She is not the image of someone who shakes things up. She’s quiet, has a modest handshake – modest stature, and she’s modest.
When someone suggested I interview Janice Eisenhauer, I said ‘Janice who?’. I met with her a few weeks back – she welcomed me into her living room. We had some quiet time before her husband returned from the end of their day. She offered a beverage, some snacks. The kind host. She’s not front page news, not the name on everyone’s tongue – and just this week she is being recognized by Alberta for her work – an Alberta Order of Excellence Award. She’s won the Lewis Perinbaum Award for her volunteer work .
Her parents were from Nova Scotia. Mom, a nurse, from Bridgewater, dad, an oil-patch lawyer, from Lunenburg. Her stepmother from Dartmouth. She has two older brothers, one husband a son studying at the University of Victoria. Janice began work life in banking, business … and travel. At thirty-one, married, divorced, remarried – her travel adventures began with a focus on adventure, sports and learning about cultures. Biking and hiking included adventures around South East Asia, China, Japan.
Environmental activism – came from influences of mom and dad – as did a moral grounding, integrity rooted in early days of camping, fishing … and it all came together as Janice entered her ‘40’s’. Her B.A. (hons) in International Development at University of Calgary came later …
How did it all start? Janice told me of her shock reading about the Taliban. She and colleagues at University of Calgary were founding members of the organization – inspired by Sally Armstrong’s book Veiled Threat, exposing the atrocities.
In short, what does your organization do? “Education. We are non-political, non-religious, working with Afghan partners to assist women and girls in a place that has 50+ languages. Small village literacy classes - and libraries – training teachers. We have fantastic board members, staff and volunteers - here and in Afghanisatn - working and monitoring our programs.”
What would you credit, or attribute, your success to? “Sticktuitiveness to stay the course – Richard and many others have been so supportive. To be able to work on something I am passionate about, I’m always learning. Not being afraid to make mistakes. Loss of friends really rocks you …”
What has held you back?“Maintaining work/life balance – to not be overloaded. Financial constraints. Volunteering doesn’t provide a travel budget. Not enough cash for operations.”
Last words? “Our ability to travel – to learn from other cultures is a big part of our lives. The Calgary community is wonderful, being Canadian, to have the right to the work I do.”
I’ve met people who brag about their accomplishments. I’ve met people who have led rather ordinary average lives who don’t talk much about their accomplishments because there aren’t many. And I’ve met Janice Eisenhauer. She’s the modest ‘doesn’t brag’ type who simply saw a problem she thought she could do something about – oh wow, has she ever.
I asked Janice how she sees her business “human rights advocacy education”; I asked her ‘how’s business looking, going forward over the next quarter?’
… eyes on the prize – women & girls in Afghanistan. Very challenging – lots of change taking place, staying focused on our mission, tied to conflict and poverty.
And over the next five years?
… not to lose ground on the progress we’ve made. Baby steps, patience, these are multi-generational issues ..
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… we don’t spend much money! People – rigorous vetting, to get a fit with our values.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Janice Eisenhauer and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… they know what they are getting. Passionate. Strong focus on the goals. We come together and we can make a difference.
How would you describe your management style?
… we have 13 chapters, mostly volunteers here – and 20 in Afghanistan. I strive to be open and inclusive. I’m forever learning how to value what each person brings. You can’t have expectations on HOW people do things.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… I’m easy-going. Not anxious. About our son. About health.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… a professor at U of C, Dr. Ron Glasberg opened my mind to self-awareness of global issues, gave me the confidence to trust my gut. Sally Armstrong. Lauryn Oates, our program director for her passion.
Work-life balance, do you have it?
… travel …
What do you read?
… on my Kindle – historical fiction, cultural books – and everything I’ve been able to find on Afghanistan.
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