I Can Achieve from Canesten

Canesten celebrates the real-life achievements of women!

From July 11 to August 7, 2011, Canadian women were asked to share their personal stories of achievement. Eight hundred and fifty inspirational stories were entered into the Canesten "I Can Achieve" contest. Canadians voted on the stories that inspired them the most (August 8 to September 4, 2011) and with every vote, $1.00 was donated to the Canadian Women's Foundation*. The top ten voted stories were reviewed by a panel of judges (September 5 to September 18 , 2011) who chose the top three women who embody the "I Can Achieve" motto. Congratulations to the three amazing winners of the Canesten I Can Achieve Contest. The grand prize winner was awarded $15,000 while the second and third runners-up were awarded $10,000 and $5,000 prizes, respectively.

Click here to read the winners' stories

First Place Winner Story

Safieh A. Calgary, AB

Death Threats, Hostage Negotiations, Refugee Camps and the Taliban: A Lifetime of Inspiration.

This is the story of a woman who has travelled to 54 countries, worked with 15 aid organizations, learned 8 languages, and survived wars, all while earning a Ph.D and raising a family. Her life is a reminder that it is possible to make a difference in the world. Her journey begins at the age of 17 when she was forced to flee her home country due to religious persecution. She took refuge throughout Africa until a violent coup d'état brought her to Canada where she became a citizen, married, and had 3 children, earned her designation as a Registered Nurse, and accomplished a Ph.D. After enduring years of hardships, persecution and poverty she settled into a comfortable and safe life in Alberta.

But instead of living out her days in comfort she packed up her life and moved her family to Rwanda when the genocide unfolded in 1994. She was heartbroken for the state of the world and determined to help. She lived in refugee camps, set up temporary hospitals, immunized thousands, organized food and medical supplies into the country, helped mothers search for their lost children, and watched as millions of refugees literally walked home across the country. As Rwanda stabilized she purchased some land, built a modest home, and started a non-for profit organization to meet the growing needs for medical and educational resources in her community.

As her efforts began to sustain themselves she accepted an opportunity to work with the United Nations in hopes of assisting other war-torn countries. Her work carried her to Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Burundi, Indonesia, Nepal, and Turkey. Although recently retired, her spirit of service to others will never cease as she still lives and volunteers 10 months of the year in Rwanda. This woman is a true inspiration, a world citizen, and a symbol of determination and sacrifice.

Happy retirement Mom, I am so very proud of you!.

Second Place Winner Story

Dionne W. Regina, SK

My name is Dionne Warner and I am a 7 time Cancer Survivor living life to the fullest & giving "HOPE" to others. This is my continued goal.

In November 1995 at the age of 30, just married, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.

June 1997 I was diagnosed with Brain Cancer.

In the year 2000 I went through a divorce.

In January 2001 I got engaged & moved to Regina.

March 2001 I was diagnosed with Liver Cancer.

December 2001 my ovaries were removed and I was now in menopause & diagnosed with Osteoporosis.

August of 2002 my Liver Cancer returned.

On October 11, 2002 I was granted time to marry Graham before another Liver surgery was to be performed.

In December 2009 Cancer returned. I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in my Lung, bones & Liver once again. I have been in treatment since this diagnosis.

My husband and I have taken the high road on this journey & have dressed up in various themes when I have treatment days. We have done such themes as Disco, Jamaican, Canada Day & many more. Total count so far 65 themes.

The word "Survivor" in the dictionary means, one who perseveres through life's challenges, hardships, misfortunes and tragedies. One who refuses to give up, give in, or quit trying. One who triumphs over insurmountable challenges and becomes a better person because of them. I believe I am reaching my goal everyday. For a cancer patient every second,minute,hour,day & year is "HOPE".

A book is now published about our journey called "Never Leave Your Wingman". The phrase my husband Graham said to me when I told him I was sick again & he did not have to marry me. Thanks to Deana Driver the Author at www.driverworks.ca Graham & I are now able to share our journey of love and give other patients & their families "HOPE", "LAUGHTER" & "SUPPORT".

Third Place Winner Story

Tammy D. Sudbury, ON

Woman from Sudbury Ontario, opens school in Cambodia for children who would otherwise never be able to attend school.

DURAND's first visit to Cambodia came in 2009 when she signed up for an adventure tour that would take her through Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Northern Thailand. Once she got to Cambodia, the Sudbury woman abandoned the rest of her travel plans to stay there.

She intended to spend three days touring the temples, but in response to a flyer in her hotel, opted to spend half a day at an orphanage, painting, cleaning.

"Instead, she found herself playing and singing with eight amazingly beautiful children. Her heart soared and was broken all at the same instant ... she spent three days with them playing at the orphanage and volunteering at the school. In the end, she had to let her tour group go on without her ."

When she got back to Canada a few weeks later, she started ABCs and Rice, which began as a fundraising campaign to help organizations in Cambodia focusing on education and food. She went back to the country the next year with the money raised in hand.

One day, a local woman came to see Durand, begging for help. "You help children in other nearby villages, why do you not help here?" the woman asked Durand, before offering her the use of land she owned for $200 a month. Eventually, after Durand's initial refusals, the woman came down to $70 a month and Durand immediately signed a one-year lease.

Less than 24 hours later, she, along with volunteers, were building their first classroom. The Siem Reap school now has 180 students. In addition to teaching, there is a daily breakfast program. Food is also provided to the families, which allow the children to go to school instead of working to raise money for the family.

Tammy is Still in Cambodia and still expanding her project. She accomplished so much!.

* To a maximum of $15,000. Contest open to Canadian residents only, e