June 20th, 2024

Medal recipient honoured for philanthropy, gender activism

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on December 23, 2022.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman International Model and philanthropist Jaime VandenBerg receives a Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee medal for giving her time and talents in service to her community, province and country, during a ceremony this week at city hall.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

After being unable to attend the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee medal ceremony at the beginning of the month, Jaime VandenBerg received her medal Wednesday at City Hall.

VandenBerg was one of five recipients in a ceremony staged by YWCA Lethbridge and District on Dec. 1 but was unable to attend as she was out of the country.

On Wednesday, VandenBerg received her medal in a small ceremony with family members, Deputy Mayor Ryan Parker, Lethbridge YWCA CEO Jill Young and YWCA external relations director Cat Champagne in attendance.

Young said a few words at the beginning of the ceremony and said they were gathered to pay tribute to an individual that has given her time, talents and service to our community, province and for our country.

She introduced VandenBerg by highlighting some of her accomplishments. VandenBerg is an international model and philanthropist from Lethbridge, she’s an accomplished writer, and finished her degree in philosophy with honours and won over $50,000 in a writing contest.

“Her passion for writing and thirst for change inspired her to co-found Canadian Herstory, a non-profit dedicated to teaching Canadian women’s history. Recognized for her activism in fighting gender-based violence, Jaime won a Diana award after keynote speaking at Women of Distinction,” said Young.

After receiving her medal VandenBerg shared with those present that she climbs mountains and boxes in her spare time, while fundraising for causes dear to her heart.

She said that she started climbing mountains as therapy after surviving an incident of gender-based violence in 2021 while in Medellin, Colombia, where she was held at gunpoint and was faced with two options, either being taken or getting shot at.

“I thought I was going to die earlier, so it’s crazy because I feel like every day really is an opportunity to make change and actually go for your goals. I know it sounds so silly to say every day is an opportunity and it sounds so convoluted, but when you’re looking down the barrel of a revolver and you don’t think you are going to live, receiving the award makes me feel like everything is meant to be,” said VandenBerg.

She said the award makes her feel like she was meant to live that day to still be a part of the community, and that’s the significance that it really brings to her.

“Even though I don’t always live in Lethbridge, I feel so strongly attached to this community and I want to continue to give back,” said VandenBerg.

One of the many reasons why VandenBerg was nominated for the award, is the fact that she launched a project called ‘Pico for a Purpose’.

“I summitted the highest mountain in Mexico, Pico de Orizaba, which is 5,636 meters high, and we were able to fundraise over $3000 splitting half the money with Lethbridge YWCA and a local women’s shelter in Mexico City called Fundación Origen,” said VandenBerg.

She said she chose to split the money between those two organizations because it had always been something that was important to her.

VandenBerg said when she was a victim services advocate, referring people to the YWCA and the programs that they have between Harbor House, Amethyst Project and all the other ways that they help people, it helped a lot of people and therefore she wanted to continue to help them. And she picked the Fundación Origen because they are one of the only women’s shelters in Mexico City that offers a 24-hour crisis line.

“Which again, mimicking to my life, that was something I felt was very important with the victim services unit at the Lethbridge Police station, having the ability to call in, because when something happens to you, you don’t know what to do, you’re not thinking logically or analytically and sometimes you don’t know where your resources are available,” said VandenBerg.

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