Gail Kunkel
Eleanor Dingwall
Nadia Roberts
Rebekah Mahaffey


In her own words, Gail’s life is a story of resilience and tenacity. She has moved from being a poor, illiterate, adolescent single mother, who was a victim of violence, to a woman who expects to earn her PHD in Clinical Developmental Psychology in 2007 at York University.

Along the way Gail has developed a passion to pursue studies in the area of women’s and children’s resiliency in the face of trauma and violence. Her graduate work focus is on women’s transition to motherhood, especially those with complex, difficult histories of neglect, violence and loss. She is directing her studies at understanding the influence of depression upon a woman’s development

After graduating with her MA in 2002, Gail underwent major surgery and has a mobility disability requiring the use of a wheelchair ever since. Dealing with her disability and completing her PHD has meant that her teaching assistant job at York had to end. She says “ My abilities, resolve and tenacity and sense of humour are getting me through the education journey – but they are not paying the tuition or my education expenses.”

Gail has come to realize that advocacy is as important as treatment. She plans to be a registered clinical psychologist with an academic position in a Canadian University, while still focusing on women’s mental health. She will provide education on the effects of violence in women’s lives across the lifespan.

Gail is very pleased to have a grant from SFC. She is an intelligent, capable woman, a role model for all women in the power of positive thinking and determination. The extra burden of disability has not stopped her progress but has added to her compassion and empathy.


Elle expects to receive her Baccalaureate in Laws (LLB) Common Law from the University of Ottawa in 2006. Motivated by a personal need for the state to adequately address the rights of children and to provide support to women and children fleeing abuse, she is planning to practice with a focus on children’s rights and family law. One of her professors highlighted her commitment to advocacy on behalf of women and felt it emerges at least in part from her own remarkably difficult past and her heroic struggle against it.

Elle worked two jobs and attended school full time with the support of friends and an elderly relative to earn the grades and the finances to attend university. She lost her Carleton academic scholarship as a result of a depressive illness related to childhood trauma, nevertheless with perseverance and increasing loans she graduated with highest honours.

Elle feels she has gained valuable experience in legal practice from her case work at the University of Ottawa community Legal Clinic, where she helps provide free legal services to low income persons and students under the supervision of a practicing lawyer. She has learned about the realities of working with low income clients, many of whom have special needs. She plans to offer pro bono and low cost legal services to both minor and adult victims of domestic violence as a part of her practice.

She is most appreciative of the Soroptimist Foundation of Canada “for providing wonderful educational opportunities to women”.


Nadia expects to receive her Masters in Anthropology, from Simon Fraser University in May of 2006. She is focusing on mental health treatment from a cross-culture perspective. This should produce a better understanding of the gaps in the Vancouver mental health system. She is specifically looking at the treatment of depression in Vancouver, Canada and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

Nadia is interested in the likelihood of women seeking out alternative treatments for depression and the state of their availability. This includes the compartmentalizing of healing that happens when biomedical physicians are not open to discussing alternative treatments, which is not conducive to healing. She wants to bring awareness to the importance of integrated and holistic healing when treating mental health patients.

Nadia has experienced depression first hand and feels well qualified to conduct fieldwork in this area of study. She has spent the summer of 2005 in Dar Es Salaam in a Psychiatric Agricultural Rehabilitation Village, where patients are part of the community and involved in the production of food. They have access to multiple modes of healing including biomedical and spiritual with both types of practitioners working together to address the needs of the patient. This is very different from an institutional model, that removes the patients from the community and isolates them in an institutional setting and or prescribes drugs that focus only on the biological aspects of the illness.

Nadia intends to pursue a PhD in Vancouver where she plans to stay. Her professor anticipates a very promising professional career for a brilliant, mature, enthusiastic person.


Rebekah is working toward receiving her Masters in Planning at the University of British Columbia in June 2006. Her interest lies in disciplines that centre on the pursuit of social justice and poverty reduction, plus issues/policy initiatives with an international perspective as they particularly impact the experiences of women. Growing up in Rumbai, Indonesia; London, England; & Tripoli, Libya, Rebekah became aware of the need for programs of poverty reduction that were internationally–aware and equitable. She also became aware of the gender poverty link, with women and their children being among the poorest segments of the population.

She believes the discipline of planning, with its interdisciplinary focus, also allows for intellectual tools to be utilized to a dynamic political effect in the wider world and community. Planners can be front–line agents in the growth and change of society and community. Her thesis focus looks at the effects of incorporating gender into a responsive and empowering framework for social change in a varying community of individuals.

Rebekah wants to work with a governmental or non-governmental agency focusing on policy planning in relation to gender and Canadian immigration issues. She has been working with these issues both inside Canada at the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association and outside Canada at the Sri Lanka Shilpe Children’s Trust. She is impressed with the great importance of working to organize and enable social programs that respond to poverty and the gender experience of those living with deprivation.

Her professor sees her as an outstanding academic with intense desires to apply her strengths to working with women in need. Rebekah states that she is excited by the opportunity the Soroptimist Foundation of Canada Grant represents to continue her studies without financial pressures. She also appreciates the vote of confidence this grant represents in encouraging her to focus herself, her work and her energies for the advancement and equality of all women.

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