Melanie Williams was born in the prairie town of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Canada. She was raised in a traditional family in Pennant, a small rural farming community to the west of Swift Current where her father farmed with his father and brother.
Melanie is the fourth of five children. Everyone in the family was expected, from a young age, to contribute to the chores on the farm in some way. She grew up with the ethic that hard work and education were necessary to be successful in life.
Melanie’s parents were leaders in the community. So she grew up volunteering and giving back to the community. Even though her family was poor, they always had a lot of food grown on the farm.
Melanie remembers trudging through the little village her family lived in, pulling a wagon loaded with eggs and produce from the family garden. One of her jobs was to share the bounty with those who did not have a garden or access to fresh vegetables and fruit.
Melanie graduated high school and left the farm for the city, moving to Calgary, Alberta to attend university. She struggled to manage life in the city. Seeking a summer job and adventure, after her first year of school, she headed north to Yellowknife, North West Territories. She was hired into the child welfare system, working in a residential setting with children.
She enjoyed the job so much she never returned to university. Melanie stayed in that job for 4 years. She married and moved south to Alberta where she continued to work in child welfare until children were born.
Melanie chose to stay at home with her young children and did home day care to contribute to the family income. She returned to child welfare after her family moved to Ontario.
At that time Melanie also returned to university to complete her degree. She went to school part time at night while working full time and raising her children. She completed her BA in Sociology of the Family and her Bachelor of Social Work over the next seven years at York University in Toronto.
Melanie transitioned out of child welfare into private practice working with children and families. While completing her Masters degree in Counselling Psychology, Melanie earned the designation of Certified Trauma Specialist and transitioned to working with adults.
Volunteer work has always been part of Melanie’s life and she instilled that value in both of her children. Melanie has volunteered locally in her community in a variety of capacities and internationally.
She has brought play programs to hospitals and orphanages in the Republic of Belarus to children whose lives were impacted by the Chernobyl nuclear reactor melt down. Melanie provided play and training programs to community resources (police, social services), schools and orphanages in rural Guatemala and in Guyana.
She was introduced to Mahali Salama Uganda (Safe Place Uganda) by her friend and colleague Barbara Anschuetz. Barbara knew of Melanie’s keen interest in global issues and invited her to attend a meeting with me. Without a second thought, Melanie, volunteered to be part of the team to create the charity to achieve the vision. She is the Secretary to the Board of Mahali Salama Uganda.
“I feel privileged to have been a member of the Canadian team that travelled to Mparo, Kigezi, Uganda in August 2015,” Melanie says. “The team’s warm welcome by our Ugandan colleagues fuelled our commitment. While in Uganda, we all worked together to refine our vision and identify goals to work with the community to support sustainable projects addressing the identified needs of the community.”
Melanie is already looking forward to a return visit to Mparo. She lives in Markham, Ontario.