The best way to gauge Avice Roberts-Joseph’s dedication to the activities that she has been involved in over the past four decades is by her lingering enthusiasm.
Forty-six years as a sports administrator, 40 years as an educator and 12 years as a school volunteer, Mrs. Joseph still describes them all as “my babies.” And treats them as such.
So, although she has been retired since 2004, it’s not unusual to find her at St. Monica’s Elementary School in NDG at 8:00 AM every school day tending to the 75 or so students who might have come to school without having breakfast.
She started “The Breakfast Club” while she was a teacher at the school and saw it as a necessity for her students, and continued throughout her retirement.
At the end of the day, she is also at school for her “Homework Project” helping dozens of students with their assignments.
And when she finally gets home, she has to dedicate some time to her other “baby,” The Quebec Amateur Netball Federation (QANF), an organizing body she helped found 46 years ago to introduce and promote the game in and around Montreal.
To those of us who have had children in the care of Mrs. Joseph during her 40 years as an elementary school with the English Montreal School Board, we know too well the extent of her dedication and the joy that she derives from her service.
The well-being of her students (whatever their age) is always a priority. That’s why the Breakfast Club is so important to her.
“In most cases it’s not that these students don’t have food at home, it’s just that their parents are unable to get them to eat before they come,” she says. “And I know just how lethargic they become in class if they haven’t eaten, so I make sure that there is a meal available to every student that needs it.”
She has about 95 students registered and an average of 75 partake of her offerings on any given day.
The homework project that she started upon her retirement is still just as important to her and beneficial to the students who participate in it.
For many years it kept her at school well into the evening hours working with students who need the extra help, but that has changed since she has been able to get the Quebec Board of Black Educators to send a tutor to the school to lend a hand.
Recent awards from Sports Quebec and Netball Quebec underline Mrs. Joseph’s lifelong involvement in the sport in this province.
“It was about the mid-1970s when I and a few other women started to organize netball games in Montreal,” she says. “It was important to us because every weekend we found ourselves watching the guys play cricket. And I thought to myself: ‘why should we watch them when we can be playing a game that many of us loved back in the Caribbean’.”
Mrs. Joseph says the St. Vincent Association of Montreal, which was one of the most established institutions in our community at the time, was instrumental in helping to get the sport off the ground here.
Everyone who has been involved in netball in Quebec can tell of Mrs. Joseph’s efforts in organizing and promoting the sport.
She has been tireless with her fundraising initiative which has helped to keep Quebec as one of the top teams in Canada, and she has also helped to send local players across Canada and around the world representing the province and the country.
Also, her boundless and contagious energy made it easy for her to co-op others into volunteering for the cause. So it’s not surprising that many professionals in the community, including this writer, was involved with the QANF at one time or the other.
Awards and acclamations aside, Mrs. Joseph remains as driven and as passionate about her projects as she was four and half decades ago.
It’s important to her that sports (especially netball) and education continue to impact positively on the lives of others. And that’s why she remains energetic and enthused about her “babies”.