The Belleville Intelligencer, Tim Meeks, December 7, 2017
A lifetime of compassion and humanitarian outreach to Africa has earned Belleville’s Mieke Thorne a lifetime award from the Canadian Samaritans for Africa.
Thorne, a long-time activist and a member of Amnesty International, received the award in recognition of her selfless humanitarian outreach to Africa. Rose Kantiono, a Quinte Grannies for Africa fashion show participant, nominated Thorne and did a power point presentation at the ceremony.
“I have been in love with Africa my entire life,” Thorne said while accepting the award. “I was actually considering being a nun in Africa until the boys came along.”
She spoke of her work with Quinte Grannies for Africa and mentioned the African grannies who had recently visited for the book launch of “Powered by Love” in Quinte, as well as her work with refugees and human rights through Amnesty International.
“We are not the heroes, they are the true heroes,” Thorne said in dedicating her award to the grandmothers of Africa.
Thorne said helping others is one of the most important aspects of her life, and others should take the time in doing their part to help.
“We do things because we want to, we don’t do them for recognition, but it was the first award I have ever received for my work, so it was a wonderful feeling.
“When it comes down to it, we’re all people,” she said. “They’re all families and they all care about their families. What I’ve learned is that we’re not any different, we just have different cultures, different kinds of cooking, but on the whole, we’re all the same and we have to respect each other and who they are,” she said.
Canadian Samaritans for Africa is a registered charitable organization founded on the Christian principles of love, solidarity and collaboration. The group supports asset-based grassroots goals by reaching out to African women and rural communities, religious groups and non-religious organizations to promote educational initiatives, capacity-building, empowerment of women, and rural water and sanitation projects. It believes the end of poverty in Africa will come about through a pro-active approach that stimulates development through cultural and human development at grassroots level, rather than reactionary approaches which perpetuate a cycle of dependency.
Thorne came to Canada from Belgium 47 years ago, and since her move as a 21-year-old, the energetic and energizing woman, as described by colleagues, has dedicated much of her time helping refugees from all over the world, including Vietnam, Kosovo, Ethiopia, Congo and Syria.
During the Canadian Samaritans for Africa ceremony a member of the audience made a donation to Stephen Lewis Foundation which Thorne brought to the next Quinte Grannies meeting to be forwarded to the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign.