The Ban Righ Centre for Mature Women has launched the “Who Is She” campaign to raise awareness and increase visibility for the Centre.
Elspeth Christie, co-chair of the Ban Righ Board of Directors, said the project is an opportunity for individuals to thank important women in their lives and for the Ban Righ Centre to raise money.
“The ‘Who is She’ project is a community project which is a win-win for everyone,” Christie said.
You get to thank a woman who has meant a great deal to you through your life [and] you get the opportunity to contribute money in her name to the Ban Righ Centre.”
She said that individuals have the opportunity to write a tribute about the special woman in their lives and that the tributes are then posted online at banrighcentre.queensu.ca
“The Ban Righ Centre supports women and what we want to do is have you access your memory banks and maybe think of someone who had supported you. Someone who you may not even have publically or even privately thanked, and in her name contribute ‘x’ number of dollars to the Centre,” she said, adding that a board member thought of the idea for the project at a meeting last year.
She said that Ban Righ will be hosting a number of “Who Is She” events before the project wraps up in early May.
“Throughout the year we are going to have number of events that continue to remind people about the project,” she said. “We want more visibility in the Kingston community and beyond.” Lisa Webb, student advisor at the Ban Righ Centre, said the Centre gives mature female students who come from many different backgrounds the opportunity to find a support system within the Queen’s community.
The Ban Righ Centre, which was originally started in 1974, now serves approximately 200 students.
“They are students who come from all different backgrounds and range in ages 19-78. They come from various countries around the world, as well as local students,” she said, adding that the Centre also provides its mature female students with resources to help them through their university experience.
“A lot of students who don’t find out about us, they come back to school and do four-year degrees and do it alone,” she said. “[We have] a bursary program for mature students, there’s free homemade soup everyday for students, we have a computer lab and we have two student advisors who provide support.”
Webb said the “Who is She” project is a perfect fit for the Centre.
“It honours women and it acknowledges what women and men do for other women. It’s a great fit because that’s what the Centre does as well,” she said.
Webb said the project is a great way for raising the Centre’s profile around campus, as well as an opportunity for students and members of the community to contribute to the betterment of the Centre.
“The physical things are always needs that we have, but then there’s also the longevity of the Ban Righ Centre. It was set up as a legacy from some of the first women students at Queen’s in the late 1800s and you really need money to keep the legacy going,” she said, adding that the physical structure on Bader Lane is important because it helps Centre members to feel like a legitimate presence on campus.
“A lot of students come back and wonder if they really belong here, or feel isolated. Because in supporting this actual physical house here on campus, it’s saying to the students that you belong here and we support you,” she said. “Having a house here on campus, having furniture, having soup and computers costs money and that ties into the need to raise funds and increasing our visibility on campus.”
Webb said fundraising is important because university can often be an intimidating environment for mature students and having a homelike atmosphere makes a difference.
“There’s no orientation for mature students, there’s no peer group that you come with, you don’t live in residence so it’s hugely different,” she said, adding the anyone can visit the Ban Righ Centre website and write a maximum of 200 words as a tribute to someone who has had an impact on their lives and make a donation to the Centre. The minimum donation is five dollars. “It’s women who are being honoured, but anyone can honour them,” Webb said. “It’s a great gift idea if you looking for a special way to acknowledge somebody or give a gift to somebody. We are hoping students will get involved and are reaching out to the greater Kingston community.” Heather Bilkes, School of Nursing’s post-RN ’11, said membership at the Centre has helped her feel like a part of a community.
“There are services here that are important to students. Everything from the bursary programs, to posting ads to look for apartments. It’s not like I was paying for these services, and this is great opportunity to give back,” Bilkes said. “It’s not just a house that you access … it’s a home and a community and it’s made a big difference to my ability to cope and feel like I belong here and feel that I have to right to be here, “she said, adding that the Centre was the go-to resource when she first entered university.
“We had to move from Québec to come here. We didn’t know where we were going to live and didn’t really have any set plan,” she said. “It gives me a chance to be involved, not just to come and learn, but a way of contributing to a community within a larger community.”
Bilkes said she really appreciates the fact that the Centre is headquartered in a home rather than office building. “There are a lot of offices on campus that help students with various issues, and this could have been an office too with a secretary that could send you to this site or that site, depending on whatever your need is. But it’s here and it’s a home and it’s sort of all here to provide you a sense of empowerment too,” she said. “There are issues that mature students go through, and you come here and you feel that education is not a right, it’s a gift and it’s worth it for all the sacrifices that you and your family goes through.”
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