January 9, 2003 Thursday Final Edition
The Vancouver Province
She left school and her Calgary home at 16. She married at 17.
By the time she was 21, Pamela Andrews was living on a decrepit farm in Smoky Lake, Alta., with no running water, two young sons and an abusive husband who tyrannized her and disciplined his boys with a length of belt from a combine harvester. The farm failed and the family returned to Calgary. Dismayed by the increasing abuse of her children (she now had four boys), Andrews left her husband. Six months later he jumped in front of a train and killed himself.
"First I was a single mother of four on welfare," says Andrews, now 41. "Now I was a widow with four kids on welfare."
The fact Andrews merely survived this gauntlet of tragedy and hardship to earn her high school diploma might have been enough to warrant an award for courage. But there's more.
In the early 1980s Andrews endured a misdiagnosis of AIDS. In 1987, after enrolling in UBC's occupational therapy program, she was diagnosed with chronic progressive multiple sclerosis. Despite the increasing complications of the disease, Andrews graduated and in the meantime earned one of the six inaugural Courage to Come Back Awards created in 1999 by the Coast Mental Health Foundation to honour individuals who have shown inspirational courage in their recovery from illness, injury or adversity.
"Just being nominated back then was kind of cool," said Andrews, who along with her helper dog Gem, a handful of other previous winners and a contingent of corporate sponsors, was present yesterday to help launch the 5th Annual Courage to Come Back Awards nomination campaign.
"The nomination makes you reflect about how far you've come and allows you to give yourselves credit for what you've done," Andrews added. "It's a real boost, not just for me but for all of us in the family. It allows us to realize how far we've come. And it provides proof for others that you can grow beyond your past."
Nominations for the awards are open to any resident of B.C. and can be from one of the following areas: mental health, general medicine, youth, physical rehabilitation, chemical dependency and social/economic adversity.
The awards will be presented at an April 24 gala dinner at the Westin Bayshore with hosts Silken Laumann (a past recipient herself) and Deborra Hope. The life story of each recipient will be featured in The Province and covered by Global Television in a special series for the Early News.
Nomination forms are available at Scotiabank branches and at the "Courage" website: www.coastfoundation.com. Assistance in competing nomination forms is available by calling toll free 1-877-602-6278.
Nomination deadline is February 17.
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