It's not every day that you receive an award for doing something that you enjoy. But for 82-year-old Rose Benson, that idea recently became reality.
On Sunday, Sept. 14, at the Chapel Gallery in North Battleford, Benson was awarded the prestigious Order of the Red Cross. The award, established in 1984, recognizes outstanding humanitarian service, dedication and achievement on behalf of the Red Cross Society and the world at large.
Recipients for the award are selected by a National Red Cross committee who "must see evidence of exceptional leadership and specific measurable results that have made a significant positive impact because of that leadership." (from the Red Cross)
Benson has spent the past 30 years volunteering in many different areas with the organization. The hook that drew her in, says Benson, was the Mission Statement of the Red Cross: "To improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity in Canada and around the world."
Says Benson, "I like to help people when their lives are not what they would normally be; people at risk."
Born in a homestead shack, Benson grew up in the Wilkie area, moving to North Battleford in 2000. Her life took her into health care, but she says she always wanted to be a teacher. Now a retiree, she volunteer teaches a Red Cross Program called Respect Ed that addresses child abuse, dating relationships (healthy and unhealthy) and bullying.
But that isn't all of what Benson does with the Red Cross. She is a First Aid and AED instructor, a disaster responder, a volunteer for the Crisis Line and does search and rescue as well as civil air search and rescue. And, of course, her name may be familiar, with Benson teaching the babysitting course in and around the North Battleford area.
On top of that, Benson has worked in disasters in Canada and worked with the American Red Cross in Puerto Rico and New York after 9-11. Benson says that working in Third World countries has changed how she feels about Canada.
"I sometimes cry when I hear O Canada," she says. "I find it difficult to adjust after helping in a major disaster. Things that people are concerned about seem so trivial. Then after a few weeks, I get back to being a regular person."
"Rose is an amazing person who genuinely cares for everyone. She has been vital to Red Cross work in Saskatchewan and we feel honoured that she chose to spend her time with us," said Cindy Fuchs, Red Cross provincial director.
With a full crowd, which included her three children who travelled from different areas of the country, Benson proudly accepted the award, presented by chair of the board of directors for the Canadian Red Cross, Sarah John Fowler.
"In recognition of her deep and abiding devotion to the fundamental principles of the society, as exemplified by the extraordinary contributions she has made to our humanitarian work, and in appreciation of her ongoing commitment to the community, the Canadian Red Cross Society takes great pleasure in welcoming Rose Benson to the Order of the Red Cross." (An excerpt, used with permission, from her citation presented by the Red Cross.)
Of her children, Benson says their support is always there.
"They let me do what they know I need to for myself."
She says she doesn't do it just to help, she does it because it makes her feel good.
"Volunteering is a lot about feeding your own soul."
And when asked if she looks forward to doing more, her response is that of someone who is deeply passionate about what they do: "Well, like I say, everyday I get up and it's still my driver."