This week, we’re launching a new series at ProWomanProLife. Over the next year, through a series of interviews, we’ll be introducing you to a number of bright, witty and funny pro-life women. They’ll be sharing stories and facts about themselves and the great work they do.
We kick off the series this week with a three part interview with Rebecca Richmond, who is the Executive Director of National Campus Life Network (NCLN). Check back tomorrow and Thursday for parts two and three of the interview.
Faye: Thanks for the interview Rebecca. Why don’t we get to know you a little before we jump into the nitty gritty? We’ve decided to ask all the women we interview a few get-to-know-you questions so readers can get a peek into your fabulous lives.
How do you spend your time?
Rebecca: Pro-life would definitely be at the top of the list. Working with NCLN goes far beyond a 9-5 job and I also like to be involved with pro-life events or projects occurring in the community.
Outside of the pro-life sphere you might find me engrossed in a book, writing or playing piano (typical introvert!). There are some great young adult events taking place for Catholics in the city and I also spend time with my many awesome roommates. I wish I could spend more time with my family, but I’m hours away. We make up for that by having a blast whenever we’re together. Visits home generally include gluten-free meals, bad puns, good-natured teasing, and belting out Disney tunes while doing the dishes.
I enjoy following federal politics and have, since moving to Toronto, become a Blue Jays fan. I also, thanks to our dog, get to throw a ball around a fair bit myself. I’m not a great pitcher but she’s a very good catcher – and she never calls foul.
Faye: Who is a personal hero?
Rebecca: There are a lot of people I admire and consider personal heroes, but the biggest heroes in my life are definitely the people I have lived, worked, and journeyed with. There are so many heroes in the Canadian Pro-Life Movement and I am moved by the passion and courage of those I work with and encounter through my work. What impacts me most, though, are the sacrifices they make on a day-to-day basis in order to work, volunteer and live the cause.
My parents and my younger brother and sister are also at the top of the list. They have been and continue to be incredible examples of love, joy, and selflessness. It’s not just that they are amazing people; they also exemplify a continual striving for excellence in loving others and in loving God. And they have always believed in me more than I could ever believe in myself.
Faye: Did you have a nickname growing up?
Rebecca: “Becca” or “Becs” or “Rebeccs” are often used by friends, but the most memorable name would have been “Gaga”. My youngest sister couldn’t pronounce my name for a couple years and would refer to me as such. (Actually, she couldn’t pronounce my brother’s name either so Rebecca and James turned into “Gaga n’ J”. Wow…we totally should have started a career in rap music with that title.) It was cute but I’m glad it never caught on. I’m still a bit miffed that there is now a Lady Gaga who has forever changed the association of that nickname…
Faye: What’s your favourite book?
Rebecca: I adore books. You know the scene of Beauty and the Beast when the Beast shows Belle the library? That’s pretty much my dream library. The Library of Parliament is a close second. So I’ve never had a favourite book or even a favourite genre. Picking one would just not be fair to all of the others. And my taste is fairly eclectic: non-fiction, biographies, science-fi/fantasy, classics (especially British lit), and children’s lit.
Faye: Do you consider yourself a member of the pro-life movement?
Rebecca: Absolutely. This isn’t “just a job”. This is a mission, a ministry, a lifestyle, a way of life. This is the human rights issue of our day and I intend to see it through. I’m sure my involvement will change at different points in my life but I’m in this for (pardon the pun) life.
Faye: Let’s get down to business. But do note that I may call you “Gaga” or “Belle” going forward.
So Belle, you’re the Executive Director of NCLN. Can you tell us a little bit about the organization and its purpose?
Rebecca: We’re a ‘by students, for students’ organization and we’re the heart of the Pro-Life Student Movement in Canada. Our purpose is to equip students to build a campus culture that respects and upholds the value and equality of all human life from fertilization to natural death. This means providing them with the training, resources, mentoring and support that they need to be effective pro-life advocates and activists on campus. We also know that these students go on to lead in their future fields, careers, communities and families, thus transforming society and the future of Canada.
We focus on the post-secondary environment for three main reasons: 1) it’s the age demographic most vulnerable to abortion 2) it’s the environment in which future leaders are formed and 3) campus culture has a major impact on society’s culture. So, in order to save lives, impact Canada’s future leaders and challenge and change Canadian culture, we have to ensure that the pro-life message is being actively promoted on campus.
Faye: What drew you to the organization?
Rebecca: When I started university, I had no plans to run a pro-life club. Despite being pro-life, pro-life activism was not even on my radar. I first encountered NCLN through a couple students who wanted to start a club at the University of Ottawa. NCLN helped us through the process of starting a club and forming us as leaders. Then, when I was ‘voluntold’ into the position of club president, I relied on NCLN’s staff for ideas, encouragement, resources, training and support. I saw firsthand how essential it is to have the pro-life message at universities as well as the impact that NCLN has in helping students bring that message to their campuses.
The executive director was stepping down as I was preparing to graduate from my undergrad and I was recruited to the position I have now. I initially saw it as a temporary 1-2 year break before returning to grad studies, but I, now in my fourth year, haven’t wanted to leave. There’s a lot of work to do and I feel very privileged to be a part of it.
Faye: Why and when was it founded?
Rebecca: NCLN was founded in 1997 when 40 university pro-life student leaders gathered from across Canada for the first Symposium. As they weekend progressed, they realized they needed something to network and support them so they could be more effective in their activism.
It started with one part-time staff member responsible for serving campuses in the entire country and has since grown to include staff and volunteers in 3 provinces.
Check back tomorrow for part 2 of the interview. Rebecca will share some the challenges students are facing on campus and how they’re responding to them.by