Charmaine J Forde
A Giver of Life
“I love the Girl Guides Association and the opportunities that it provided, like meeting with hundreds of other Girl Guides from all over the world. I remember working for our Badges which we proudly wore on a sash, especially the ‘Good Turn Badge’, when each Girl Guide tried to do a kind thing for someone else without payment or without being told to do so. This stayed with me all of my life. Service to others was the key, especially service to Community”. Charmaine J Forde
Out of a genuine and deep desire to help and be of service to others, Charmaine Forde has been seeking to extend kindness where she felt it was needed and her efforts have brought glee to the lives of hundreds of people that she has never met.
The charitable Barbadian who now resides in Philadelphia, attended the Ellerslie Secondary School in the late seventies, before leaving to complete her secondary education at the Lower Merion Senior High School, in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.
As a student at Ellerslie, Charmaine was a member of Inter School Christian Fellowship (ISCF), the Spanish and French Clubs and the Girl Guides Association.
Charmaine is zealous about service to others and to community and she treasures the benefits derived from her association with the ISCF Club and the Girl Guides Movement. The former Patrol Leader of the 30th Barbados Girl Guides credits the Girl Guides movement for the contribution it makes to society, as it encourages young girls to get involved in community work and to extend help to each other.
Charmaine also watched as her mum showed her how to love and she noted that her mother always shared. “My mother taught us how to share and my sisters and I watched her gave her last to anyone who was in need and although we were not wealthy, she always found something to share, especially food, and I witnessed that first hand”.
Charmaine took generosity further when she began to volunteer in numerous organisations and this later extended to her own projects to brighten the lives of many by sending postcards, letters and care packages as far as Afghanistan. She has now sent more than 2000 letters, over the last twenty years and her compassion has not gone unnoticed.
She has been an active member of the ‘Tell Them Thanks’ , ‘Soldiers’ Angel’, and ‘Operation First Response’ and she has been busy sending letters, cards and packages to US Armed Forces serving both home and abroad since the Gulf War.
The recipient of many accolades for her dedication and commitment to the U.S.A Armed Forces, Charmaine received an award from Former Governor of Pennsylvania, Edward G. Rendell, the ‘Congressional Award’ from the United States House of Representatives, Congressman Joe Sestak, the ‘Certificate of Appreciation’, from ‘The Chapel of The Four Chaplain’, and ‘Presidential Recognition’ from President Barack Obama, all in 2010.
“With encouragement from a friend, I started sending letters to soldiers in Persian Gulf in 1990 and I kept in contact with the soldiers for many years. I then became a ‘Soldiers' Angel’ and I started to send 42 letters/cards weekly as well as care packages to Iraq. I am currently sending 60 each month, but I am also sending cards to the wounded and birthday cards to a group of Lady Soldiers monthly”. Charmaine is encouraged by the feedback from the soldiers who send ‘thank you’ letters and share beautiful stories with her and she tries to reply to as many as she can.
One of her most recent projects was the ‘Christmas Card Project’, which she undertook in 2001 and again in 2012. Through this project she sent 400 cards to Afghanistan and she was kindly assisted by the students of the ‘Jay Cooke Elementary School’. “I have sent thousands of mail over the year and I salute citizens all over the world who are making a difference in their communities”. The humanitarian also sends birthday cards to the members of ‘Sandra Singh Evangelistical’ Ministries in Barbados and she is hoping to work with more organizations in Barbados this year.
Growing up, Charmaine says that she was a dreamer with a dream of moving to the United States and helping her family and that is exactly what she did, but this help extended to many others too. “I was a dreamer, I had no idea about what I wanted to become. I just knew that I wanted to move to America and send for my entire family, and that was what I did. I filed petition for mother, my youngest sister and my niece.
It might be obvious that Charmaine has a love for writing which started at a very young age. She remembers that, “I was extremely bashful and to express myself, I wrote my thoughts and feelings on paper. I also had my first pen pal about the age of 12 and we exchanged letters frequently. I am still in contact with my pen pal and I loved the feeling I got when I received letters and the packages that she sent me”.
Charmaine has been compared to Florence Nightingale and Dame Olga Lopes-Seales, who she admired and who holds a special place in her heart and she feels honoured to be weighed against them.
She writes a column in an online paper called ‘Bajan Sun’ and ‘One Step Away’ which is a monthly newspaper in Pennsylvania that benefits the homeless. An avid walker and writer, Charmaine also loves to travel and has visited Switzerland, London, St. Lucia, Italy, Puerto Rico, France and Niagara Falls in Ontario.
She is currently a Continuing Education Student at Community College of Philadelphia, pursuing a degree in Liberal Arts.