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Advocacy sparks change

July 23, 2014
Renay Eng-Fisher

In Renay Eng-Fisher’s childhood, mysterious red and gold-robed men from China were among countless visitors to her father’s home in Silver Creek, B.C.

Buddhist monks had rescued her father from the streets of Canton, and paid his head tax when he arrived in Canada in 1913. A herbalist, cook and mine worker, Eng-Fisher’s father vowed to return to China to aid others, one day.

She took up her father’s vow, and now works tirelessly to help others – and the environment – in rural China, and in the Calgary area. Her efforts have earned her an Alumni Excellence Award from Royal Roads University. 

When Eng-Fisher completed her Master of Arts in Environmental Education and Communication degree in 2006, she was established in a career as a senior environmental health and safety advisor in the oil and gas industry.

“I threw my passion into the program, because it’s what I believe in – to make the world a better place,” she says. “But I thought, what can I do? I’m only one person.”

In 2007, she traveled to her father’s village of Nam On in southern China to learn how she could help abandoned and orphaned children. She founded the Eco Village of Hope Society (EVHS) to support the health and well-being of children in isolated and impoverished villages like Nam On. Since then, she has extended the group’s reach to leprosy recovery villages and migrant worker villages in Yunnan province where living conditions are dire.

The group focuses on projects where human health and ecological needs overlap.

“My master’s program expanded my world view - no question about it - about environmental issues, and about the need for advocacy work,” she says. “An important part of advocacy work is to understand impacts on the environment but also on human health.”

EVHS funded and delivered ‘nanny nurture’ programs for young women to care for children in need, established clean water and sanitation systems and provided solar lights to energy-poor villages, among other projects. The group is now fundraising to develop and bring biodigesters to leprosy recovery villages in order to provide simultaneous solutions to sanitation and fuel resource issues.

Closer to home, Eng-Fisher has spearheaded benefit concerts for the Okotoks and Red Deer food banks since 2008, runs an environmental consulting company and has her own baking show on Shaw TV Calgary.

Not content to simply conduct research for her master’s degree, she took her thesis concerning the whale watching industry, turned it into a children’s book and worked with a diverse group of musicians – including members of the Red Deer Symphony – to perform concerts and record a CD.

Her dedication to helping others and her wide-ranging creative and environmental projects have garnered Eng-Fisher praise from many quarters, including from Royal Roads faculty.

“While I was impressed by Renay’s energy and determination during her time here, I have been overwhelmed by what she has done since she left Royal Roads,” says Associate Professor Rick Kool. “Her selflessness and caring combined with her good humour and boundless energy has been inspiring to many, and I am extremely proud that Royal Roads has awarded this fine alumna of the MAEEC program with its alumni award.”