Looking forward, together

Barbara Grantham is CARE Canada's President and CEO

Today is my first day as President and CEO of CARE Canada.

As this day has drawn near, I’ve felt increasingly privileged to be joining an organization that provides such vital support around the world. When I first "signed on" for this role, none of us imagined that my journey would begin in the middle of a pandemic that, unjustly, adds yet another threat to the health, safety and livelihoods of the most vulnerable in our world: women and girls.

As I write this note, it strikes me that while we are physically apart, there has never been a greater need for collective action, for togetherness and for a global outlook. There has always been much for each of us to contribute in this world. This has been brought home for me in the last few weeks in a profound way.

While these are unequivocally challenging times, we cannot lose sight of the fact that this is also a crucial opportunity for us to work together, to build a world that’s better for each and every one of us.

Throughout my career, I have had the honour of working with many Canadians, local communities and organizations in pursuit of social justice and a better world for all of us. Whether driving early public conversations about the importance of mental health, advocating for greater support for the homeless, or raising crucial funds for the health of women and children, my work has been in support of the dignity, equality and well-being of everyone. I feel immensely honoured to bring insights from these experiences to CARE – an organization that brings the voices and perspectives of many different people, organizations, regions and levels of power together for the betterment of all.

I have worked hard to become the leader that CARE expects me to be right now, along the way providing leadership to several organizations including the BC division of the Canadian Mental Health Association and, most recently, VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation. And I am quick to acknowledge that I owe a debt of gratitude to those who fought to ensure that I had access to these opportunities.

I wouldn’t be here today without the strength and determination of my maternal grandmother, a Jew who escaped central Europe with her young family during World War II. I wouldn’t be here today without the incredible resilience of my own mother, who raised my brother and me as a single parent. And I wouldn’t be here without a number of professional mentors who encouraged me to challenge myself and pursue roles that have often been held by men.

I believe deeply that we each possess the same potential as human beings, and I am vividly aware that unique circumstances—race, gender, geography (the list goes on) are tangible barriers to equality and equity in today’s world.

This is why I am so very thrilled to be joining a group of individuals who are so talented, so committed to supporting the people we serve, and who so passionately embrace the change required to better allow women, girls and their communities around the world to lift themselves out of poverty and out of crisis.

I look forward to connecting with many of you in the days ahead so that we get to know each other better. The CARE community is truly our greatest asset. And it’s never been more important that we work together.

My focus in the days ahead is clear. COVID-19 will almost certainly be the most significant challenge to women and girls in developing countries any of us will witness in our lifetimes. The ways in which CARE enables the world's most vulnerable women and girls to lead relief and recovery efforts in the coming weeks will shape the resilience of the countries that emerge from this the pandemic.

In the words of Aisha Ahmad, "calamity is a great teacher." I am learning. I look forward to doing that with all of you.

~ Barbara