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If I could give one bit of advice to girls who want to change the world, it’s this:  First, find strong women as role models.

I’ve seen this girl-woman bond blossom from my Canadian homeland, to a far-off country that always has my heart, India.

I’ve seen it work across cultures, in war (Afghanistan) and in peace (the U.S.).

I’ve seen it build, across faiths, age groups, and all kinds of borders.

As a “big sister” to two inner-city girls for most of my adult life, I’ve watched them grow to become strong, successful women with exuberant, healthy children of their own, and big plans for the future.

And as a long-time sponsor of girls in India and Bangladesh through Plan Canada, I’ve seen the tiny difference one girl-then-woman in the developed world can make in the village of another girl-then-woman in developing countries.

I have been inspired, my whole life, by strong women.

Because I am grateful for their unconditional love, compassion, and example of kindness-in-action, I’m devoting this week to writing real thank you notes to women who have made a difference in my life.

Where else to start but with my Mom?

We’re both farm girls, born and raised.  Same farm.  Same strong role models (her father, the farmer-turned-philanthropist; many farm women; and a woman named Stella.)

My Mom is still working as a social worker-caregiver, at 76.  She is such a good neighbor to elders, especially those with dementia, Alzheimer’s and significant physical disabilities, that she was named “Person of the Year” by her community.

Jean Morrow, "Person of the Year" award ceremony

This honor, sponsored by the Baynes Sound Lions, came with so many trophies that my parents’ home in Fanny Bay, B.C., sparkles with gilt angels, wreaths and laurels.  This is a source of amusement, and pride, for the rest of the family.

Behind her back, we call her “Saint Jean” — only with pride and affection.

Here’s one small way my Mom has inspired me.  She didn’t seek this award; she was nominated by neighbors.

She didn’t tell anyone about this honor, either.  Her five children and many grandchildren only learned about it through a neighbor, who generously sent photos after the ceremony.

I was so excited to learn about this public recognition of my Mom’s selflessness (like many mothers, she never wants any attention or recognition), that I called her local paper and wrote a news story, for free.

It was big news in the community — my Mom truly didn’t want it known.

Following her example, I didn’t tell anyone about the newspaper story in advance.  Mom called one day to report that she had just opened her local weekly to find her own photo with a big “Person of the Year” headline.

“It says this story is by my eldest,” she said, emphasizing the word to make it clear she wasn’t amused. “I’m not talking to you anymore.”

She did.  But only after I promised I wouldn’t write any more newspaper stories about her — ever.  Too embarrassing in front of her neighbors, she said.

I kept my promise, Mom.  Welcome to WordPress.  It’s only worldwide, so it’s unlikely anyone in tiny Fanny Bay will see this.

TOMORROW:  Why Stella is so special to generations of girls