'Root of who we are'
A Memorial University alumna and current student have been honoured for their efforts to make a difference in their communities.
Anne Whelan (BA’90, MBA’02), chief executive officer of Seafair Group, received the Red Cross of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Humanitarian of the Year award in November.
Matthew Raske, a current bachelor of commerce and political science student, was named Young Humanitarian of the Year.
For Ms. Whelan, the award recognizes not her efforts as an individual but her approach to business and the collective efforts of Seafair’s employees.
“I’m deeply honoured to be recognized with this award,” she said. “I have chosen to accept this on behalf of all the great work that our companies do. It’s something that is core to the values of our group of companies, to look after our people and our communities. It’s right to the root of who we are, so I’m honoured to have that recognized at some level in the community.”
The Seafair Group of companies includes CareGivers, Blue Sky, Momentum and Health Quest, which collectively provide health and home care services to seniors, children, youth and those with intellectual and developmental challenges.
“I realized that a sense of community is a gift, and it’s not one that we should take for granted.” — Anne Whelan
“We don’t make decisions about what we’re going to do based on how profitable it is but rather, can we make a go of it while we serve the community in some important way?” said Ms. Whelan. “It’s a culture more than an individual thing.”
Giving back to community is something Ms. Whelan says she learned at home from her parents, themselves active volunteers with the Red Cross.
“I learned it at the kitchen table,” she said. “I realized that a sense of community is a gift, and it’s not one that we should take for granted. It’s one that we have to nurture and give back to.”
Ms. Whelan has supported charitable causes and organizations ranging from the Canadian Cancer Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Kids Eat Smart, Canadian Red Cross, the Healthcare Foundation and Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador.
She has also brought her skills and expertise to the boards of directors of Newfoundland Power and CSA Group, and she is a director for the Bank of Canada.
Ms. Whelan’s humanitarian efforts have also spanned local and international initiatives. In 2016 she was part of the Canadian delegation at the Asia Pacific Economic Council in Peru, where she spent several days mentoring female entrepreneurs. She also recently travelled to Bangladesh with Team Broken Earth to help set up a home care project.
Like Ms. Whelan, Mr. Raske has also completed cross-border humanitarian work, including four humanitarian missions to Dominican Republic, Mexico, Ecuador and Honduras to build homes, a school and a safe drinking water system.
At Memorial, Mr. Raske is heavily involved in extracurricular activities on campus, serving as the digital media representative on the Commerce Class of 2020 student council, as a founding member of the St. John’s Youth Social Justice Society and as a volunteer with the university chapter of Global Brigades.
“I think communities work well when people work together.” — Matthew Raske
Being named Young Humanitarian of the Year is “extremely humbling,” he says.
“I know so many young people who give so much of themselves to make this province, this university, our community, a better place. And to be recognized among all the deserving candidates is truly an honour.”
Mr. Raske will graduate this spring and plans to pursue graduate education in either law or public policy, eventually developing a policy-focused career that allows him to continue his humanitarian ways.
“I think I’d like to be involved in public life in some way, and I think public policy and things like that go a long way in helping people – meeting people’s needs and lifting people out of poverty,” he said. “The reason that I want to pursue the kind of career that I do is because I think I can help people doing it.”
Caring for people and communities
For both Ms. Whelan and Mr. Raske, being a humanitarian means actively taking care of the people and communities around you.
“I think communities work well when people work together,” said Mr. Raske. “A humanitarian to me is someone who recognizes other people’s needs and not only sees that as a problem, but asks themselves how they can become part of the solution and take action.”
“We’ve got a lot of challenges here in Newfoundland and Labrador, but it’s easy to complain about them,” said Ms. Whelan. “It’s much more practical to try to do something about them. That’s what motivates me.”
For more information about the Red Cross Humanitarian Awards and this year’s recipients, visit online.