Community Papers

Fike retirement start of a new adventure

During her tenure as the executive director of Burnaby Family Life, Jeanne Fike helped move the organization from its warren of offices in the old Burnaby Heights Resource Centre to new digs near the Holdom SkyTrain station. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER FILE
During her tenure as the executive director of Burnaby Family Life, Jeanne Fike helped move the organization from its warren of offices in the old Burnaby Heights Resource Centre to new digs near the Holdom SkyTrain station.
— image credit: MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER FILE

Jeanne Fike spent more than 30 years building Burnaby Family Life Institute (BFLI) into a multicultural organization that helps improve the lives of the city’s families.

Now she’s going to use the skills and knowledge she accumulated as its executive director to better prepare international aid workers for the challenges they face in the developing world.

Fike is retiring in March. But after a month helping her successor, Michel Pouliot, find his feet in his new position, she’ll be moving with her husband Al to Blackpool, England where they’ll set about converting a 100-year-old six-bedroom mansion with its own chapel, gardens and multipurpose rooms into a professional development centre and respite for humanitarian workers. They’ll still maintain a residence on the Sunshine Coast.

And while it’s not exactly the languid retirement Fike envisioned when she decided to step away from Burnaby Family Life, she said the opportunity is the culmination of everything she learned there and the various humanitarian efforts she and Al have been involved in around the world, including helping to build an orphanage in Namibia.

“It just feels like a calling,” said Fike on the phone from California, where she was enjoying the sunshine before embarking upon her final few months with Burnaby Family Life. “It’s something we’ve been preparing for all our lives, but we just didn’t know it.”

Fike said the centre is still in its formative stages, but her experience building BFLI from an organization with one part-time employee with a budget of $18,000 to one with 80 paid staff plus volunteers and more than $3.5 million in annual funding from seven different government ministries will help her give structure to its vision.

“We’re just at the beginning stages,” said Fike of the centre, which is being financed through a foundation with donors from around the world. “It’s hard to imagine what the whole range of programs will be.”

Fike said those could include affiliations with educators and universities to create training and educational programs for aid workers heading into the field as well as healing programs for those heading home.

“We want to be preventative, to save them from burning out,” said Fike.

That burnout is an ever-present risk, she added, especially when aid workers are faced with sometimes staggering challenges like helping orphaned children in Uganda and Namibia.

“It’s a giant leap of faith to try to figure out if we can make a difference,” said Fike. “We’re on the brink of an amazing adventure.”

 

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