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Women with Vision

The inspiring Coady partnership with the Canadian Women’s Foundation

Crystal Dennison (l) and Sara Thompson at their
CWFLI-Coady graduation, June 13, 2013

Sarah Thompson and Crystal Dennison are following different passions, but share a rare accomplishment at Coady International Institute.

Thompson, manager of supportive services at Servants Anonymous in Calgary, and Dennison, executive director of the Nanaimo B.C. Food Share Society, both earned Coady certificates in the Community Development Leadership by Women program, and then three weeks later, graduated from the inaugural cohort of the Canadian Women’s Foundation Leadership Institute, also hosted at the Coady.

“I wanted to expand my leadership skills and get a broader perspective,” says Thompson, whose organization provides long-term programs and support for women who are victims, or are at risk of sexual exploitation.

She calls her recent education a ‘life-changing’ opportunity. “I’m so proud to be part of a global sisterhood of women who face similar barriers and challenges, and that together there is an opportunity to move forward. I really feel connected and grounded as a result of meeting women from across Canada and around the world.”

Dennison wants to link her Vancouver Island-based sustainable food network with similar organizations across Canada, and felt that the Canadian Women’s Foundation program and the Coady certificate program would take her leadership skills to the next level.

“We work to develop sustainable food systems by promoting local agriculture and showing people how we can use sustainable food as a tool for self-reliance,” she said. “In fact I hope to come back to the Coady to take the new course that was just announced.” (Creating Just Food Systems – May 13-30, 2014)

Dennison says she feels an obligation to go back to Nanaimo to share what she has learned.

“My experience this spring has shown me that I have such a conviction to follow through and help communities develop, and perhaps live out a dream to work internationally as well.”

“The friendships we’ve made with international students have been incredible,” says Thompson, whose future might include a Masters program in adult education and community development.

“It feels as if everything is opening up for me again. My dreams and goals look a lot different this year than they did last year.”