Ottawa Quakers working for children and peace

Gordon McClure

Gordon McClure was born in Toronto in 1929 and was raised as an Anglican by a Catholic single mother. He went to teachers' college in Toronto and taught in two rural and suburban schools from 1949 to 1951. In January, 1949, he married a fellow teacher, Betty Page, and in the 1950s, they had six children, two boys and four girls.

"We joined Toronto Monthly Meeting in 1953 in order to raise our family as part of a religious, non-racist, non-sexist and peacemaking community," Gordon said.

In 1957, he and his family moved to Ottawa with the family, of Frances and Dorothy Starr and their children, to help start the Ottawa Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, along with Ottawa residents Olga Ghosh, Deborah Haight and Norm Fenn.

In Ottawa, he and Betty taught developmentally disabled children, children who cannot learn as fast as their age-mates. While teaching, he earned a B.A. from Carleton University and then a Master's Degree in psychology in the evenings.

Gordon and Betty were separated in 1979 and were later divorced In 1983, he married Anne Mitchell, a leader in anti-apartheid work.

In 1971, he began his life's work, the McHugh School which served children aged 4 to 21 in treatment in eight different hospitals, treatment and correctional centres. Children with similar disabilities from anywhere in Ottawa were also accepted by the school: children with psychiatric problems, children in care. The children had psychiatric problems or autism.

Other schools which began with universal admission policies after a while started saying "We'll take everyone except violent and psychotic children", or "We'll take everyone except someone who's pregnant and on drugs."

"McHugh, as long as I was principal, would never do that: we continued to take everyone," Gordon said.

By simply denying reality and giving hope, the teachers got autistic children speaking and psychiatric patients learning.

"We tried to put into practice two Friends principles, that of God in everyone, and peacemaking."

Gordon said he actually did feel like a pacifist when he was threatened by an 18-year-old who had a chair over his head.

"'Yes, you may kill me, but the schoolwork will still be there.', I told him".

"I had the best job in the world. If kids made problems, and they needed help, we would help them. And the community and the Ontario government gladly paid the cost."

Gordon retired early, at age 57, in 1985, deciding to step down and create a place for a younger person to take the job. He then went to work on a Ph.D. in the psychology of criminal behaviour, at Carleton University, finishing in 1993.

In 1993, Gordon and Anne moved to Toronto when Anne was hired to head an environmental law and policy research institute. He now works doing studies of the effectiveness of treatment programs.

Gordon is Co-Clerk of the Program Committee for Friends General Conference Gathering 96, to be held June 29 to July 6 at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

Caroline Balderston Parry

Caroline Parry was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1945 to Quaker parents.

"I was a precocious mother's helper, at 14 I was helping a woman who had five children under five years old," she recalled.

In 1966, she graduated from Radcliffe College (Harvard University) in Boston. While at Harvard, she worked one summer on an Indian Reservation in Utah and during the year in an interracial project with Black kids in Boston's Roxbury neighbourhood.

After Harvard, she went to India to work in a development project, starting work as a teacher at a school in the state of Kerala in south India in February 1967. On the way to India, she followed her concern about orphans in Asia, and visited orphanages in Japan, Hong Kong and Viet Nam, writing about her findings in The Far Eastern Economic Review, and reporting back to Friends General Conference.

In 1968, while working in India, she met David Mackenzie Parry, an Englishman travelling around the world in a Land Rover. A year later, they were married. After another year in India, they returned to England, where David started university at Hull, and Caroline got her British teachers' qualifications and taught school.

They emigrated to Canada, settling in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1973, where their daughter Evalyn was born. The Parrys later moved to Toronto so David could do his Ph.D. and in 1977 their son Richard was born. Caroline ran her own nursery school for three years.

In 1981, she worked with the Children's Program at Canadian Yearly Meeting, helping kids (and adults) draw silhouettes of each other on poster paper, writing positive descriptions of each person inside their outlines. The long streams of silhouettes were posted on the walls of the room in which adult Friends were meeting, a river of lives surrounding Friends as they met.

In 1980, Caroline started working for Mariposa in the Schools and later played dulcimer for children in the Mariposa Folk Festival. That same year, she started teaching Re-evaluation Counseling, also known as Co-counseling.

Her book, Let's Celebrate was published by Kids Can Press of Toronto in June 1987. The book won two book awards for children's literature.

She then edited a collection of poetry for early readers, which Houghton-Mifflin published as Zoomerang a Boomerang in 1991.

She followed David to Israel in 1987, where he was a visiting teacher, and then to Ottawa in 1991, where he had begun work at the Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec. She finished the manuscript of Eleanora's Diary, an illustrated, annotated version of the diary of a young girl who immigrated to Canada from England with her parents in the 1830s. It was published in 1994 by Scholastic Publishers.

Caroline worked for years on the First Day School (Sunday School) Committee of Ottawa Monthly Meeting.

In 1991 she worked with Mary Anne Buchowski Monin in the West end of Ottawa on an anti-racism, bias awareness and art project, the "You Me and Us Project". It was funded by a grant from the Community Foundation of Ottawa-Carleton, and the Children's Village Foundation.

In June, 1995, her husband David died suddenly of a heart attack. To celebrate his life, Caroline planned a memorial celebration in which people performed songs and dances and readings, in memory of David, to hundreds of the couple's friends.

In 1996, she resumed writing a book she had started earlier, on May celebrations. When not writing books or articles, she puts on concerts and programs such as one called "War and Peace, Fights and Friends" for schools in Southern Ontario.

Sylvia Powers

Sylvia Powers was born Sylvia Jean Smith in 1943 in a log cabin built by her great-grandfather on a farm in Mountain Grove, Ontario. She graduated from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, in 1964 with Honours in mathematics and Latin.

In 1964 she married Bill Powers and then attended teachers college in Toronto. She started teaching in Brighton, Ontario, to be near her husband. Because Bill had earned his B.A. at Royal Military College in Kingston, he entered the Royal Canadian Air Force upon graduation.

After they moved to a new posting at Greenwood, Nova Scotia, Sylvia taught in an elementary school, where she was also the principal.. Their first daughter, Maria, was born there in 1966, and the family moved back to Ontario in 1967. At Bracebridge, Ontario, they went to a Quaker Meeting for the first time, while they were still regularly attending the United Church.

Their second daughter, Elizabeth, was born in Bracebridge in 1968. That year, they boarded an Indian student from a local reserve so he could go to school nearby.

"We first encountered racism through his eyes. As he and a non-Native boy walked along the street together in Bracebridge, the police would stop and ask him for his identification, and not the non-Native boy."

By 1971, Bill had also earned his teacher's certificate, and they moved to Ottawa and both got jobs there as teachers.

"We both didn't feel comfortable with our church in Ottawa, so we looked up Friends and started going to Quaker Meeting," Sylvia said.

From Frances Starr, an Ottawa Quaker, they learned about the Friends settlement in Monteverde, Costa Rica. The community was looking for teachers, and Frances had a house they could live in. They decided to explore the possibilities of teaching there, and went down to Costa Rica in August, 1974.

After a correspondence course in Spanish, Sylvia took a job teaching, in English, in Monteverde. By the second year was able to talk to parents of Spanish-speaking kids without an interpreter.

Bill became a welder in Monteverde, and earned more as a welder than Sylvia did as a teacher. Her wages were 90 cents an hour. But Bill knew how to wire houses, put in bathrooms, and build stoves, so he found no lack of work there. Since the school in which Sylvia taught covered Grades 1 to 12, their kids could also go to the school.

"There was a lot of pressure on women who went to work in those days. But since our kids were in the same school, I could look after them while being a teacher," she said.

In January, 1977, they returned to Canada by car, driving up through the western United States into British Columbia, Canada's most western province.

When Friends from the Argenta Friends School, near Nelson, B.C., heard they were teachers, they were asked to apply there. They were hired, and taught for three years at Argenta from 1977 to 1980.

Returning to Ottawa in 1980, Sylvia enrolled in special education courses, and when Ontario-wide special education came out in 1982, she had her choice of jobs. She was hired by the South Carleton High School in 1982 and has been teaching there since.

Sylvia was appointed to Canadian Friends Service Committee (CFSC) in 1983. She became Clerk of the Quaker Committee for Native Concerns, a subcommittee of CFSC, from 1984 to 1985.

"After listening to Nancy Pocock, I became interested in refugees in Central America, and brought that concern to Ottawa Monthly Meeting," she said.

She helped the Meeting bring several Salvadorean refugees to Canada. In the mid-1980s, she became involved with North Star Railroad, a sort of modern-day "Underground Railroad", which helped bring refugees in from Central America.

In 1991, she became involved in the Canadian Relief Fund for Chernobyl Victims in Belarus, through her school. As a result of the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor near Kiev, Ukraine, in 1986, about 800,000 children in Belarus were affected by radiation.

Since the Canadian program began, 65 children came over one year, and 300 children last year.

The children are billeted in homes of families, often with kids about their own age.

The Powers have had six visits from the Belarus children, and paid for one child to come over.

The Canadian program, similar to others in Germany and the Nordic countries, takes children for the longest period of time, for 6 to 10 weeks. Tests show that after 12 weeks, the immune system can get rid of much of the radiation, but few families are able to keep the children for that long.

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