In this new series, Current Affairs will profile members doing extraordinary things on their personal time. If you would like to nominate a member to be profiled, submit their name, contact information and one paragraph about what makes them extraordinary to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dianne Mowat is The Society’s elected Local Vice President at Inergi. She represents 250 members, leading them through collective bargaining and resolving conflicts between Inergi employees and their employer. That’s enough work for most people.
But before Mowat even gets to the office, she trains for hours for her other career: elite dragon boat racing.
After beating the breast cancer she was diagnosed with in 2002, Mowat was invited to participate in a recreational dragon boat team that was raising money for cancer research. She fell head over heels for the sport and now recreational paddling just doesn’t cut it.
Mowat’s work has paid off. She is now a two-time national dragon boat champion and a member of Canada’s national dragon boat teams – both the women’s team and the mixed team. Dragon boat competition has taken Mowat around the world, including Italy and China. But her most recent hardware was earned here at home.
The 2015 World Dragon Boat Racing Championships were held last month in Welland, Ontario. Mowat was up against stiff competition from countries like Australia and Germany but says that Canada owned the podium anyways. Mowat finished the competition with six medals: four gold, one silver and one bronze.
In spite of the world class competition, Mowat says, “it’s the most Zen-like thing I do. You think about nothing but what’s in front of you. It’s the most freeing but competitive thing I’ve done in my life. Even the 5:30AM practices – and I was never a morning person before this!”
On top of her work for Society members and elite training regimen, Mowat also makes time to contribute to two issues she is passionate about: mental health and hunger.
Mowat is a board member of Trinity Café, a social enterprise that was founded decades before the term social enterprise entered our lexicon. Located at the back of the Church of the Holy Trinity on the west side of the Eaton Centre and just next door to Hydro One’s downtown Toronto office, Trinity Café serves affordable, nutritious meals. What makes it special is that the workers at the café are people grappling with mental health issues and need experience that can help them get a job and life skills. The same lunch that is served to the public for about $10 is also provided for free to people in need.
To combat hunger, Mowat has also been one of the top fundraisers for the Toronto-based charity Second Harvest. That organization takes leftover food from grocery stores, restaurants and private functions, and distributes it to organizations that feed people living in poverty. It supports children’s breakfast programs, homeless shelters and drop-in centres among other services.
Mowat says that dragon boat racing is what makes it possible for her to contribute to her union and her community like she does.
“It helps keep me focused – I never say no to things now. I feel like I can take on many tasks. There’s nothing I can’t do.”