Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Tamara Tarasoff Awarded for Volunteerism


On the evening of October 28th, 2011, I was in Aylmer, Quebec where I attended the West Quebecers 2011 Community Awards. Here my daughter Tamara (b.1964) received their annual Education Community Award for her outstanding volunteer work in the Wakefield area of Quebec.

As a father with Doukhobor pacifist roots growing up in Western Canada, tears came to my eyes when Tamara in her response acknowledged the role of her parents in instilling the spirit of inquiry, activism and responsibility for ones actions. She mentioned the peace marches that she and her brother Lev used to go with us as parents and other members of the concerned public in Saskatchewan, holding signs for peace and universal brotherhood.

Acceptance by Tamara Tarasoff for Education Community Award

What we do as parents does matter. As an example to our children, we affect our gene pool and the future generations. That is Lesson 101 of the celebrated biologist Charles Darwin. That is how the quality of the world is achieved.

As well, individual actions do matter. At the end of her emails, Tamara adds a priceless bit of advice, taken from the wisdom of popular US anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-1978) whom I as an anthropologist met years ago in Moscow and Montreal:

'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.'

Tamara has taken that wisdom to heart. I have followed the EcoLaPeche Blog which she has written over the past two years to inform fellow citizens about the poorly planned regional septic sludge plant that her regional government wishes to build along the Gatineau River near Wakefield. Her brave efforts combined with the collective support of concerned community members is a classic case of basic democracy at work. The community has virtually raised the roof and brought to light the actions of seven mayors in the Gatineau area while pushing for a better solution, one that all citizens can live with. The combined efforts of 'thoughtful committed citizens' is having an effect.

As parents we are of course proud of Tamara and her non-paid volunteer work in the Wakefield community of Quebec. As father I would like to add one other attribute that deserves mention.

In our materialistic digital age, Tamara has not forgotten her Russian Doukhobor roots. When the Canadian Museum of Civilization was holding its Spirit Wrestlers Exhibition in the mid-1990s, she did a contract for the Museum in creating modules on the best of Doukhobor traditions and culture. Also she volunteered in demonstrating the art of cooking as well as spinning wool. Moreover, as time permits, she has been working on a Traditional Recipe book largely based on her first-hand lessons and memorable anecdotes from her Saskatchewan grandmothers who were both excellent cooks: Baba Luba Konkin in Kamsack and Baba Anastasia Tarasoff in Saskatoon. We all look forward to a 'best seller'.

At the Awards ceremony we were reminded that 'it takes a whole village to raise a child'. Absolutely!

West Quebecers 2011 Community Award Education
This award is given to the person who has made the most substantial contribution to the development and enhancement of education.
Tamara Tarasoff
Tamara (right) with son Nicholas and daughter Elena.

Tamara Tarasoff moved to the Wakefield area with husband John in 1996. Soon after children Nicholas and Elena were born, she was inspired to become part of this community's outstanding volunteer tradition. As a young mom, she first brought her energy and ideas to Wakefield School. She volunteered in the classroom and worked with other parents to establish the Butterfly Garden and organize events and fundraisers. One year, she organized a parent petition asking the Municipality of LaPĂȘche for a grant to complete the school playground; after she made a presentation at a municipal council meeting and received the desired funds.  In recent years she worked with community members to create a plastic bag education program for the school. As a result of this program, students reduced their use of plastic bags and encouraged community members to do likewise.  In 2011, she co-led Life Before Plastics, a follow-up to this program; over several months, Grade 4 and 5 students explored the history of plastics, participated in oral history and photography workshops, took photographs, and conducted oral history interviews with elders in the community who lived before plastic was a common material.

Other areas of Tamara's community involvement include local sports clubs, the Fairbairn Museum, the Harvest Festival and Eco Echo. More recently she has taken a leadership role fighting for a sustainable alternative to the regional septic sludge treatment plant planned for the banks of the Gatineau River; she believes it makes no sense to scar the beautiful rural landscape north of Wakefield with huge open lagoons, truck the septic tank contents from 20,000 households in 7 municipalities to these lagoons and release the effluent into the River.

She is grateful for this award and wants to thank her friends and family for their support and involvement over the years. She also wants everyone to know that, when she grows up, she wants to be a Wakefield Granny. 

From Wakefield, Quebec, there was another community award winner. It was 70-year-old Neil Faukner, this year's recipient of the Founders Award for Outstanding Leadership from the Regional Association of West Quebecers. He said that we need to depend on partnerships in making our communities work. Our spirit ought to  be similar to the one that President Obama in his election speech said 'Yes, we can!'

Neil Faukner

Signalling his advancing age, Faulkner wants to inspire youth to get involved. 'I want to encourage people to have a bigger vision of the future and what it is that we want here,' he said. 'We are lucky to live in a community where people are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in.'

Final Thoughts

As writer of this article, I would like to add a reminder to all of us as citizens of Canada. If we are not satisfied with the way that the country is going, we need to stand up and be counted not only at the ballot box, but also in our communities as volunteers. This may mean standing up to oppose the militarization of the country (instead of the Pearsonian emphasis on Peace Keeping), the attempted privatization of our basic institutions of public health care, education, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Canadian Wheat Board, and so forth.

As Tamara, Neil and so many others have shown us: Yes we can!


  1. Hello Koozma,
    You have every reason to be proud of your daughter, Tamara - congratulations. As her father, you also deserve congratulations. Although, not as poignant as Margaret Mead's quote, may I offer that 'an apple doesn't fall far from the tree' and her parents' ideals and values nurtured a child who is now a beautiful woman.
    With my very best wishes/Annie

  2. Charlie Chernoff2 November 2011 at 20:56

    Greetings Koozma,

    Thank you for the news regards Tamara. It appears that Tamara has large reserves of energy so we can expect to be hearing more from her.

    You mention Darwin. I see where Tamara's intelligence has done an excellent job of uplifting the intelligence of Koozma and Nadya. Is that one of Darwin's principles or do I have it backwards?

    In the meantime please pass on the heartiest congratulations possible to her from Texas.

    Cheers. Charlie Chernoff, Texas USA

  3. Koozma
    It was a pleasure to meet you too. Unlike you, I wasn't fortunate enough to grow up with such a rich Doukhobor heritage and it was only when my wife and I found Wakefield that we, too, found a place to put down roots and grow. If you go to my web site (which is not quite as fancy as yours)
    you might get some idea of why we too have found an avocation

    As an aging community organizer, now, my most important goal , is to encourage and support the next generation of leaders, such as your daughter.... Philip Cohen, Village Poet, Wakefield, Quebec

  4. Congratulations Koozma, you must be very proud! What a blessing children can be.
    lily Nowak, Edmonton, Alberta