The photograph with this story shows Sandra Onufryk of Oakville, Ontario with students at her library in Veranacy, India.
Sandra is a remarkable Canadian achiever. In 1977 she graduated from the University of Toronto with a Master of Library Science. After graduation she took a job with the Oakville Public Library, eventually becoming branch manager. Along the way she married husband Zenon. When their daughter Rachel was born, Sandra decided to retire and focus on being a good homemaker. That could easily have been the beginning of a beautiful story.
But life does not always follow predictable paths. Sandra was diagnosed with cancer and while undergoing treatment her husband Zenon was also diagnosed with cancer. Her cancer is in remission. But after a courageous three-year battle, cancer claimed her husband, leaving Sandra a widow at age 50.
She had always remained an active volunteer with the library. One Sunday in church a parishioner asked if anyone would like to accompany, at their own expense, a group of Rotarians on a mission to India to participate in a mass polio inoculation project. Sandra went, and while there she saw the special work that World Literacy of Canada is doing. She decided then and there to become deeply involved.
“Dick,” she told me, “this library seems to be the culmination of my professional and personal experience. Other than raising my daughter and having a wonderful marriage, this seems to me to be the most important thing I have done in my life.”
She continued: “I feel very privileged to have been blessed with the financial wherewithal to visit India and to have the energy and abilities to be involved in these projects.”
Sandra Onufryk is a beacon for others who wonder what they should do with their lives once they reach a certain age and station in life. No one would have blamed her if she had withdrawn into a comfortable life in Oakville, watching life pass by.
Instead, she has turned her life into a very important and active cause for good.
To quote her: “An achiever is someone with a passion to do something they believe is important.”
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