Her Excellency Sharon Johnston Reflects on Visits to CARE Projects in the Middle East

From Oct. 29 to Nov. 5, Their Excellencies the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, and Mrs. Sharon Johnston, travelled to Jordan, Israel and the West Bank.

CARE Canada was pleased to host Mrs. Johnston in both Jordan and the West Bank, arranging for visits to learn more about our programming and meet the women with whom CARE works in our projects.

Both the Governor General and Mrs. Johnston are vice regal patrons of CARE Canada. This support acknowledges CARE Canada’s mandate and commitment to fighting poverty and empowering women and girls around the world.

We asked Mrs. Johnston to share with us a few reflections from her time with CARE:

What were your impressions from your visit to the CARE projects in West Bank and Jordan?

The diversity of projects that CARE was involved in and how they are helping women really stood out to me. I had the privilege of meeting some of these women, including a single mother in Amman, Jordan who set up a tiny convenience store in her house that provided everything from candy to sanitary napkins (below photo). I also met a group of local women in the Palestinian Authority of the West Bank who made local food products in the beautiful Battir Valley. Although very different in nature, both projects served a very important purpose in that they raised the morale of the entire community. They are both excellent examples of a “can do” attitude.

Her Excellency met Mariam Mohammed Tarkjan, a local shop owner and woman entrepreneur supported by CARE Canada’s Canadian-funded programming in Jordan. As part of CARE’s response to the Syria crisis, CARE is supporting refugees and host communities with training and livelihoods support. (All photos: Sgt. Johanie Maheu/Office of the Secretary to the Governor General 2016)

What did you learn from the women you met at these projects?

I learned that these women worked in cooperation with their husbands, who were primarily responsible for farming. In building this cooperation, they earned each other’s respect. What’s more, women drew a great sense of pride, accomplishment and happiness from their projects. Their motto “from relief to sustainability” was work in action.

Mrs. Johnston lends a hand making bread with Suhair Odaid Allah, assistant director of the Battir Women’s Productive Association, in the West Bank while visiting the CARE project Relief to Sustainable Livelihoods. With the support of the Government of Canada, CARE is working with local partners to help vulnerable people, particularly women, develop resilient and sustainable livelihoods.

What message would you like to share with Canadians after this visit?

To paraphrase the quote by Margaret Mead: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful dedicated women can change their circumstances. CARE provides a unique platform for Canadians to support and get involved in these great initiatives all over the world and I would encourage more Canadians to do just that.

From left to right, René Celaya (country director, CARE International in the West Bank and Gaza), Gillian Barth (CARE Canada president and CEO), Mrs. Johnston, Ayman Shuaibi (CARE program area manager) and Annes Mahareeq (CARE program officer).