Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 24, 2007
- WCR photo by Ramon Gonzalez
Josephine Pallard tries to imitate Mother Teresa in her daily life.
When Leticia Cables was facing imminent deportation in 1999 she called Josephine Pallard for protection. It was a good call because Pallard, a dedicated advocate for immigrants and refugees, provided sanctuary for the Filipino nanny at St. Anthony's Church, grabbing national and international headlines.
Cables eventually won her battle to stay in Canada and today she lives in Edmonton with her family and works together with Pallard assisting other immigrant women.
"She has a heart of gold," Cables says of Pallard. "She is part of my life now. She is a role model for all women because she sticks up for women who have problems."
Pallard is the first winner of the Western Catholic Reporter's Worker in the Vineyard Award for her commitment to immigrants, refugees and the community in general.
Along with providing sanctuary to Cables, the retired teacher has distinguished herself by helping to sponsor more than 500 immigrants and refugees into Canada, launching English as a second language classes, helping professional women get their credentials recognized in Canada and helping to launch two organizations for women immigrants.
If that isn't enough, Pallard, a member of St. Anthony Parish, also runs a Philippine youth music group and holds workshops on topics such as conflict resolution.
"Faith is what will keep you alive. "You have to have spirituality."
- Josephine Pallard
"I'm so humbled by this award," Pallard said Dec. 17. "It's something I never would have expected in my whole life as a volunteer. I did it and I'm still doing it for the glory of God."
The Cables case brought both Cables and Pallard into the spotlight but if you know anything about Pallard - a humble, loving, yet strong woman - she didn't do it for the headlines, which she avoids.
She just wanted to help a woman who desperately needed help - just like Mother Teresa would have done it. "I've always tried to epitomize Mother Teresa who said, 'I don't do great things. I only do small things with great passion.'"
Pallard has been doing small things with great passion since she arrived in Edmonton from her native Philippines 40 years ago. In the process, she has helped thousands of refugees achieve a better life in Canada.
Despite her distaste for the limelight, Pallard has trouble staying away from it.
In recognition of her dedicated service, Pallard was presented with an honorary doctor of laws degree from St. Stephen College at the University of Alberta in October. In 2005 she was presented with the Governor General's Award in Ottawa.
Faith has been important in Pallard's life and work. She prays at work often, asking God for guidance, and she attends Mass regularly. "Faith is what will keep you alive," she says. "You have to have spirituality."
Pallard is the eldest of eight children born to a working class family in Baguio City in the Philippines. She learned to compromise and to care for others from her mother. Her fisherman father taught the importance of defending her beliefs. "These things made me a strong child."
- photo supplied
Josephine Pallard received an honorary doctor of laws degree from St. Stephen's College in October
As a child she put aside her desire to be a nun to help raise her brothers and sisters. "My parents told me I should do what nuns do in my own home, taking care of my siblings."
At one point, Josephine sold roasted peanuts and Popsicles on the streets of Baguio to support the family.
As she grew up, she became increasingly aware of the atrocities, poverty and suffering caused by the military dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. She became a leader in the youth movement for social justice.
In 1967, at age 22, Pallard decided to leave the Philippines for Canada to further her education and to live in a land where she believed there was hope and opportunity for all.
Before she left she promised her family she would help them get out of poverty. "I won't let you be poor for the rest of your lives," she told them. She kept her word. Over the years she was able to bring her whole family to Edmonton.
Married to Ray Pallard for 35 years, she and Ray have one daughter, Aldea. Counting brothers and sisters and cousins, the Pallard family has grown to a size of 40, with Josephine acting as the matriarch.
Pallard was well educated and spoke English fluently when she arrived in Edmonton on a snowy October day wearing only a thin, cotton outfit.
With few resources, she set up an English as a second language class around her kitchen table for a small group of Lebanese women she had met.
From 1971 to 1975, while she studied education at the University of Alberta, Pallard helped foreign students become proficient in English. This was the beginning of her voluntary involvement with immigrant and refugee settlement.
For more than 30 years Pallard has taught English as a second language and was influential in establishing the International Heritage Languages Association, which upgrades professional women whose credentials are not recognized in Alberta.
"When they learn that they have rights, light comes into their lives"
- Josephine Pallard
The association continues to help women get out of minimal jobs into post-secondary education. Many of the women have become teachers, researchers and consultants on justice issues.
In 1979, responding to Archbishop Joseph MacNeil's appeal for the sponsoring of refugees, Pallard became chair of St. Anthony's Parish Immigrant Committee.
Working closely with Catholic Social Services, over the last 28 years, the committee has sponsored more than 500 people from Vietnam, Poland, Bosnia, Croatia, Albania, Iraq, Algeria, Africa, El Salvador, Chile and Nicaragua, helping them to meet their financial, housing, food, medical and educational needs.
In this context Paulette Johnson, program coordinator for Catholic Social Services' refugee sponsorship program, met Pallard some eight years ago.
"She has a great big heart," Johnson said. "She is always ready to step forward when she sees a need. I don't know where she gets the energy."
Alice Colak, director of immigration and settlement services with CSS, has always admired Pallard's commitment to immigrants and refugees.
"She is an amazing leader who is excellent at building relationships in the community and meeting people's needs."
- Alice Colak
"She is an amazing leader who is excellent at building relationships in the community and meeting people's needs," Colak said. "She is a compassionate, big-hearted, generous person who doesn't say 'no.' And she has lots of courage in pursuing what's the right thing to do."
In 1984, Pallard helped launch Changing Together - an organization where women are protected, trained and empowered to exercise their rights, develop their education and improve their socio-economic status.
Many of the centre's clients were abused in their old country and continue to be abused here. "When they learn that they have rights, light comes into their lives," Pallard said. "It's a heavenly light." The centre has helped well over 4,000 families.
Besides volunteering at the centre for immigrant women in many capacities, Pallard chaired its board of directors for six years and two years ago, upon retiring as a teacher, she became the centre's executive director.
Sister Jeannette Filthaut, who teaches conversational English at the centre, said Pallard tackles justice issues like human trafficking and mail-order brides.
"She is just inspirational," Filthaut said. "She is an educator who educates through her own justice actions."
Busy as Pallard is, she also volunteers in the Filipino community and with a youth group she founded. The Saranay Youth and Adult Rondalla (string) Ensemble teaches children to play musical instruments indigenous to the Philippines. Every two years she takes them to the Philippines or Europe for concerts.
Pallard also conducts workshops and seminars on conflict resolution, bullying and youth leadership.
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