March 5, 2012

TORONTO - As she takes over as executive director of KAIROS, Jennifer Henry's priority is keeping the ecumenical social justice organization close to its roots in Canada's churches.

"My commitment is to preserve the ecumenical character of this organization and I think that's also the commitment of people around the board table," Henry said in an interview.

Henry becomes the second executive director in KAIROS' history March 12 when she takes over from Mary Corkery.

The 44-year-old Henry has been with KAIROS longer than it has existed. She started almost 20 years ago as a contract employee of the Ecumenical Coalition for Economic Justice. ECAJ and nine other Church-run coalitions were eventually folded into KAIROS in 1999.

In the near term, KAIROS isn't going to have Canadian International Development Agency money to fund projects with overseas partners.

That door was closed when International Development Minister Bev Oda told somebody to insert a "not" into a funding agreement senior CIDA staff had already signed off on. The controversy that ensued pushed it onto national headlines.

"We have come through it stronger. Every crisis helps you articulate your vision in a clearer way. It gives you the opportunity to pull together. It gives you the opportunity to express your hope," said Henry.

"We were also able to get a message out to the Canadian public about who we are."

Henry believes KAIROS is all about the Christian value of hope. "We demonstrate our hope in the action we take in the world. As we take action in the world and that brings about change, we generate in ourselves and in communities greater hope," she said.