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by: Meaghan Trewin, Communications Coordinator

Nancy Gibson_webNancy Gibson is one of the newest members of Safe and Caring’s Board of Directors.
Nancy brings to Safe and Caring over 50 years of experience serving communities around the world in a multitude of different roles – as a nurse and, later, medical researcher in Sierra Leone; as a community leader and volunteer for numerous Edmonton-based NGOs; as a community wellness and research facilitator for the Tlicho community in the Northwest Territories; as the Science Director for the Canadian Circumpolar Institute; and as a Senior Researcher for CIET Canada.

Nancy started her academic career after her children had grown. While Chair of the Department of Human Ecology, she was able to combine her experience as a nurse, volunteer and community leader with her training as an anthropologist, to develop courses and research initiatives to reframe how students, researchers and medical personnel approached community studies.

Based on her years of experience serving communities, Nancy had come to realize that the “expert model,” where an external individual or an organization comes into a community, hands out pamphlets and uses their expertise in one particular area to tell that community what they need, simply doesn’t work. When developing her courses for community studies, Nancy “sought models for integrated and responsive community programming, responsive community-based research, so that the people in the communities were engaged. Engaging the community to help identify their priorities, design how to do the research in the community to learn more about the issues, and to decide what outcomes would best meet their needs.”

This is the model that Nancy has spent the past two decades developing, practicing and promoting, both through her academic career, as well as her ongoing community and humanitarian service. In this work, she has handed off her label as an “expert” for one she much prefers, that of “facilitator.”

Permeating all of Nancy’s professional and volunteer work, as well as her personal relationships as a wife, mother, grandmother, friend and mentor, is the principle of loving kindness. For example, one of the most important elements of Nancy’s work as a facilitator is building kind and trusting relationships within the communities she serves: a practice that leads to interesting and innovative results. Nancy cultivates kindness in her life by making it an active practice, taking time each morning to commit to making at least one kind act, and then at night, reflecting on the kindness she has experienced throughout the day and how she had acknowledged it. This mindful approach not only helps prioritize kindness, but also trains us to recognize and appreciate the kindness that others show.

According to Nancy, the benefits of practicing kindness are rewarding: “I believe this is how I am learning, and this is how I am becoming a better person, a role model for my family; this is how my relationships, friendships, my marriage become richer. It feeds my soul.”

What does kindness mean to Nancy Gibson?

“Kindness is conscious caring for yourself and others.”


– Nancy Gibson, Member of the Safe and Caring Board, Senior Researcher of CIET, Professor Emeritus & Former Chair of the Dept. of Human Ecology at the University of Alberta, Former Science Director of the Circumpolar Institute

This article appeared in our February 2015 News Bulletin. Click here to read the rest of the bulletin!

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