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An Interview with Leanna Rose Perekh




Gordon: You studied at the University of Windsor – can you share a bit about your experience there?

 

Leanna: I studied a Bachelor of Arts, Honours program called Drama in Education & Community (minor in English Literature). It was a small cohort of about 30 students every year; a very experiential, hands-on program. I had the chance to explore many avenues of arts in education, community, therapy, healthcare, and social justice. I was even a Clown Doctor with Fools for Health during my time here – my clown persona (Dr. Disarray - me, in disguise) was delighted to appear in hospitals and senior homes, spending time, singing, playing, and telling stories. My thesis in my final year focused on how stories can help people in religious communities understand and connect with their faith. I got to be a Resident Assistant and a Teaching Assistant where I had the honor of coaching and mentoring younger students in this program. It was such a rich, beautiful experience that filled me with hope and confidence about my future. Though I graduated in 2011, I’m still in contact with many of my classmates and professors.

 

Gordon: You were a Clown Doctor at Fools for Health. Can you share a favorite memory?


Leanna: So many precious memories from my time as a clown doctor, but there’s one moment in particular that touched my heart. We were in the pediatrics wing at a Windsor hospital. It was pretty quiet that day. A little girl appeared alone (she may have been three or four years old) and wanted to engage with me and my clowning partner. We tried our usual songs, but she just stood there, perplexed. A few other clues added up and we realized she was hard of hearing – perhaps deaf. We transitioned from words to movement: dance, hide and seek, funny faces, pat-e-cake, and things like that. She responded and we made a gentle connection. She smiled. It was really beautiful.

 

Gordon: Tell us about your time at Queen’s University.

 

Leanna: Queens was my stomping ground in 2012 while I earned my Bachelor of Education. It was another unique program called Artist in Community Education (ACE). And though I was very proud to earn my way into Queens University and I loved education, it wasn’t my favorite year of study. This is where I learned that the classroom wasn’t where I wanted to be.

 

During this time, I started freelance writing on the side to develop my portfolio. It was the first time I took writing seriously. I wrote for Busted Halo, CBC’s Generation Why Magazine, and made some small media appearances when Pope Francis was first appointed.

 

Gordon: When did you study at Regis College at the University of Toronto? Can you share what you learned there?

 

Leanna: I took Theology classes part-time alongside the Jesuits at Regis while working full-time at St. Basil’s Parish at the University of St. Michael’s College from 2014-2018. I was heavily involved in the Catholic community on campus, Toronto School of Theology, and the downtown core at the time. It was a vibrant time to be a young adult in the city.

 

Some of the most challenging classes at Regis were also the most interesting. Many might assume that theology studies make you fall more in love with the Lord, but I’d argue that it does the opposite – it tests your faith, makes you think creatively, and pushes the envelope of what you think is possible. The idea is to study brilliant minds and theories, but also think critically and pose new questions. I learned that this is part of being a theologian.

 

Gordon: You served as a Production and marketing Intern at Salt and Light Catholic Media - what was the primary lesson that you learned when you were there?

 

Leanna: S+L is where I got my media experience. The CEO took a chance on hiring me and I’ll always be grateful for that. The staff there were wonderful – they really helped introduce me to the world of video and journalism. I got to work on some educational resources, sit in on some photo/video shoots, and see how live events and journalistic filming happened. I was lucky enough to attend a speaking event at a Synagogue, featuring a priest, a rabbi, and a pundit speaking about the afterlife. Sounds like a joke, doesn’t it? A priest, a rabbi, and a pundit walk into a bar…

 

Gordon: When did you serve as Team Lead at Stratford Festival – what were your primary responsibilities?

 

Leanna: I was in Stratford every summer after each year of undergrad. Being here was another profound experience I’m grateful for and remember fondly.

The Stratford Festival is the leading classical theater company in Canada. Their education department offers an immersive summer experience for teens 14-18 years old. The young adults learn about theatre, take acting classes with leading professional actors and directors, and attend theater performances in the evenings. My job was to lead a team of Assistant-to-the-Directors and Den Parents and care for the teens. I’m also still in touch with some of my team and students I met there. I was the Head Den Parent for 3 summers and I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. They are an incredibly inspiring, talented, brilliant group of people.

 

Gordon: You were an Intern Writer with the Third Committee at the United Nations with the Holy See Mission. What did you learn when you were there?

 

Leanna: Being at the United Nations in NYC was a jumpstart to my career. I learned not only about world issues but also how each country made decisions about those issues. I learned that the Holy See Mission was a Permanent Observer, meaning they cannot vote. This is by design. Being in this unique position, we concerned ourselves less with power and more with persuasion. I watched as our holy representatives crafted statements in the face of world issues that were more about peace and conflict resolution – hoping to sway other countries' votes toward charity and sustainable solutions.

 

Gordon: When did you serve as Community Coordinator at St. Basil’s Parish at the University of St. Michael’s College Toronto, Ontario and what were your primary responsibilities? 

 

Leanna: This was my first job out of University, aside from my internship at the U.N. I was the first to champion the Community Coordinator position. Looking back, what didn’t I do? I ran events, wrote liturgies, edited the bulletin, ran a volunteer brigade, and even helped the pastor write homilies. I was also involved in the creation of Magdala: a theological group deeply committed to feminine theology in practice. It was essentially my job to know everyone in the community and create opportunities for spiritual encounters and belonging.

 

Gordon: You held two positions at World Vision in Canada, what were they, and what was your primary responsibility at both positions?

 

Leanna: Actually, I had three positions! I was at World Vision Canada for nearly six years.

I was first a Field Content Writer – taking raw content from the places World Vision works and creating compelling story content. As a Marketing Communications Writer – I really honed my skills as a marketer, I wrote all sorts of collateral for internal clients: print brochures, web pages, radio scripts, letters, email copy, you name it. As for Creative Content Specialist – this was special. I really learned more about how to be a strategist and developed skills on how to understand and cater to a non-profit, charitable audience. I learned a lot about the business side of charities in this last role because I was on a multi-talented, cross-functional team. World Vision is doing such incredible work and I’m so proud to have been part of it.

 

Gordon: Can you share about your time as a Content Strategist?

 

Leanna: I needed a new challenge after nearly a decade in non-profit, so I dove into the for-profit agency world. It was an excellent learning experience. I sharpened my strategy lens and discovered a love for editing after spending years as a writer. It’s also where I realized how much I missed the non-profit sector – I needed that deeper meaning behind my work to fuel the fire in my spirit.

 

Gordon: You are now the Senior Editor at Heart & Stroke. What are your primary responsibilities?

 

Leanna: Back in the non-profit space, I’m now the Senior Editor of content at Heart & Stroke. I coach a team of content producers and work on web content for a variety of projects including reports, web pages, letters, donor emails, and more. I also profile people with lived experience and researchers who are pioneering the way to better healthcare. It’s the dream – working as a writer and editor for a leading Canadian foundation, working remotely, able to be close to home and nearer to my young family.

You can see that my career narrative hasn’t been linear, but this journey has been a profound awakening to my true passions. It’s a testament to what can happen when we respond to our fiat. I’ve been so blessed with incredible experiences, peers, and mentors along the way. I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

Gordon: Who is your favorite author right now and why is that author your favorite?

 

Leanna: I’ve been loving Shannon K. Evans lately. Her book ‘Rewinding Motherhood’ has given me pause. It was exactly what I didn’t know I needed to hear, if that makes sense – all written by a fellow mother, also living her fiat. It’s raw, honest motherhood. A battle cry for faithful women who have grappled with their vocation as mothers. Her latest book, ‘Feminist Prayers for My Daughter’ has also been exquisite. It’s brought me to my knees in gratitude for my beautiful children. Her work is audacious and inspiring. I recommend her to everyone.

 

Gordon: Thank you for a great interview.

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