Interview of Lois Saunders
Profile Lois Saunders
From Women Speak (PACSW newsletter), Vol. 3, #2, 1985
"I'm poisoned with moving," says Lois Saunders, unpacking her bags for the eighteenth time in eleven years. Lois had started moving in 1967, when she left her job as housewife and mother to work for the CBC television programme "Here and Now". Her journalistic career included the editor's job for "Decks Awash", various stints at CBC radio and work with a community-based cable station in British Columbia.
The move to the west coast of Canada was a time of self-examination for Lois. Living far away from friends and family for a full year, Lois was forced to look within herself for the strength to make decisions, explore new options and handle the ups and downs of everyday life. Her search led her to the Cold Mountain Institute, where she spent three months learning about herself, her motivations and her needs.
When Lois returned to Newfoundland in 1976, she moved briefly back to her home in Beachy Cove, just outside St. John's. Lois had bought this house in 1974, and gone from a comfortable middle-class lifestyle in St. John's, to an outdoor oriented home/work place with oversized garden, greenhouse, chickens and goats. For the time she edited a little newsletter known as "Odds and Hens", which kept small home gardeners and farmers in touch with each other. She placed great emphasis on organic foods and came to a fuller understanding of her own relationship to the land. Over time, Lois has come to believe that each of us can make a contribution to the world by taking as little as possible from it, and by doing as little harm to the environment as possible. Her marginal existence taught her the value of objects as modest as a bent nail, and ingrained dislike for waste of any kind.
Lois has always been a breaker of new ground, never fearing to take on challenges. In 1977, she left Newfoundland once again to take a two-year course in Community Development through Algonquin College in Ottawa. Her experiences at the college, the contacts she made there, and in her field experiences in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, have created in her an even deeper commitment to the land and people of Newfoundland and to the resources that we have.
Since this course, Lois has worked with two rural development associations — one on the west coast of Placentia Bay, and the other on the north shore of St. Mary's Bay. These years have not been easy ones. Lois involved herself wholeheartedly with the needs and achievements of the people with whom she was working. Never one to do a job by half measures, she found that after a couple of years in such a situation, she was experiencing that familiar "burnt out" feeling.
One of her maxims about the community development field is that a measure of the worker's success is found in the time it takes to become superfluous. If a community can grow to a point where it no longer needs a development worker, then that is a sign that the worker has achieved success.
Time is another thing that Lois doesn't waste. Apart from her demanding work schedule, Lois has committed her time as a volunteer to the development of education in the Third World, in her work with Oxfam. She has supported the arts community as a member of the Board of the Resource Centre for the Arts, and has given continuing support to adult education in the province. She has also spent a term as a member of the Public Libraries Board.
This past winter, Lois took some time for herself and unpacked her bags at Drokety Droke. This is a small house in Makinsons without power or plumbing where Lois moved with her dogs and her thoughts. After a gift of a small loom, she taught herself to weave, and curtains and embroidered tapestries were received by her family as Christmas gifts. As February neared its end, Lois bought herself another house, this time in Seal Cove, Conception Bay.
Just as she had resolved to settle in one spot and unpack for good, another challenge has come along. This time, it's a job as a rural development specialist with the provincial Department of Rural Development. Now based in Clarenville, Lois will be bringing her experience in people development to the communities of the Bonavista Peninsula.
Anyone want to rent a house in Seal Cove for a couple of years?
By Anne Manuel