This past Saturday (March 9), the Cochrane Public Library hosted a powerful and inspiring International Women's Day at the Links of GlenEagles.

It was the second year the Cochrane Public Library held a free International Women's Day celebration, and Jeri Maitland, CEO of the library says feedback has been great. "I have heard nothing but positive comments. People maybe felt a little overwhelmed and even a little ignorant as to why we sometimes don't know or hear of these stories. There are just so many great people in this community that are involved in so many things." 

The day was certainly an emotional one as Gem Munro, Big HIil Haven, and Michela Sheedy took to the podium and spoke to the roughly 175 person crowd. Maitland shares when hosting these types of events, even she, can be surprised. "You could hear a pin drop for most of the day, and I am always surprised at how things come together."

Gem Munro shared how a call to tour Bangladesh changed his life. Seeing the extreme disparity of what is ranked as the worst place in the world to live, Munro decided to become a change agent. Now spending roughly 300 days of the year away from home to share his message, Munro is the true example of how one person can make an incredible difference, states Maitland. "I think we sometimes forget, on busy days, about all the blessings we have living in our country. The freedom to read, free speech, access to books, and access to education; it is such a reminder that we can take those things for granted."

Munro and his wife founded the Amarok Society which is a school where they offer free education to women living in the slums of Bangladesh in exchange for the newly educated women to pay it forward by educating at least five other individuals. With girls as young as nine years old being sold into marriage for a dowry, Munro and his wife are hoping to put an end to the tragedy that plagues thousands upon thousands of young girls. "I hope everyone walked away feeling very blessed and knowing there are people like Gem and his wife, who have given up their whole lives, for this cause to be out there and changing the world for one young woman at a time, and it's all so overwhelming and compelling. I am really grateful there are people in the world willing to do that."

Munro's story was not the only one packing a punch. Ana Bothelo-Clark and Valerie Gilmore presented on behalf of the Big Hill Haven board and shared valuable information on domestic violence stats as well as where the organization is at in terms of reaching their end goal of becoming an operational shelter.

Young country singer, Michela Sheedy from Okotoks, wrapped up the day and her raw and authentic story hushed the crowd. "This young woman who is this up and coming country music singer that I really only expected her to come and talk about what that journey has been like for her so far, and I had no idea she was going to get so personal, raw, and courageous. I appreciated how it all came together and fit together; I think everybody walked away feeling a little bit different about themselves and their lives."

Maitland shares, in the end, she hopes that attendees walked away feeling a little more blessed and appreciative. "I guarantee that people didn't walk away untouched. We'll continue to look for those people who can come and tell those impactful stories that bring the community together."

Thanks to monies raised from the Friends of the Library book sale and support from the Links of GlenEagles, the Cochrane Public Library was able to host lunch and a day of empowerment for no cost.

Looking into the future, Maitland says if sponsorship monies are available they would love to host programs like International Women's Day and others, regularly. "We want to continue because this is what libraries do. We share information, we empower people, and we want to continue to be able to bring that to Cochrane. While we have avid library supporters, we also have people who don't know about the library and don't use it, so it works for us when we say that the library isn't just about books."

If you would like to partner or sponsor an event being hosted by the library, stop by and see Jeri, she is always looking for new ideas that benefit and strengthen the community.

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