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Mormon Teachers, Firefighter Awarded Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal

Giving of oneself without a second thought comes naturally to three members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in northern Ontario who were recently honoured as recipients of the 2012 Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for their selfless contributions to society and making a significant difference in the lives of others.


David Wiwchar, a vice-principal at Lively District Secondary School, was presented the medal by Education First Educational Tours (EF) for his efforts in providing enriching opportunities for his students to "learn it by living it" through annual expeditions to Costa Rica. Founder of the Light Up the World humanitarian project and former full-time missionary for the Church in Costa Rica, Wiwchar has returned to Costa Rica with his students for the past eight years to install solar panels, resulting in solar/LED lighting systems reaching more than 850 households that were previously without electricity. Wiwchar has attracted the attention of school boards across Canada, who have been invited to participate in this year’s project in April as well as in an Earth Day environmental conference for youth in Costa Rica.

He explained that he wanted "to bring First Nation students out of Canada on international excursions, ... to have them experience other parts of the world when they might not have had that opportunity."

Latter-day Saints believe that learning ought to have practical value; it should improve one’s ability to make social contributions, to be financially self-reliant and generally to "act well in the world’s work." Latter-day Saints recognize that work and education is crucial for moral and practical reasons, which range from the support and upbringing of their families to participation in broader society. Education also enables those who pursue it to make a greater impact for good in their communities. It enhances their ability to serve the human family.

Crystal Speedie is a high school teacher at Innalik School in Inukjuak, a northern village on Hudson Bay in Nunavik (Arctic Quebec). She was nominated for the Diamond Jubilee Medal for going above and beyond her role as a teacher in supporting the EF mission of "breaking down barriers of language, culture and geography, and to encourage their communities to be global citizens." Prior to her teaching in Nunavik, Speedie taught English for three years in Japan and Korea, and in 2010 was a volunteer with Free The Children for a youth group in Kenya.

With a majority of students dropping out by grade seven and Innalik High School ending at grade eleven, only five of this year’s students will graduate. Speedie is focused on assisting students to cope mentally and psychologically with the challenges they face in order to succeed academically. Working with the Quebec Roots Project, Speedie’s last graduating class wrote, published and promoted a book about how their lives were changing because of their educational opportunities.

Speedie wants her students to believe they are part of something bigger than what their small community (population of 1,597) offers. She says she wants to "raise their consciousness about what is out there in the world." She hopes to expand their horizons and increase their skills in order for them to give back to their community.

A volunteer firefighter in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Julien Bouchard was also recognized for his selfless contributions to the community. When the Algo Centre Mall collapsed in June 2012, Bouchard was among a team of first responders on the scene, willing to risk their lives in order to rescue anyone in the crumpled ruins.

"Trained firefighters can have a plan of attack," stated Bouchard, "but this was a different situation – not something you face every day."

Bouchard is a personal support worker at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Elliot Lake and a father of five daughters under the age of eight, including three foster children. He added, "The medal is an honour, but it doesn’t change what I would have done in that situation."

The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal was created to mark the 2012 celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne. The medal is a tangible way for Canadians to honour Her Majesty for her service to the country while also honouring the contributions and achievements made by Canadians. Medals are awarded on behalf of the Governor General’s Office.

Church President Thomas S. Monson has encouraged both men and women to pursue education and make meaningful contributions in society. President Monson says, "No one has learned the meaning of living until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellow man."

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