Queen's University

Special women and a special place

The Ban Righ Centre's "Who is She?" community project celebrates and honours women who have made a difference in the lives of others. One soon-to-be nursing grad pays tribute to a special woman in her life and to the Ban Righ Centre itself.

For me, that special “she” is my aunt – a single mom of six who raised her children and worked long hours at uninspiring jobs to put food on the table and the all-important Levi’s jeans on her teenage girls. Though these responsibilities must have weighed heavily on her, my childhood memories centre on an open door and a cheery kitchen, a pot of tea, and a listening heart.

Heather Bilkes and sonsHer involvement with the Ban Righ Centre eased the transition and the anxieties when Heather Bilkes, a 30-something mother of three, opted to better life for herself and her family by returning to school. (Photo courtesy of Heather Bilkes.)

The founders of the Ban Righ Centre subscribed to that same wisdom when they opted for a house rather than an office, knowing that “a community forms more quickly, and possibly indelibly, with a roof overhead and with a kitchen as a gathering spot.”

When I began my studies at the School of Nursing, I was an invisible stranger overwhelmed by my foolhardy decision to return to school at the venerable age of 30-something, until I entered the doors of the Ban Righ Centre and I felt as if I had found a special place.

In the blur of those first few weeks of classes, when I was desperately trying to keep all those balls in the air: my studies, my marriage, my three young boys, my ailing mother-in-law, and my grieving father-in-law, no money, no job....

I tentatively accepted soup and began building unique friendships with the women of the Ban Righ Centre. Then, one day I welcomed another new woman into the fold, and realized that I belonged.

The Ban Righ Centre exists as a community for all women students struggling to achieve their dreams. Any office can offer scholarship programs and resources, but what matters most to me is the community of support that exists at the Centre every day. Only a house has a kitchen, filled with the aroma of soup made to share, and a living room with elastic walls that can always stretch to accommodate one more. The staff daily make time to congratulate, commiserate and problem solve with each one of us; they schedule us, encourage us and fight for us when we need someone in our corner.

Upstairs, two rooms tipped the scales in favour of success for me: a small computer lab that was quiet, and, way up on the third floor, a room where I could be blissfully by myself, – a brief break from the onslaughts of the day.

In the here and now, most of us don’t notice what surrounds us every day. It’s only later that we realize those unintended moments are often the most precious pearls in our treasure box of memories. As I wrap up my studies at Queen’s, I dearly hope to continue to support the existence of the Ban Righ Centre as I move on, blessed by the Ban Righ women who have shared my journey.

A few words about the Ban Righ Centre . . . .

The Ban Righ Centre at 32 Bader Lane supports women returning to study at Queen’s with bursaries, awards, counseling, a place for quiet study and companionship, special events, a Speaker Series, and homemade soup. The Ban Righ Foundation was established in 1974 by visionary women graduates of Queen’s with a mission to support women learning. The Foundation’s “Who Is She?” Community Project reminds us that the smallest gesture inspires positive change, fosters lifelong education and generates much needed financial assistance for students. For more information,
http://banrighcentre.queensu.ca/whoisshe.asp

Queen's Alumni Review, 2010 Issue #4Queen's Alumni Review
2010 Issue #4
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