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Woman Of Distinction

Some people are just “shiny!” Their positive attitude radiates outwards and you just know that they will excel at their goals. Karen Davis is just such a person and is the driving force behind The Dolly Parton Imagination Library program in Manitoba, helping to initiate Imagination Libraries in 24 communities, including Rolling River First Nation at Erickson, Keeseekoowenin First Nation at Elphinstone and the City of Dauphin.

Not surprisingly, Davis was recently the recipient of one of four 2011 YWCA “Women of Distinction Awards” at the 24th Annual Women of Distinction Awards Dinner held last month at the Keystone Centre in Brandon. Nominees are women whose achievements are considered outstanding, who are an inspiration to others and who have made a significant contribution to their community.

Davis, an Aboriginal woman and single parent who grew up on Ebb &Flow First Nation knows first hand the challenges that many parents and children face. Her firm belief in the importance of literacy has dictated much of her life’s work.

Davis’s career has always had something to do with families, promoting positive parenting, healthy babies and early childhood development. She has worked for the Winnipeg Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, the Selkirk Growing Years Family Resource Centre and the Swan Valley School Division as the preschool co-ordinator. Her current position is as the Brighter Futures co-ordinator for the West Regional Tribal Health Department. “I know what the future might look like for children who start kindergarten holding a book upside down,” said Davis.

The Imagination Library is a program of Parton’s Dollywood Foundation, where children under the age of five receive an age-appropriate book every month at no charge to the child’s family. A modest fund-raising effort begins the process and Davis is happy to mentor a community through the process. Catriona Sturton, regional co-ordinator for the Dollywood Foundation Canada sent in the nomination. “Karen’s ability to navigate issues through a community process to ensure effective design and outcome is a valued and often rare ability,” said Sturton.

Sturton also said, “Davis has a natural talent for encouraging other people,” and I felt this personally when she invited me to attend the awards dinner, along with a group of women who she described as “hardworking and awesome” to share her accolade. Regretfully, treacherous roads kept me at home, but I asked her how she felt about getting the award. “It was the most exciting night of my life,” said Davis. “I wish every woman could have that experience of being acknowledged.”

Davis is holding an Imagination Library information session in Brandon on May 3. For further information contact [email protected] net.

– Candy Irwin writes from Lake Audy, Manitoba

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