Area getting excited about hosting WHO conference

While committees have been working long and hard at organizing the 11th-annual WHO International Conference on Safe Communities coming up here May 7-9, 2002, it appears even more district residents are willing to lend a hand following an open house here yesterday.
“I think it’s very exciting,” said Wendy Judson, who was part of a steady stream of people visiting the WHO committee’s office at 414 Scott St., talking with committee members and perusing pamphlets about the upcoming conference.
“I hope everyone gets involved in any way they can,” she added, as she filled out a sign-up sheet to be both an ambassador and a billet for next spring’s conference.
Debbie Williamson also signed up for one of the committees at the open house.
“I think wonderful for the district. And the more businesses and individuals that get involved, the better it will be,” she enthused.
Eugene McPherson, who’s been helping organize programs for youths during the conference for several months now, was among those on hand to promote the event.
“It’s probably going to be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet and work with people from all over the world,” he noted. “I think it’s going to be great.”
Some of the committees volunteers can get involved with include communication, finance/sponsorship, youth pre-conference, programming, registration, district tours, logistics, and ambassador/host.
 “We also need volunteers to drive vans around the district, act as chaperones for youth delegates, do set-up, decorations, signage, press releases, typing, manning the phones,” organizer Jeannette Cawston had said previously.
Yesterday’s open house also featured refreshments, including a large “world cake,” and appearances by dignitaries like Fort Frances Mayor Glenn Witherspoon, Telford Advent, chair of the Rainy River Future Development Corp., and Doug Anderson, chair of the Rainy River Valley Safety Coalition and board member of the Canadian Safe Communities Foundation.
“Every other [WHO] conference has been top-down in its organization—this is grassroots,” Anderson said. “And it’s flourishing as the first conference that hasn’t been university-driven.”
Advent agreed on how the volunteers’ hard work has so far paid off. “To beat out Calgary to host the conference in 2002 is remarkable in itself,” he noted.
“We want everybody from Rainy River to Atikokan to work on this,” he added.
“We’re hoping the World Health Organization conference will be second-to-none,” echoed Mayor Witherspoon.
He also stressed the scope of the conference. “We’re in the running with the heavyweights. But I don’t think that they’re going to find a conference that’s better organized,” the mayor remarked.
Up to 500 delegates from around the world are expected to attend the conference to discuss health and safety issues as well as experience Rainy River District, which is considered a “Safe Community” by WHO.
The fifth-annual Canadian Safe Communities conference also will be held here in conjunction with the WHO one.
For more information, drop by the WHO office or contact Cawston at 274-3276.