Wednesday proved to be a day to honour great, hard-working women in our community.
Soroptimist is an international organization, now in 80 countries worldwide, whose members volunteer to improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment.
The council chambers were filled with the 2016 Woman of the Year and bursary recipients, their friends and family, past recipients, Soroptimist volunteers, and supportive members of the public.
The $1000 high school bursary went to young student Chandanee Dancey Orilall.
“I’m really honoured to be here, and to be in a place where there are so many women supporting women,” she said as SIC Vice-President and emcee Amy Lanteigne presented her with a bouquet.
The Live Your Dream award is a monetary award given to a selected woman in the community who is the primary breadwinner for her family and has decided to go back to school to further her education.
This year’s runner-up, receiving $1500, was Terisha Mitchell.
As she continues to work toward her degree in Agriculture at UFV while caring for her children, Mitchell has recently obtained a full-time position at a research centre in Agassiz, where she’ll be studying plant science.
Mitchell, an invasive plant activist, used a gardening analogy to describe what the community’s support means to her.
“Like an amazing companion planting, [one] may lend nutrients to the plant next to it, knowing that the garden is a much more beautiful and bountiful place when we all look out for one another.”
Tanya Karremen was the Live Your Dream winner, receiving $2,500 for UFV tuition costs.
She held in her hand the ad for the SIC award that she had cut out of The Progress back in 2013. At the time, she was struggling to provide for her four children as a single mom, realizing that she needed to go back to school but unsure if she could make it work.
“What this did at the time was give me the hope and the courage to just go for it. If there are these kinds of grants and awards out there, I’ve just got to get going.”
Before the guest of honour and Woman of the Year Charmaine Surman received her award, attendees were entertained by the incredible harmonies of The Valley Babes, who sang stunning renditions of Shake It Off, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.
As the Aboriginal Support Worker at Vedder Elementary, many of Surman’s proud co-workers came forward to honour their inspirational friend.
They spoke of her ability to truly connect with the students, and – like a “Momma Bear” – to advocate fiercely and relentlessly for them on a daily basis.
Surman teaches “wholeheartedly” and through her actions demonstrates the value of giving. She expects a lot from the students, and in doing so teaches them to expect more from themselves. She allows students to make mistakes that they’ll learn from, and lifts them up with encouragement.
As she finally addressed the crowd, Surman was overcome with joy.
“I love my job, it’s amazing,” she said, wiping a tear from her eye. “I’ve learned a lot, and I do feel like a Momma Bear with the kids.”
She expressed how much she loves seeing the students smiling faces, and that she couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.
She thanked all those that she’s worked with throughout her career thus far, and her family who have stood by her at every step of the way.
Learn more about Soroptimist Chilliwack and the meetings, programs and awards that they host by visiting chilliwacksoroptimist.org or on Facebook.