Working primarily for voluntary organizations as I do, I have been hearing a lot lately about the huge workload created by demands for greater accountability in the charitable sector. It's such a balance, isn't it? I am all for organizational accountability, but at the same time I have seen how "being accountable" can suck valuable, and disproportionate, time and energy away from organizations achieving the very impacts for which they are being called to account.
Sister Christine is a pillar in our community. She holds the Order of Canada for her work among the marginalized, particularly homeless men at the Welcome In Drop In Centre where she's worked for more than 25 years. She is also involved with 3 emergency shelters and other affordable housing initiatives, and other practical services such as transportation, medical care, clothing, job creation and many other big and small supports too numerous to mention. I drive past her Centre every day.
The story goes that when one funding organization in our city sought to get behind her work many years ago, they didn't ask her to write a proposal or fill out 10 forms. They handed her a check over a cup of tea because, as she's said, "they trusted a nun."
I've only met Sister Christine a couple of times since moving here a few years ago. She's a force to be reckoned with. I was told that if I needed to reach her, I should call between 5:30 and 6:30 am. And while I'm sure there are many admirable things about her, I particularly appreciate the fact that she, a woman of faith, has such enormous credibility for the work that she does. She strikes me as being utterly practical and 'no nonsense', caring, and virtually fearless as she works among a population most of us would cross the street to avoid. She is able to provide a haven to the homeless and isolated in our community in large part because of volunteers and partnerships with other agencies -- folks are willing to work with her.
A quick Google search gave me just a taste of what others have said about Sister Christine's work:
"She's truly a a beacon of hope for the marginalized in our society."
"Sister Christine doesn't roll out numbers and statistics when she talks about poverty. She talks about Stan...or the young man with fetal alcohol syndrome who can barely speak, but who can pick up a broom to sweep the Drop In Centre and considers it his job to do so."
"She seeks to do good and do it well."
Despite her long history, solid 'career' and advancing years, Sister Christine is still very much a hands on leader who hasn't lost her focus. As she said recently at a poverty elimination planning session, "If you get too big, you really can't help people. You need to know their names and their stories. Then you can figure out what they need."
I'm all for accountability, and I know that Sister Christine's work would stand up under scrutiny. But I'm also grateful that someone 'trusted a nun' and let her do what she was called to do. I'm inspired by her work and by the people who have supported her in it.