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Spotlight on Alumni - Irene Borins Ash

Alumni Spotlight - How Are You Changing the World?

"My Work/My Passion!" by Irene Borins Ash (MSW '87 - Toronto, Canada)  

Irene Borins AshI graduated from Wurzweiler School of Social Work in 1987. My work was always with seniors and their families. Over the years I began to question why some seniors aged with a healthy attitude while others became depressed, yet they all had many current challenges. The agency where I was employed in 1999 asked me to present a paper at the “Fourth Global Conference of the International Federation of on Ageing” in Montreal.

As I had been a tapestry weaver for twenty five year and have a strong visual sensibility, I decided to photograph the seven seniors that I spoke about at the conference as turning to the camera was a logical progression. When I returned from attending the conference, I didn’t want to put the 7 photos shown at the conference in a drawer, and I approached a gallery about having an exhibit focusing on positive aging despite life’s difficulties. I was successful and had two exhibits and then the work became a book which was entitled “Treasured Legacies- Older & Still Great” Second Story Press 2003. There were 44 photos and text. Some of the people in the book were extremely famous such as the legendary jazz pianist OscarCopyright Irene Borins Ash Peterson, Dr. Jean Vanier, Dr. Bernard Ludwig, June Callwood, Celia Franca, Doris Anderson.... and many of the people in the book though not as well known but were equally wise.

Only one senior featured in the book was living in a long term care facility; Ann Seaton living at the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care in Toronto. Ann said these were some of the best years of her life. She was so busy it was hard for her to find time to see me yet she was confined to a scooter. I approached the Ontario Long Term Care Association and asked if they wanted to do an exhibit about the positive side of life in long term care. Most people think of long term care as an awful place but as a social worker I knew the other side of the story. This body of work became my second book “Aging Is Living- Myth Breaking Stories From Long Term Care” Dundurn Press, 2009. There were 25 people in the book and much text. I worked as hard at being a good photographer as on attaining my Master of Social Work Degree and being a Registered Social Worker. I have dedicated the last two years to creating an exhibit entitled “One Planet: Harnessing Hope”. The history of the project is as follows: Thirty years ago when I was in New York doing my Master’s of Social Work degree, I came across the philosophies of Rabbi Menachem M. Copyright Irene Borins AshSchneerson. The Rebbe preached about a non-judgmental love for all mankind and he counseled people of all faiths. This was the beginning of my lifelong passion for multi-faith. When I wrote my first book, Dr. David Suzuki, who was in the book, talked of his concerns about climate change and unfortunately so many of his predictions are coming true. I have interviewed over 100 seniors for both books and so many of the seniors I have interviewed said they were concerned about what the world would be like for their children and grandchildren in relationship to the changing environment. When it comes to climate change we are equal; we are in this together.

In my first book, I had interviewed Sister Constance Murphy, Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, Swami Pramathananda and Raymond Gould, a part Maliseet- part Acadian aboriginal. I was continuing with my belief in multi-faith. I decided I wanted to do what I could to help the environmental situation so I approached Dr. Lucy Cummings, the E.D. of Faith and the Common Good: Greening Sacred Spaces. Lucy introduced me to the faith groups and some multi-cultural groups that will appear in the new exhibit.

The new exhibit has been endorsed by the Ontario Multifaith Council, Scarboro Missions, Councillor Joe Mihevc of Toronto City Council, Reverend Fletcher Harper and Rabbi Lawrence Troster of GreenFaith, the Very Reverend Bill Phipps, Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley and Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish. The people interviewed are from Canada and the United States. I was also the official photographer for the “People’s Climate March” which was in NYC on September the 21st, 2014. Four Hundred thousand people marched in solidarity to draw attention to the issue of global warming and climate change. For more information of my work and more photos please look at my website

Are you doing something extraordinary to change your world? To nominate yourself or another member of the Wurzweiler alumni  to be featured in a future Alumni Spotlight, email