An IN HER SHOES trailblazer – Women share stories of stepping up and out in Life Part II.
FRAN DUTHIE – Co founder/Director of Education ELEPHANATICS
She needed something bigger than herself…..
“I looked around and realized no one was home.” The bubbling energy that had always filled Fran Duthie’s home was replaced by an eerie silence. Two beautiful daughters (pictured l-r Andrea, Emmalee, mom Fran) had launched into academic and career paths. Hollow emptiness remained. For the devoted Mom it was a big turning point.
“I had to reevaluate my purpose other than taking care of everyone else, I had to find ME aside from being someone’s wife or mother.” And there was more, “I wanted to find a place to put my passion, to find something that was bigger than me. I wanted to make a difference, I wanted to help.”
So, at age 52 in midlife, Fran set out on journey of (re)discovering herself.
It was a tall order for anyone. Let alone for Fran who was still dealing with the ravages of menopause and adrenal fatigue that had brought her to a complete stop. She went within. She persevered. She researched. She educated herself.
It took 4 years.
“I had always been an animal lover and was particularly passionate about elephants. I abhor poaching and started researching the crisis happening in Africa about this beautiful keystone species.” In May 2013, Fran, along with three other advocates, co-founded ELEPHANATICS, the first elephant advocacy organization to be established in Vancouver, British Columbia. Its main goal is to help the long-term survival of the African elephant by means of education, conservation and action.
She found her passion alright. It’s taking her in directions she couldn’t have imagined.
Cheryl: Why was it so important to find your purpose? You could have put your feet up and opened a box of bonbons!
FRAN: I still eat bonbons but with a purpose now!! I have found that having a passion and desire to make a difference burns calories much quicker! Finding my purpose has been an incremental process, something that has evolved from many different emotions and reactions to the issues facing the world today. My passion to speak for those who have no voice was my ethos. The poaching crisis in Africa filled that need and the slaughter of helpless elephants fueled my desire to try and make a change.
Cheryl: Work wise you’ve had a few paths…worked in a bank, sold real estate, worked as a fitness trainer, special needs teaching assistant and you hold a counseling diploma. Is it scary to be in new, uncharted territory at this point in your life?
FRAN: Actually, I find it exciting and challenging. I am able to put all the things I have learned from my many different jobs into use. I am able to multi task very well. I owe most of that to being a mother of two girls who kept me on my toes! Also, being a mother is the hardest job you can do. It has taught me more valuable life lessons than any job ever could have.
Cheryl: Your fingers are in every ELEPANATIC pie… you’re the Director of Education, you’ve been involved in a Flash Mob, you’ve organized the Vancouver Global March for Elephants and Rhinos where you addressed hundreds of people (pictured below) …have you ever done anything like this before? How’s it feel?
FRAN: I have done similar things to this but not on such a grand scale. It feels a bit overwhelming at times, but my desire to spread awareness about the elephant crisis propels me to move ahead and keep plunging myself into areas I am not familiar with; such as technology!
Cheryl: You’ve been initiating some very creative Marketing campaigns. How do you know where to start or what to do?
FRAN: My nature is such that I am always questioning or curious as to how things work. I came up with a marketing idea for Elephanatics when I was brainstorming one day by myself. I literally created my own soapbox!! I needed to spread the word about the crisis they were facing and wanted to find a common denominator between elephants and humans. I knew elephants loved mud baths so I started making gift boxes that included homemade soap, bath salts and mud scrub for the face and body – hence my soapbox platform!
Inside each box includes a write up on elephants and their love of mud baths and our links to Elephanatics. It is a subtle approach to marketing our organization, but an enjoyable way to spend an evening in your own ‘human’ mud bath.
Cheryl: Then there is the tech stuff like using facebook and twitter to get the message out. Yikes!!! This technology ‘thing’ is pretty scary for most of us. Was there a big learning curve?
FRAN: Yes, I’m still learning! I love forcing myself to learn new technology and trust me when I say it can be a challenge. Things are changing daily with technology and unless you stay on top of it you will be left behind. I need to do a lot of catch up and do the best I can for now.
Cheryl: How have you grown or changed since co-founding ELEPHANATICS?
FRAN: I feel like I have grown exponentially since founding Elephanatics. My world has opened up to new and exciting opportunities and I have met wonderful new people with the same goals as myself. My family and friends have been very supportive and I feel I am very lucky to have that encouragement.
Cheryl: It was important for you to find something bigger than yourself…why?
FRAN: I believe that when someone survives a traumatic injury, their life automatically takes on a new form and purpose, whether they like it or not. I was close to death at the age of nineteen when a car hit me head on. It left me paralyzed and it took a year and a half in rehabilitation learning to walk again. The scars left from that experience are a keen reminder of the fragility of life; but, I have realized that the strength and tenacity I showed during that time has been the major catalyst in the pursuit of finding my purpose and passion. I always believed I was spared so I could make a difference – even if it were an infinitesimal difference.
Cheryl: You said, “If you take yourself out of yourself a whole new world opens up.” Explain that.
FRAN: Dwelling on oneself can be an anxiety driven task setting you up for negative consequences. After my car accident, everything that was once easy for me was much harder. I went inwards blaming myself for things that were beyond my control. Once I stopped questioning whether fate was a nihilistic way of looking at things, I accepted the fact that ‘shit happens’ and tried not to dwell on my limitations. It has taken a long time to come to that acceptance. I started focusing on bigger things in the world that were far worse than my predicament. I believe, regardless if you have been in a traumatic situation or not, the need to find something bigger than yourself is paramount to living a happy life.
Cheryl: Four years ago…life was a little rough as you set out to rediscover yourself…What’s the best part of your life today?
FRAN: The best part of my life today is the fact that I have a goal to work towards. It is different from a job in that I am not on a time schedule per se. I work as I wish, and I find I work harder because it is my passion. I like the fact that it keeps my mind busy and I love it when I tell someone about the ivory situation and they had no idea where and how ivory was obtained. Making people aware is the greatest satisfaction of the journey I’ve embarked upon.
Cheryl: What would you say to a woman who is at the beginning of her journey to find herself and purpose?
FRAN: Within each of us hides a passion we have not been able to unlock for one reason or another. Typically it is because we, as women, are too busy taking care of others to meet our own needs. After the tidal wave of raising children, experiencing menopause, separation, a trauma, or whatever your case may be, you will be able to look at life from a new perspective. That is when you will discover the hidden treasures you have inside. It may take a long time, like it took me, or perhaps you will be lucky enough to already know what your passion is and be able to jump right in. My advice is to do just that – jump right in! The doors of opportunity will open once you start knocking, and the best part of walking through the door is the new found self-esteem and confidence waiting for you on the other side.
My new motto is a quote from Albert Einstein, who said:
“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing. “
I left Fran feeling very inspired…realizing that finding the courage to face an inward journey is the hardest part and that once passion is found fear melts. Each day becomes an exhilarating journey of launching into the unknown, trying new things…new ideas and that each of us has the opportunity to change the world in meaningful ways. All we have to do is begin.
Fran has been building an ELEPHANATICS product line of handcrafted originals.
ELEPHANATICS Soapbox Collection of organic body products:
Lavender soap and sachet – $5.00
Lavender bath salts (pictured below) – $5.00
Choco-fudge lip balm – $3.00
ELEPHANATICS Gift Boxes include: Choco-fudge soap, bath salts and mud scrub – $19.00
‘UNITED,’ an original hand painted ELEPHANATICS greeting card (pictured below) – $2.25 each or a pack of 10 for $20.00 or 5 for $10.00
All proceeds from ELEPHANATICS products support the long-term survival of the African elephant by means of education, conservation and action.
Here are great resources find out more about elephant poaching as well as materials for educators and primary and intermediate students.
To find out more about ELEPHANATICS contact Fran [email protected]
karen regan says
Very inspiring story…thank you Fran for the work you do!
Extremely inspiring story, I am proud to say Fran is my mum. Thank you for your continuous positivity and allowing your passion to guide you, and others, through life.
Thank you so much for all you do! So inspiring.
Thank you! I am so inspired by your work.
Just goes to show, one person really can make a difference….thank you Fran!
Fran you are a true inspiration! Keep up the great work!
Sam zak says
Thank you for making a difference on what you have done and are continuing to do. Being a voice for them and making people aware is so important. I’m so proud of you.
Your words are so very eloquently chosen to paint a picture of your journey to heal, grow and live your passion. Thank you for being so honest.