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"It's all about giving back"
Profile on VMBC Board Director Myrna Adams

For Myrna Adams, sitting idly at home and watching TV is not an option. As an active senior volunteer, a community leader, and a visionary that transforms her dreams for a better society into practice through big and small ways, Myrna proves to us all that age truly has no limit. In 2017, she was recognized as Ontario’s Senior of the Year and in the following year she was recognized in the House of Commons for Women’s History Month for her significant impact in shaping Canadian society.

 

The sum up her work, she says, “It’s all about giving back.”

 

Born and raised in Nova Scotia, Myrna’s preliminary years were during a time when things were very different from how they are today, but also the same in many ways. Her biggest source of inspiration was her father, who she describes as “a person that was always helping other people in the community. It’s something that I believe I sort of inherited from him.”

 

Myrna’s father was very active in trying to bring equality for the Black community in Nova Scotia. Segregation and discrimination against Black people was very much alive in Nova Scotia, a part of Canadian history that is often hidden. Equality for Black people was something that Myrna’s father always fought for, and it became important for Myrna to always fight for, as a young Black person living in Nova Scotia in the 1950s and 1960s.

 

Myrna’s earliest memories of being involved in the community was at the mere age of seven, when she used to help out at the church. Her Sunday school teacher Mrs. Pelley took a particular interest in the bright little girl and soon became one of Myrna’s most beloved role models.

 

“I loved her so much. She was very good to me.”

 

Myrna would help Mrs. Pelley at the picnics and with the other children, “part of it because I’d like to show off. You always want to be that person’s favourite person.” Mrs. Pelley’s love and affection on seven-year-old Myrna left a lasting impact on her as she grew up to become a passionate and driven trailblazer, making great contributions to society.

 

Myrna moved to Brampton over 40 years ago and has since invested her time and energy in giving back endlessly. Her professional career involved working as a college instructor and as community outreach and social service worker. She has been volunteering for the past 26 years with more than 35 organizations and is a member of 19 non-profit organizations. She attributes her unwavering dedication as, “… just something that I've always felt in my heart. Every day and all day we take from society, and we really should give back. Because you can't be a society of only takers, there have to be givers.”

 

And so she does. As a senior herself, programming and advocacy for seniors is at the top of Myrna’s involvements. She founded the Brampton Young at Heart Seniors and is the current President of the Brampton Senior Citizens Council where she and her team actively keep city hall on their toes, advocating for seniors.

 

“It’s really important because the city is ours. The politicians, they work for us, we don't work for them. So therefore, we need to be engaged with them. I just want to see things go on a more even keel, that we are able to do more … that seniors voices are heard, that we're not tucked away in a corner, just because we have in the past 45.”

 

As an active senior, Myrna dispels the myth that seniors are frail and don’t have any goals or ambitions.

She states, “We are very active and we want to be heard. And we want to have programs where we can work with everyone. That's really what we're looking for, and where your needs are my needs. So we're fighting for everyone. That's really what it is.”

 

Doing intergenerational programs where youth and seniors come together to do various activities such as quilting and cultivating community gardens is something that is very dear to Myrna.

 

“I do believe in young people when they come out, they benefit from the wisdom of older people. Lots of times when you come out … you're learning a variety of skills, problem solving, how to work with other people. … and you have access to another person, an older person who can listen to you.”

 

When it comes to voicing matters of importance, Myrna is unafraid to speak her truth and fiercely stand for what she believes in. As an experienced community leader, she carries a strong presence in any room she’s in and leaves a valuable impression with her words, which carry the weight of her wisdom, honesty, and compassion.

 

“Whatever you have to give, you should be able to do that. And it's not always the same every day. Some days we have very little to give. But other days, we have an abundance that we can share with others and to help others. Because there are always those that do need some sort of help, even if it's just to be able to sit and listen to somebody. That is a great help for many.”

 

Myrna embodies these compassionate words of wisdoms in her practice as a personal counsellor for people who are struggling with mental health and for women and seniors who have experienced abuse. She has worked with youth, refugees, as well as people who are experiencing homelessness. Working for a diverse range of people has led her to believe that “Equity has always been here, but not for all. It's only been for the chosen few. It’s inclusion that has actually been missing. And that's what we really have to do.”  

 

Myrna’s most recent project has been co-creating the Brampton Museum of African History and Culture. She describes the Museum to be an important educational tool on Black history, as she states, “We want to make sure that people realize that our history didn't start with slavery. So that's why we need that museum to really talk about the beginning of Black people, where we really came from, and for the many positive and great contributions that we have made throughout the world.”

 

While reflecting on the adversities that the world has faced during and pre-pandemic, Myrna is certain in saying “We can’t go back. We have to move forward.” She has faith in the power of the people coming together to truly make a difference and carries the hope that those changes will happen in her lifetime. At her age, to have experienced so much and to still carry hope for a better future and continue to work towards that future is an inspiration for us all to do better, to be better.

 

 

Myrna Adams embodies the true spirit of volunteerism, and attributes her inspiration from a quote by Nelson Mandela: “There can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to help others without expecting anything in return."

 

When it comes to her own future, she laughingly says “I plan to live to 125.”  

 

Nazneen Khan
Community Engagement Coordinator at Volunteer MBC.