Retiring Appeal co-ordinator anticipates more time for refugee work

By Patricia L. Paddey, special to

The end of this month will mark the beginning of a whole new life for Gail Holland, co-ordinator (for the last six years) of the Anglican Appeal, because that’s when she will hang up the phone and log off the computer in her office at the General Synod, for the final time.

Ms. Holland, 63, will retire at the end of the year. But taking life easy is the furthest thing from her mind.

“I won’t be bored when I’m retired,” she said, laughing. “My problem will be to not be over-extended. But I keep hearing about all these interesting things that I could do, now that I won’t have to be at work during the day.”

Ms. Holland’s day job has seen her working at the national office of the Anglican Church of Canada since 1990. Starting as the executive secretary to the director of World Mission, she split her time and talents between Partners in Mission and the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund. In 1997, she moved to the Anglican Appeal, where she has remained ever since.

The Anglican Appeal is a direct mail campaign that goes to church members all across Canada; it celebrates its 10-year anniversary this year. Ms. Holland is enthusiastic as she describes the program: “The work that’s supported technically, is theological education in Canada’s North and in other parts of the Anglican Communion,” she said, “but because an ordained clergy person is often a community leader as well, their influence goes far beyond the walls of the church. It can affect everybody in the community, because the educated person becomes a spokesperson. It could be in matters as diverse as human rights or development.

“So I always think you get a big bang for your buck when you give to the Anglican Appeal.” 

Responsible for planning the appeals, Ms. Holland says she writes a lot of letters. But it is the contact with people she relishes most.

“I speak to people on the phone from all across Canada. I get wonderful, wonderful letters from people who’ve been people of faith all their lives and they write to tell me about their lives as Anglican Christians, and what they’ve done.”

As fond as she is of the appeal work, Ms. Holland admits she is looking forward to leaving employment behind, in order to have more hours to pursue her real passion – working with refugees.

Ms. Holland is the chairperson of her parish’s refugee sponsorship committee, where she works alongside committee members, helping to bring needy families to Canada and integrate them into society.

Her interest in refugee sponsorship began in the 1980s. While volunteering at a local food bank, she met many such people who needed help and support. Thus began a practice of meeting informally with refugees that continues to the present day; befriending, advising, counselling and even at times, offering shelter in her own home.

Ms. Holland says it is her love of people and her love for God that inform her work with refugees. “There’s nothing more interesting than just meeting people and hearing how they’re dealing with the events in their lives. And sometimes it’s a tragedy, and sometimes it’s just so inspiring.”

Citing it as one of her favourite Bible verses, Ms. Holland quotes Proverbs 19:17, “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.” It would seem to be not only a favourite verse, but in fact a guiding principle in the life of Gail Holland.

Patricia L. Paddey is a freelance writer in Mississauga, Ont.


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