A memorial scholarship for Black students studying health professions has been established in the name of a community and health advocate who was also the first woman in Nova Scotia ordained by the African Orthodox Church.

The Health Association of African Canadians (HAAC) will host a free hybrid event Saturday, Feb. 11 at noon at the Black Cultural Centre in Cherry Brook, and virtually on Zoom, where they will announce the two inaugural recipients of the Phyllis Marsh-Jarvis Memorial Scholarship.

“There will be some members of her family present when we announce the recipients of the scholarship,” said Archy Beals, chair of HAACs scholarship committee and one of its board members.

“We will talk about the life of Reverend Mother Phyllis, we will release the names of the two recipients. We’re very hopeful that they’ll be in attendance, and there will be a little bit of a reception at the end.”

‘She was someone who was all about helping others’

In addition to being past co-president, Marsh-Jarvis was also a long-standing director of rural and community engagement in Sydney for HAAC.

“I know that she had some health challenges and, like all of us in the community, wanted to get as much information as we can and educate others about health challenges and what we can do to either prevent or to look at bettering our lives with those health challenges. So, I believe that was the impetus for her getting involved with the Health Association of African Canadians.”

A Black woman smiling calmly, wearing a gold wrapped headscarf, red framed glasses, and bold silver jewelry.
Reverand Phyllis Marsh-Jarvis. Credit: Contributed

Beals said Marsh-Jarvis was still working with and advocating for HAAC when she passed away in 2021. Beals joined HAAC in June 2022 after the scholarship was created, but said he knew Marsh-Jarvis “personally, as a friend, and as a community advocate.”

“She was someone who was all about helping others and making sure that she was advocating for others and not just herself,” Beals said.

Beals said he believed Marsh-Jarvis was from the Annapolis Valley but grew up in the Whitney Pier area.

In 2015 Marsh-Jarvis became the first woman in Nova Scotia ordained by the African Orthodox Church. In 2016, she took over as rector at St. Philip’s African Orthodox Church in Whitney Pier where her mentor, Father Vincent Waterman, had served. 

Her June 2021 obituary said, among many accolades, that Marsh-Jarvis started a seniors’ activity program at St. Philips, and served as a board member on the Community United for Black Education, The African Nova Scotian Service Provider Network, Aids Coalition, and other organizations.

“[HAAC] wanted to honour the legacy of Reverend Mother Phyllis, and because of her work with the association, and where she was all about education and all about bettering yourself, so this was the perfect opportunity to remember her legacy by naming the scholarship in her honour,” Beals said.

‘It wasn’t an easy task’

Beals said an HAAC committee selected the two inaugural scholarship recipients from about 20 to 25 applicants who identify as Black.

The applicants had to write a letter of intent “as to the mission, mandate, and vision of HAAC and how their program of study will help in that field and advance the work that HAAC is currently doing, or has done in the past, or the work that HAAC will be doing in the future.”

“And it wasn’t an easy task because there were so many deserving applicants who applied,” Beals said. 

Click here to register for this free event on Eventbrite. Click here to stream the event on Zoom.

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Matthew Byard writes news, profiles, and stories of the Black Nova Scotia community. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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