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Lorraine Pye-Varnes is a Changemaker

Lorraine Pye-Varnes is a Northside Changemaker

Interview conducted by Northside Rising, an Inspiring Communities nested initiative. Learn more about the Northside Changemakers program here.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Well, my name is Lorraine Pye-Varnes. I have called North Sydney home for over twenty years. I spent most of those years happily employed at the Nova Scotia Community College ( Marconi Campus) as a career counsellor. I really enjoyed the education field, and loved working with people and helping them on their journey to find what inspires them. I have been retired now for the past two years. Now I spend my time doing more things that bring me joy and passion. I have found a lot of joy working in my community. 

What makes you jump out of bed in the morning?

Oh, lots of things. Many people who know me would say I am a bit of a Pollyanna. I jump out of bed for sunlight — I am a very light affected person and love the daylight. I love exercise and activities — whether it be project work, volunteering or creating things on my own. 

I have taken that love of activity into my retired life and got a lot of joy and inspiration with my volunteer efforts on the Northside. I have my arm in a lot of fires! So there are many things that get me to jump out of bed. 

Lorraine Pye-Varnes is a changemaker.

How did you hear about the Northside Changemakers program?

Well, I have been familiar with Northside Rising since its inception so I have always had my eye on it. But I really got interested when my daughter participated in it in the last cohort. She really enjoyed the program and always had really interesting stories to share back with me. I was looking for more ways to get involved in the community and it felt like the perfect opportunity. 

Can you tell me a little bit about your project ?

My project is working on gathering stories and recipes that are culturally specific to the Northside. My intention is to show people how diverse the community is here, and to give people an opportunity to celebrate each other and how we approach food. I wanted to answer the questions: Why are some foods, like cabbage rolls and fatayas, a staple? How has that food become so integrated in our community? I hope it’s a small way to help us understand one another better, giving us a chance to be more connected, and bring more kindness into the community.  

How did your project begin, and what made you start thinking about it?

I have always been an avid  recipe collector. I love to cook and to bake, starting with my  first move at age 21 and using those recipes as a way to teach myself how to cook. I was approached once to write a recipe book and it’s been on my back burner ever since!  

I love food and storytelling. I believe it’s a skill we have as Cape Bretoners, and one we often don’t think about. I wanted to celebrate and lift voices and thought this was a wonderful way to do so. 

When you think of the word Changemaker, does anyone you know come to mind?

Wow, all kinds of people and organizations. The first that comes to mind is my dear friend Mary MacIsaac, who unfortunately passed away a few years ago, but she was my first introduction to what a Changemaker was on the Northside.  I met her through my involvement with the Northside the Lakes Community Health Board (she was the chair at the time). She was also the president of the Kiwanis Club and very active in our church community ( as a Lector and Eucharistic Minister). She was constantly finding ways to get involved and help out in the community. She was one of the originators for Meals on Wheels on the Northside and it was her collaborative approach which helped get other community members to volunteer to deliver meals. She did so much, and is greatly missed. 

My daughter Shealyn. She is constantly finding innovative ways to help and inspire people of all ages on the Northside. When lockdown began, many people started their own small businesses. She began sewing masks and chose to donate all the revenue created to the Northside Food Bank. She was able to collect over $1500 to support them. She did a lot in the community. 

And I would be remiss if I didn’t include my mother, Ruby Pye! She is a constant inspiration to me. She has been volunteering with the Sydney Mines Food Bank for over forty years. She will turn 88 this month and she still volunteers every Thursday. 

There are so many Changemakers on the Northside. It’s hard to list them all! Many quietly make change and don’t look at themselves as Changemakers — just people trying to give back to the community they love. 

What do you love about the Northside? 

So much! I love that it is surrounded by water ( on three sides of it!) and because of that there is phenomenal and easy access to good swimming.

I have family here and I have made some really wonderful friends since I have been back. I remember our first day moving back home and there were meals dropped off at our doorstep, and ‘welcome to the neighborhood’ packages. We felt part of the community immediately. It was lovely.  I love the people my children have become, and I think that has a lot to do with the wonderful people and community that they were surrounded by.

What are your hopes for the Northside?

My hope for the Northside is that it grows and thrives. I hope it remains a good place to live and raise children. I hope that it continues to foster caring, resilience and compassion in its residents.

What is your best tip for making the world a better place?

My best tip for making the world a better place is to practice being kind. To show empathy and compassion for others, and to always put others first. 

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