My name is Andrea Paquette, and I am the Co-Founder and President of the Stigma-Free Society.
I am writing today to share a personal tribute to Janet (Jan) Bisset who once was my Executive Assistant and Program Coordinator.
I met Jan in 2016 through her son Philip who is a good friend and colleague of mine, and he recommended his mother for this much-needed position at Stigma-Free. I met Jan at a coffee shop in Victoria and expressed how pivotal this role would be for the Charity because we were taking the organization to even greater heights. I needed a right-hand person, someone who I could trust, and a person who would commit to being my long-term assistant. I moved to Vancouver later that year and Jan and I set our sights on expanding the Charity on the mainland!
Over the past 6 years, there were countless moments of delight and joy as we expanded our Stigma-Free mental health programming for youth across BC with our astounding team. Jan led the charge on the expansion and administration of our programs and the leap to the mainland from Vancouver Island presented to be a daunting task ahead. Jan embraced the challenge and swiftly whipped out new school databases for program expansion, cold called schools for presentations, managed my increasing responsibilities, and kept the ever-growing team organized for success. She welcomed every new staff member with her genuine smile, positive demeanour and always shared her joy for working with Stigma-Free. We became close friends, which is something I try not to do with staff, but it was impossible not to become friends with Jan. She called me ‘kiddo’ once in the early days, and I eventually told her it would be better to call me ‘boss’. She always did from that day forward and it was our inside joke for over 6 years. 😊
I visited her for our Charity’s monthly cheque runs for years at her home, and she always had tea waiting for me while we chatted about tasks at hand. She was so smart, organized and became a treasured team member who contributed greatly to the success of the Stigma-Free Society. She touched my heart as she always told me with enthusiasm about how much she appreciated and loved working with our Charity, and always had kind words to say about my leadership. It was nice to hear I was a ‘good boss’ and she told me often, and it deeply inspired me in my moments of doubt as a leader. I sometimes left her home feeling moved with slight tears in my eyes because nobody ever made me feel so appreciated in my role.
Jan passed away today only 3 months after finding out she would be battling for her life. I kept in close touch with her while she was away from work and sent a big beautiful, knitted sweater from the Society to keep her warm. She said the sweater felt like it was always giving her a big hug. I will
always be giving her a hug in my own heart to thank her for her exceptional service to the Stigma-Free Society and for her tremendous heart that she invested in her work and to my life personally.
A Champion is someone who supports a cause with determination, vigour, and dynamism. A Stigma-Free Champion is someone who creates awareness, promotes understanding in the world and encourages us all to be accepting of ourselves and others. Jan will always be remembered as one of the most exceptional Stigma-Free Champions in the world as she dedicated so much of her life to the work of making the world a much more embracing and accepting place.
Thank you, Jan, for your contribution to the Stigma-Free cause. We will forge ahead without you in person, but will always have your passionate spirit in our hearts to bring our Charity to even greater heights. The Society would not be where we are at today without your dedication, passion, and love for Stigma-Free.
We will make you proud.
Our Charity team thanks you; I thank you and we will always keep your spirit alive in the work that Stigma-Free accomplishes forever.
Love You My Friend,
Andrea – Boss (Kiddo) xo