persons from marginalised communities, credits her achievements to her Jamaican heritage. She said that her interest in helping the less fortunate started when she was a teenager growing up in Jamaica.
“I was really grateful to my parents for allowing me to spend summer vacations helping kids to learn to read and write. Before I left Jamaica, I volunteered in the adult literacy programme; I was teaching men, factory workers, at the end of the work day,” she said.
Mrs. Chambers has been credited with opening the doors for the Jamaican community to gain access to the Premier of Ontario and the Ontario Cabinet when she was a government minister, thereby addressing situations that were of particular importance to the Jamaican community.
She is responsible for the passing of several pieces of legislation while a minister, to provide access to permanent homes for children in the child welfare system; the establishment of Ontario’s first independent office of the advocate for children and youth; and the first regulatory college in North America for early childhood educators.
She is also credited with creating youth opportunity strategies, which have enabled thousands of children from marginalised communities to access summer jobs, and funds a mentorship programme at the Scarborough campus of the University of Toronto, which is the brainchild of Jamaican high school student, Rochelle Litchmore.
In the health sector, Mrs. Chambers pushed for the approval of the Family Birthing Centres in the Rouge Valley Health System and has personally funded one of the birthing rooms. She has also funded more than 30 scholarships for young people to attend college and university, and has adopted two basic schools in the communities of Wait-a-Bit and Hope in Trelawny through the Project for the Advancement of Childhood Education (PACE) Canada.
Although she has done much and has given to many, Mrs. Chambers remains humble when it comes to being recognised. “There are so many other people, who do wonderful things who are not recognised. When I do the things I do, I don’t see anything particularly special about the fact that I do them. I just do them,” she told JIS News.
In June, Mrs. Chambers will receive an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Toronto.
Celebrating 30 years this year, the Woman of Distinction Awards are presented annually to women, who have “improved the lives of women and girls and demonstrate the important work women have done to build the community”.

JIS Social