Small Things with a Big Impact with Dr. Nancy Hansen

This time on Talking Rotary Dr. Nancy Hansen talks about making a big impact while doing small things.From Miss Easter Seal 1966 to proud educator and Rotarian you will want to hear Nancy’s story. To support her work, you can reach her at


Peter Tonge 0:20
Welcome to this episode of Talking Rotary. I’m Peter Tonge, and I’m a member of the Rotary Club of Winnipeg Charleswood.

Mandy Kwasnica 0:26
And I’m Mandy Kwasnica Past President and also a member of the Rotary Club of Winnipeg, Charleswood. We are so happy you have joined us here and I are so excited for the new podcast and thankful to our many listeners. Let’s start talking Rotary.

Peter Tonge 1:06
Hi, everyone, welcome to another episode of Talking Rotary. I’m Peter Tonge,

Mandy Kwasnica 1:11
and I’m Mandy Kwasnica

Peter Tonge 1:12
and we’re here with Dr. Nancy Hansen. Nancy, how are you?

Nancy Hansen 1:17
I’m good. I’m really thrilled to be here. Thanks for the invitation.

Peter Tonge 1:21
And Nancy is a member of our home Club Winnipeg Charleswood.

Nancy where are you in the world,

Nancy Hansen 1:27
I am in Winnipeg and Winnipeg is in the middle of North America. So if you stick your finger right in the middle of the North Ame rican continent, that’s where I am,

Peter Tonge 1:37
That’s where you are.where you are.

Mandy Kwasnica 1:39
Nancy is an extra special guest. Peter, why is Nancy an extra special guest of ours today?

Peter Tonge 1:45
Nancy also happens to be my spouse. That’s right. So there may be some inside jokes that happened in this podcast.

Mandy Kwasnica 1:54
We’re glad you’re here Nancy. Thanks so much.

Nancy Hansen 2:02
I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I really am. Good.

Peter Tonge 2:05
So Nancy, I know that you do a whole bunch of terrific things inside our Rotary club. Can you tell us about some of those?

Nancy Hansen 2:14
Well, I think I’ll give you a bit of background first. Sure, I happen to have a physical disability and a full time job. And I wanted to pay, I wanted to pay something forward. Because I have a very, I feel that I’m very lucky in my life. And I wanted to pay something forward. So I wanted to get involved with Rotary. And because I’m I’m have a busy life. And I also have a disability I was looking around for things that I could do. That would make a difference either for other rotary clubs or other groups in general, or just help people in some way, because that’s what I’ve always wanted to do. And I didn’t want to get involved in something big and complicated. So I went on the internet, I started looking around for rotary clubs that were doing small projects that I could help out with and like. So I happen, one of the first ones I came across was a rotary club in Australia, I believe it’s district 98 Ken was collecting us postage stamps every year, to they pick a project every year and sell the stamps to brokers. And they make on average $7,000 a year to support various projects. And I, I like to do green projects as well. So like, being able to take an envelope, it’s going into recycling anyway and and rip the sound off the corner and send it off to Australia after I’ve had a bunch and help somebody do something that seems easy for me to do. And it’s it’s stuff that I can do at home when I’m watching TV and I don’t have to think, you know, it’s it’s kind of like doing laundry but less complicated. And and then the second project I got involved with was there was a there was a school, outside Winnipeg, that was collecting tabs of various kinds to buy wheelchairs, the tabs will be collected and taken to a metal broker. And again, I thought this was a way we could all get together and help people by recycling like saving twice before the aluminum can or or whatever goes into the recycle. You can take that off and save it and somebody’s gonna get a wheelchair out of it.

Peter Tonge 4:56
Okay, let me sort of break those down a little bit if I could. Why do the Australians care about our Canadian stamps?

Unknown Speaker 5:05
Because on the other side of the world Canadian stamps are kind of interesting and different. And brokers like them. And I, I know all this when I started, but I knew that we could help a bit. And what was what was interesting when we started with the stamp thing, other people in the Rotary Club who have businesses and people send them mail on a regular basis, they just bring it over to the house and I’d have more to work with. And again, it’s, it’s something really simple that people could do literally doesn’t have to be complicated to make a difference. I think I was listening to a podcast by Roy Haynes talking about rotary and Crippled Children the other day, and that small things can make a big difference. And you never know, you never know how the small things are going to end up and what a change they can make. And I know for a fact that the Rotary Club in Australia was having difficulty acquiring sales because fewer people are mailing things these days, especially during a pandemic. So what we’ve been able to do, it’s really helped them out.

Peter Tonge 6:31
How many batches of stampts have you sent off?

Nancy Hansen 6:34
Well I’ve been working with with that club since 2015 2016. And on average, we send two or three, two or three mailings of stamps a year at least, depending on on what happened. And um, it’s really been helpful for them.

Mandy Kwasnica 7:00
So great. It’s so interesting. And I think a lot of our listeners in Canada or even across the US to might be listening and hearing about the stamps and how they can maybe get involved in that. So if anybody is interested in this, just pop us an email here to our rotary podcast. Okay, so feedback. org and and then we can pass that information on to you then on how they can also get involved as well, because this could be a lot bigger than what it already is.

Peter Tonge 7:35
Absolutely. I just need a bigger house for stamps.

Nancy Hansen 7:41
We’ve got another box of jabs ready to go anytime now. So and people on the other end, Lakeview Rotarians in Australia are always so appreciative. Because since 99, I was looking at the stats today because they have them online since 1991. They have collected $103,000 for various worthy projects, just from Carol farmers, the person I’ve been dealing with, and she calls it philatelic Garbology. In which which is fancy for before you throw the stamp into the garbage send it to me and I can make a difference basically.

Peter Tonge 8:32
Nancy I want you to explain to us more about the aluminum tabs that are for wheelchair like Did they get melted down and made it?

Nancy Hansen 8:43
They no they do not they do not get melted down. That although I get asked that question, how many how many times does it take to make a wheelchair? I have it’s not like that at all, what they what the what these metal recyclers do is they they weigh the, the way the tabs and you get a certain amount of money for the for the tabs is their weight and they have an account that is geared specifically for buying wheelchairs for adults and children. Because a wheelchair is a very expensive proposition and a lot of regions. People are lucky to have one wheelchair and often people will need more than one wheelchair to lead an active day to day life but people don’t readily understand that. So again, this sort of recycling option provides people with another avenue to perhaps get a wheelchair, either for sports or some kind of access would be which people wouldn’t normally be able to afford because again these are things are very expensive.

Mandy Kwasnica 10:07
It’s so true and Peter shed light to me one day when we were talking about the cost of his various wheelchairs he’s he’s had and the number of destructions that he’s had occur through the airlines to his for wheelchairs, and the amount of money that that has cost. It blew my mind how much it actually costs for a wheelchair.

Peter Tonge 10:30
Yeah, I will, I will interject for for our podcast was there’s a, what’s called the daily use wheelchair, which is one that everybody would use, day to day to move themselves around is about 4,000 US dollars. So a lot more than a custom bicycle.

Mandy Kwasnica 10:52

Peter Tonge 10:54
And that’s not talking about power wheelchairs or anything like that. That’s a daily push chair. My my power chair that I have, which the province helps me pay for somewhere in the range of $45,000 to $50,000.

Mandy Kwasnica 11:12
The price of a car.

Peter Tonge 11:18
It doesn’t even have a stereo or backup lights.

Mandy Kwasnica 11:23
It’s just I how can it cost that much money? That’s unreal?

Peter Tonge 11:29
Well, I mean, we could get into a whole political discussion, but

Nancy Hansen 11:33
it’s a niche market.

Peter Tonge 11:35
It’s a medical device that people have to have. So that’s why class was. Yeah. And Nancy has found a great way to help. So I know, in the group that they worked with, they they had enough tabs for you to do, I think four or five wheelchairs last year, which isn’t a huge number, but that’s four or five, usually children that have a chair that they otherwise wouldn’t have.

Mandy Kwasnica 12:07
Yeah, that’s a lot. Yeah.

Peter Tonge 12:10
And how many tabs are in your house now Nancy?

Nancy Hansen 12:14
I couldn’t even begin to count theater. As a matter of fact, oh, we just had a delivery of of two, two huge garbage bags full on Sunday. So I mean, these are well beyond Rotarian. People just find out about what we’re doing and they want to help. I think what’s important to recognize is that you don’t have to be Rotarian to do this kind of stuff. All you have to have is any interest. And we’ll go from there. I think it’s really important because, and it’s a simple thing to do. And I’ll go back to what I said before, simple, doing a simple thing can make a big difference in a person’s life, right?

Mandy Kwasnica 12:59
Yeah, I have my jar sitting on my countertop. And so everybody knows when they come over to my house, that that’s where the tabs go. And the kids are always quick to say, Hey, don’t throw that in recycling yet, you didn’t take the tab off

Nancy Hansen 13:16
it’s important to realize do that any, any kind of tab is really good. It doesn’t have to be for me drink cans or anything like that anything with a tab on it. I want it. That’s basically it. So and these things, really, these things really help people so and it’s such a simple thing to do. And people think well, how can I make a difference? And this is how you can make a difference. It’s not complicated. You don’t have to have a special skills that to be able to do that. All you all you need is an interest, right?

Peter Tonge 13:56
Absolute awareness. Yeah, absolutely.

Rotary Ad 14:02
Possibilities are all around us. We see potential in unexpected places. And when we share our knowledge, vision and connections, we turn great ideas into action. Together, we can make real change happen. We’re Rotary, we are people of action. Get involved today at

Mandy Kwasnica 14:30
I think our listeners also would be interested to hear a little bit about your your background, because Peter did call your Dr. Nancy Hansen.

Nancy Hansen 14:43
Okay, um, why my day job is I I teach in teach in Disability Studies program at the University of Manitoba and the Disability Studies Program is one that looks at disability from a Social justice, human rights perspective, and social citizenship. So and we have students from all over the world, and I love it. I have a, I am not a medical doctor, I don’t even play one on TV. I am I have a PhD in human geography from the University of Glasgow. So that’s, that’s, that’s my day job. And I love it.

Peter Tonge 15:27
You’ve been teaching remotely for how long?

Nancy Hansen 15:29
I’ve been teaching from my dining room table remotely for two years this month. Exactly.

Mandy Kwasnica 15:38
Before that was in person at U of M?

Nancy Hansen 15:43
Yeah we’ve been off campus for two years now. And it I don’t mean to digress, but it’s kind of fun, because this whole zoom format means I can visit several countries in one day, you know, and do all the time zones are a bit of a drag at times. But I mean, it’s so exciting to make connections and intersections. That’s another thing rotary can rotary can start zooming in that would be really cool. Yeah,

Peter Tonge 16:15
I mean, I know that the Rotary from one point of view is everybody is sort of agents to get back to how we always did it and meeting in person. For during the pandemic, many clubs operated our mind via zoom and flipping ours and I love it. It’s a great way to connect with people. This whole podcast exists because of zoom.

Mandy Kwasnica 16:37

Nancy Hansen 16:40
If I can give the podcast a plug to I use, I use one of your podcasts looking at Rotary and Crippled Children in my disability history class this morning, and it was very popular.

Mandy Kwasnica 16:54
That’s awesome.

Peter Tonge 16:55
For listeners. That’s an episode from season one with Dr. Roy Haynes don’t miss it.

Mandy Kwasnica 17:01
That’s great. Thanks, Nancy.

Nancy Hansen 17:04

Peter Tonge 17:07
The other thing I know that you’re passionate about Nancy is literacy for tell us about that.

Nancy Hansen 17:14
My official job if we’re rotary is I’m the literacy officer. And what I’ve done is I I work with local primary school in our district. And I, I check online for new books that are coming out. And once a month, I I pick some interesting titles. I’ve already in collaboration with the principal of the school, and I just send books. And I do it via Amazon because no picking, packing or postage, Amazon just delivers it once I order it and it’s worked out really well. The principal is really happy with everything and, and even there’s one high school in the district, it’s been getting some books too, and they’re very happy because books are very expensive these days. And with all the cutbacks in education, books, our library books are seen as sometimes frivolous in some ways. And getting away from the the the foundational education, but I think books or books are important. And books that reflect the population of the school is important too. And that’s what I aim to do. And I focus on things like how to be a good friend, what does kindness really mean kindness is you superpower. Getting to understand people that don’t necessarily look like you or move like I sent the kids a bunch of books on Paralympics. I figured that was very timely this year.

Mandy Kwasnica 19:07
So very cool. And what is the response from the school been like?

Nancy Hansen 19:12
Oh, they’ve been they’ve been very, very happy with what I’ve been doing. And I, I have a I’m addicted to books anyway, being an academic, but I mean, education and understanding, promotes, promotes education promotes understanding. And I think that’s really important. And the more interesting and fun you can make it. It’s going to stay with the kids and if you start from an early age, acceptance is that much easier, right?

Mandy Kwasnica 19:44
I can’t agree with you more. My husband is a massive collector of books. We have a whole wall. That is all books. And now he said we need to have another bookshelf somewhere because it’s awful. I need more so

Peter Tonge 20:01
If your books are still in bookshelves started yet

stepping over files to get to the kitchen

Mandy Kwasnica 20:16
well, just the other day whenever a friend said, Hey, I still have this book you wrote to me years ago. And it’s like, they’re getting this great message of this book. And he’s like, Oh, that’s where that book went. He borrows books out all the time. I think it is so great to to be promoting literacy in the form of actual physical books like every, especially with kids these days, too, they already have so much screen time as it is, whether it’s like in front of a computer TVs, iPads, whatever it might be, I think just having that physical book in front of them. It is super important. So thank you, Nancy, for promoting that. I think that’s a fantastic initiative.

Nancy Hansen 20:57
I just, again, it’s another simple thing to do. I, I read so many books as a part of my my job. I think the sooner kids develop a fondness for reading, the better it is.

Peter Tonge 21:14
Yeah, where do you see the this literacy practice project going in? For what would you like to see it go?

Nancy Hansen 21:22
I would like to see some kind of world will book development, it would be really world literacy project. Because education is the key to understanding right? I think, particularly around and not all the books I have, for the kids deal with disability in any way. But the more we can promote understanding of, quote, unquote, differences, and see difference as a natural thing, a thing to be celebrated as opposed to avoided. I think the world would I goodness, I sound like a card company or something, I think the world would be a better place. But I honestly believe that.

Peter Tonge 22:10
I think you’re absolutely right, I think understanding is what is about.

Mandy Kwasnica 22:15
Both you, Nancy and Peter, both have opened my eyes, to your world that you you see, and that you feel and hear, and all of the experiences that you guys face, it has given me a totally different perspective on things. And just even little things that I pick up on is like, oh, you know, that logo could have someone who might have a disability in it, you know, like, just different little things that I picked up on, that I may have not picked up on before. But I have both of you to think for that.

Nancy Hansen 22:49
And I if I can just add something else I what’s been important in our club, what we what we really tried to do with any kind of infrastructure that’s happening, and global projects, we try and sort of underscore the need to make infrastructure accessible, right, because in a lot of in a lot of places in the world, roder rebuild infrastructure because governments can’t afford it. And a lot of a lot of people with disabled people live in, in countries that are under resource. So the more accessible you can make infrastructure from the beginning, the more people are going to be able to participate as fully as they can, in, in day to day life, particularly with education. And I know, the ripple project that our district is involved in, they make their infrastructure as accessible as possible. And that’s not well known. And I think it’s something that should be publicized, because, again, education makes all the difference, right. Education provides opportunity.

Mandy Kwasnica 24:11
I had just said that, and nobody should be left out.

Peter Tonge 24:16
Oh, absolutely. Right. Especially. I mean, that’s one of the things that I have to say, both Nancy and I I have spoken at the district level about this. And we tried to put them is if you build it into your project initially, it’s not very expensive to do i that the after the fact can become complicated and difficult. But if you plan it from the beginning, it adds, you know, a very small amount to the cost and they’ve taken that to their credit they think about on board.

Rotary Ad 24:50
Yeah, Nancy, what you’re talking about with the ripple effect program. I believe it was their washroom facilities in the schools that they were building they were making them accessible.

Nancy Hansen 25:00
That’s correct. Yep.

Yeah. And I know that are there are numerous projects, where in other rotary districts when there’s been water projects, they’re trying to make the water projects as accessible as possible, because if disabled people have access to the, to these structures from the get go, I mean, it provides a lot more opportunity, right. And, and I may as well put this into, people don’t really understand, but disabled people are the largest minority group in the world, we are 1.3 billion people worldwide. It’s not just a few here or there. So I think what we can do as Rotarians is expect disability when we’re building something, yeah. Or expect disability and have an attitude of understanding that the more we expect disability and be inclusive, the richer and more creative that clubs are going to be.

Mandy Kwasnica 26:13
Love that.

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Peter Tonge 26:47
I don’t want to put you on the spot. But let’s talk about a little more because of your background. Tell us a little bit more about how Rotary can be can be doing more on the on the Diversity Equity and Inclusion side and making Rotary Clubs more welcoming.

Nancy Hansen 27:09
I think I think if Rotary clubs can get to know rather than going oh, we need it, we need a disabled person or a club to prove how inclusive and diverse we are, go out and get involved with the disability community, we don’t bite any, it’s fine. You know, and it’s a good if you go and get involved in various disability led organizations, we really need the help of non disabled able bodied people to get stuff done. And, um, I mean, it’s a it’s a it’s sharing opportunities, sharing ability. And, you know, if we work together, each age group is strengthened as a result, right? And it’s, and it sort of skews me I’m doing a lot of I’m Xenos. Here. There’s, if we see disability as a natural part of the human condition and natural part of humanity to start with, rather than, you know, a surprise, it’s, it’s that much more work when to start with. So if I can say to the average Rotarian to expect disability, because it’s going to make your club richer, but get out, get out and mix and mingle with the community that you want to recruit from, right? Because that’s going to help everybody in the process. Because we can help each other it’s not necessarily just Rotarians, helping people, it’s Rotarians, with other groups working together and making each other stronger as a result.

Mandy Kwasnica 29:00
It’s really good. Where would you suggest a Rotary club even starts like so if they you know, if they’re like you’re encouraging them to look at being more inclusive. So they kind of look at their demographic of their club and say, Okay, now maybe we could do something with where do they start? Where kind of what kind of organization would you recommend that they even reach out to?

Nancy Hansen 29:25
Start where they start where they start where their comfort zone is? Check with your community, there’s, and I’m not just talking about disability when it groups any kind of a marginalized population group. People want to feel that they belong, right? And if Rotarians get involved with other groups and find out what they’re doing, we can learn from each other, right? And just just sort of get out there in the community. Being involved with Rotary is not necessarily writing a check. I mean, that’s important. But getting getting, getting involved with the community or doing what you can do, right? It doesn’t necessarily mean like, I’m not a physical person, but the stuff I do, I can do. And it makes a difference, right? If I mean, it doesn’t have to be something big and ostentatious, small things can really help. And like, if you can help people with their projects, and they can help you, that’s another way of spreading the, the information about rotary right? Yeah. I mean, I mean, like, Rotary has done an amazing job in polio eradication, but the vast majority of people do not know rotaries involvement in in, you know, polio eradication. And that’s real. I mean, it’s really important to get the word out, right. And also, just because Polio is working towards us, we’re working toward polio eradication, that doesn’t mean that people with polio are going away, right? Because a lot of people have that have polio, that have disability issues that need to be dealt with. So that’s another place where rotary can make a difference, right? It’s the next step.

Peter Tonge 31:36
And be interesting to see how rotary decides to now know that the polio eradication goal is almost met. Where are all those energies going to go? And can we keep that within the disability community? For example, I think that would be brilliant.

Nancy Hansen 31:56
I think that’s really important. Because like I said before, the vast majority of disabled people are in the countries that can least afford, they have difficulties dealing with their non disabled population, let alone the population with disabilities. So Rotary could really help out in this regard.

Peter Tonge 32:21
Okay, so we only have one sort of standard question in our podcast. And that is, that is some form of this, you’ve been a Rotarian. Now for almost 19 years, there’s lots of places you could be spending your time and energy why Rotary?

Nancy Hansen 32:38
I want to I want to pay it. I want to pay it forward somehow, because I’ve had a I have a very privileged life and I feel I have, I have to pay forward somehow I have to make the world somehow better than when I arrived. Right. And if I can do it through rotary that, that’s super and I forgot to say earlier that I’ve had a very, my, my involvement with Rotary starts for a very long time ago. I am Miss Easter Seal 1966. So that was my initial exposure to Rotary. And it’s just interesting how a disabled kid from Ottawa that was involved with the Rotary Club is now working with Rotary in Winnipeg doing what she can do, and it’s like, paying it forward somehow. So it’s kind of neat that way.

Peter Tonge 33:38
We just take a minute, Nancy, for those people that haven’t wasn’t that that wonderful episode with Roy Haynes, and explain how the whole thing with Rotary and Easter Seals used to work.

Nancy Hansen 33:52
Okay, oh, well. Rotary within the Rotary Clubs internationally, started off the United States. were instrumental in beginning orthopedic help for disabled children in the early late early 20th century. In the early 1920s, it started in 1908 and then moved into the early 1920s. They were instrumental in providing medical services and enabling surgeries for surgeries and equipment for disabled children, long before it was possible for socialized medicine, if you will. So they were all privately paid for it and Rotarians were instrumental in in providing a lot of programs, services and medical supports for disabled children. Long before it was possible, long before people thought about supporting this population group. So and as as the interest in quote unquote criminal children became greater the Society for Crippled Children was formed. And then out of that, in Ontario, that’s the one I’m most familiar with in Ontario was the society, the Easter Seals society for Crippled Children. And there are branches of that across the country now, but initially, it came out of the interest of Rotarians. And not many people know that. And I think it’s really important.

Peter Tonge 35:42
And every year as part of their promotions, I guess they used to have cute little crippled kids to help promote the Tammys. Who was Nancy, what year were you?

Nancy Hansen 35:57
And 1966 I was Miss Easter Seal 1966 In Ontario, and in Ottawa, it wasn’t Timmies or Tammys . It was Miss Easter Seal . So I don’t know why I was now you know how old I was nine at the time, I was just hanging out having a good time. It was. And I have to say when I was when I was a little kid. Rotarians made it possible for me to go to accessible picnics long before accessibility was even a concept people really understood. I had a lot of positive memories about rotary involvement from being a child.

Mandy Kwasnica 36:41
Wow. That’s amazing. It’s It’s funny, I was at the dinner table talking with the kids the other day we were we were talking about money, Artem our oldest, he said, Yeah, he’s like, oh, I want to earn lots of money. And I said, Well, what are you going to do with all that money you’re going to earn? And one of the things he said was Rotary. Know, it, you never know what kind of influences it is that you’re having on the work that you’re doing. Right? So it’s not always about money. But it’s how you’re living your life and how you’re influencing others that that can really make the difference.

Peter Tonge 37:28
Absolutely. And just just so your listeners know, I was I was from New Brunswick. In grew up in New Brunswick as a kid in New Brunswick. They had Timmys and Tammys . And I was a Timmy for 1969. So somewhere, there’s some very cute pictures of me on my crutches.

Mandy Kwasnica 37:44
It was meant to be the two would get together.

Nancy Hansen 37:50
Like, I don’t know what happened in my cuteness, but I’m still here so

Mandy Kwasnica 37:54
Well, you both are as cute as can be.

Peter Tonge 37:58
Well, part of what I’m going to do on social media for this episode, I’m gonna post a couple of pictures of Nancy’s Easter time. Gives her just so much fun. To see nine year old Nancy, with Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, during the Easter Seal promotions.

Mandy Kwasnica 38:21
Yeah. Very cool. Yeah,

Nancy Hansen 38:23
that was it. So I mean, my, my involvement with Rotary has been really positive. And I just want people to know that a rotary is accessible in in many different ways. And the more the more people understand that, and the more cluesive rotary can make itself, the better everybody benefits. Right? Everybody benefits. That’s important.

Mandy Kwasnica 38:51
Yep. You bet.

Peter Tonge 38:53
All right, great episode. Thank you very much, Dr. Nancy Hansen. This is gonna be a great episode.

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