A conversation with Gwen Davies, Inter Pares donor

voices : Personal Story


Gwen Davies is a writer, educator, and activist from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Inter Pares spoke with Gwen about her longstanding commitment, how small actions can make a big difference, and what gives her hope for the future. 

You have been a Sustaining Donor to Inter Pares since 1991. Can you speak about what that commitment means to you?

It is important because it is a connection with the things I intend to do in the world and the ways I want to be. But it is not a reaction, it is an action. I really like that stable consistent action to be a part of my ongoing life. And I find the organization to remarkable in the many ways that it does things that are honourable, thoughtful, and conscientious.

Whenever I see that bit come out of my account I sit and have this joyful moment and reflect on what it is and what it does, and how it is changing the world in its own small way. And that is profoundly good for me. It takes my intention and does something with it. This is the way that I can contribute at this time, by donating a bit of money.

How did you first get involved with Inter Pares?

One of my friends in university was Brian Murphy, and Brian was one of the people who instigated Inter Pares, and was there from close to the start. I kept in contact with him long after I moved from Ottawa to Halifax in the 70s. We spoke about Inter Pares and I was profoundly inspired by the organization and started to support it with monthly donations. I thought to put in a small amount and keep it sustainable; my income was and is precarious.

I believe small bits add up and I am able to maintain this amount for the long haul.

Why is it important to you to sustain your donation to Inter Pares?

One thing is that Inter Pares has always proven to be a reliable, solid organization, that always does what it intends to do. And always connects with reality from the point of view of the people it aims to support and for me that is the most important thing. It is reliable and sustainable and honorable.

How does donating make you feel?

I feel a spectrum of things. At times I feel inadequate and I have to remind myself that I am doing well to maintain my donations, considering my circumstances. It is always a little part of myself that I can rely on to not be selfish about and it is not something I pat myself on the back about. It makes me happy and makes me see a bit of something that makes a difference. This the best place I can put a small donation.

You are a writer and an educator. How are these professions meaningful to you?

I have taught writing for quite a long time. I help new writers look into themselves and to look around so they can begin to see how they speak. Everyone has the ability to look around and see or to smell or hear and to have a point of view, but not many trust that. So, my teaching helps people to learn who they are and how they see and think, and that their voice is absolutely as interesting and useful as the next person. I also worked in literacy, when plain language was just starting. I was able to help invent and implement the plain language standard nationally. Plain language gives people agency. It was exciting and energizing and I loved doing it.

What inspires you? What gives you hope?

The news is so dour much of the time. And we tend to enjoy the sense of things being wrong around us and our self-righteous responses, because it makes us feel right. But what I've learned in my years is that I am so rarely right. And what gives me hope is when I know that other people are committed to not being self-satisfying and committed to looking, listening and taking action. It reminds me that there is a lot of hope. There are wonderful things going on the world, and I am not going to see and experience them all. But knowing that they exist helps me to look for them because without them our eyes become cynical. Being aware of people taking action and making change gives me a connection to that possibility of change.

And of course, what gives me hope in my own life, are the lovely blue jays on my back deck that come and eat the peanuts I put out in the morning. They remind me to catch those moments, to not become cynical and to stay connected with reality.

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