Volunteer Profile: Mary Durst

Volunteer Profile: Mary Durst


My volunteer involvement with Help Lesotho goes back to its very beginnings. I first learned about Pearls 4Girls from Peg Herbert in the fall of 2009. She told me about Mary Murphy and Mary’s wish to make a difference in the lives of young women by creating Pearls4Girls to support Help Lesotho. I soon spent a session at Mary’s house learning how to create a white pearl bracelet. I had never been particularly involved with crafts such as this so it was a real learning experience. Mary had a very good source for the pearls from her contacts in China.

I believe Peg had a sense that St. Joe’s Women’s Centre would be receptive to holding pearl bees with their clients. The activity would give them an opportunity to give back to the broader community. So we approached the executive director, Marsha Wilson, and asked if we could hold sessions there on a monthly basis. Her response was absolutely positive.

Over eight years later I go every third Wednesday from September to June and work with anyone who is interested. The group’s size varies but on a good day we may complete eight to ten bracelets. Last month fifteen bracelets were completed. A tally is generally kept and it is now well over several hundred.

The participants are very keen. Most have never done any beading but quickly get into the rhythm. Over the years they have also suggested new patterns and colours which make it so interesting. Feedback from purchasers also provides new ideas.

The quiet focus of the activity creates a very calming atmosphere. The women often report how relaxing it is for them, taking them away from their daily preoccupations. I must say that I have the same reaction. There is also clearly the sense that the sales of the bracelets produced are helping to make a difference in the lives of others. I let them know when and where our sales are and their success. Help Lesotho calendars are also provided to the participants and are clearly valued.

Three years ago we expanded to Options Bytown, Gilmour Street. This is a smaller group but very faithful and dedicated. They report the same sense of satisfaction with their work.

One of my favourite moments is when we wind up a session and group the completed bracelets and everyone realizes what beautiful handiwork they have created together. A genuine sense of pride is evident. Each woman has helped to make a difference in young people’s lives just as she is being supported by the broader Ottawa community.

Mary Durst

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