HOF039: Barb Gamble / Eleanor Ryan
In 1979, Mayor Marion Dewar initiated and championed Project 4000 in response to the shocking Southeast Asia refugee crisis. One of the mayor’s first initiatives was to request the assistance of Barbara Gamble and her husband to organize the Project 4000 public rally at Lansdowne Park. On a hot July 12th evening, 3000 people packed the Civic Centre Halls in downtown Ottawa. These people wanted to make a difference; it was their compassion and good will which fuelled Project 4000.
Soon after, Ms. Gamble was invited by the mayor to serve as a member of the inaugural volunteer Management Team and to become a member of the Project 4000 Board of Directors. As a member, from 1979 to1983, she was fortunate to work with respected civic, community, business, ethnic and religious leaders. The experience was a unique opportunity for her to witness the power of collective action.
Together with others, Project 4000 volunteers established teams to form and coordinate refugee sponsorship groups. They spoke to groups in workplaces, schools, homes, and faith-based centres; anywhere people wanted to learn about how to become sponsors. At that time there was little settlement infrastructure, so they formed committees to deal with housing, employment, education, health, fundraising, and media relations. They connected with government agencies and services to inform their efforts to support sponsors and refugees. The phones in their donated office space rang continuously. The Project 4000 team was proud of the many citizens who opened their hearts and homes to refugees.
Through the years, Ms. Gamble has continued her involvement with refugees as an advocate, the chair of a sponsorship group, the Executive member of the Marion Dewar Scholarship fund and as a member of the Stakeholder Committee of Refugee 613 in Ottawa.
In 1979, Eleanor Ryan was one of many persons who were aware of the plight of South East Asian refugees subsequently known as the “Boat People”. She volunteered to sit as a member of Project 4000’s Board of Directors from its inception. She later became the Chair of the project’s Executive Committee. She provided guidance and support to the project’s operations. She worked on a regular basis with a small number of staff and volunteers. She and her fellow volunteers recruited staff and set up committees. They also supported the Sponsorship Committee by partnering with small community agencies that served immigrant populations in Ottawa. They worked closely with the English as a Second Language program. They also sought the support of professional groups like the Dental Association in order to provide services to the refugees.
Eleanor Ryan witnessed the enthusiasm demonstrated by the large numbers of the city’s residents as well as those from outlying communities, all of whom shared the common goal of helping South East Asian refugees. She was moved by the compassion demonstrated by region’s citizens. She later observed that Project 4000 became a model for other communities across Canada, committed to the resettlement of Asian refugees.