Being the wife of the leader of Quebec, Jean Charest, cannot be easy. Especially now with all the accusations and mud flinging that is happening. Michele Dionne stepped out of her husband's rather large shadow and held a book launch for "Missions", a 255 page coffee-table-style photo book that came out of her work for the Canadian Red Cross.
The book launch was held on this past Thursday evening at the Loft Hotel and even with the traffic and the heavy rain the room was bursting with people. Keeping her speech short, Michele Dionne thanked those that made the book possible including her husband, who was in attendance to show his support.
While working for the Canadian Red Cross – Quebec Division since 2001, Michele Dionne has travelled extensively outside of the country. In between the election campaigns of her husband she would take some time to travel to regions of devastation in the name of the Canadian Red Cross. Her trips are of the short nature generally lasting 5-6 days. In the past 11 years, Dionne has visited Nicaragua, Honduras, India, Madagascar, China, Haiti, Liberia, and Ukraine. In Liberia she met with people marked by civil war, in India saw the devastation of a tsunami, in Haiti a country practically destroyed by an earthquake, and the ravages of malaria on the population of Madagascar.
What marked her the most during her trips were the people she saw and met. While she does not claim to be a professional photographer, though she does have a very good eye, she started taking pictures of these people after her husband bought her a Nikon camera one Christmas. The digital camera allowed her to bust through the language difficulties she faced with subjects that spoke neither English nor French. Dionne could show them right away the pictures she took and this seemed to be enough to form a connection with the people.
Dionne's photos (of which there are over 100 in the book) pay homage to life, hope and the human spirit. The photos are very raw showing the dirt and sweat on the brows of these people. At the same time it throws some of the spotlight on the volunteers of the Canadian Red Cross and the work they do in many countries around the world.
Accompanying the photos are little anecdotal stories about them and people and areas she visited. Dionne kept journals whenever she travelled with the Red Cross, so the stories are pulled right from them.
Bottom line is that the book is a fund raiser for the Red Cross. Published by La Presse, ten dollars from each book sold will be given to support the missions of the Canadian Red Cross. If all the books from the first printing, mostly done in French with a few in English, were to sell then it would raise $100,000. Dionne herself and La Press have refused any royalties they would typically raise from the book. She is hoping the buzz from the book launch in Quebec will be enough to allow her to travel across Canada with it.
The very poised Michele Dionne is quite an accomplished woman in her own right. A graduate of the University of Sherbrooke, her native city, she worked as a teacher for students with learning and other types of disabilities. In her capacities as First Lady of Quebec she has leant her name and support to several charities having to do with the family, the arts and the status of women.
-Cost: $49.95 (plus taxes)
-Book Purchase: Renaud-Bray (www.renaud-bray.com)