A legacy of hope: supporting the next generation
At Michel and Madeleine Desloges’ home in Orléans, a photo hangs on the living room wall of an imposing jacaranda, a South American tree known for its beautiful bluish-mauve flowers.
When you look closer, though, you notice that the tree is an illusion created by a skilful arrangement of hundreds of tiny photos of one person: their daughter Annemarie.
The jacaranda was the favourite tree of Annemarie Desloges, a Canadian diplomat killed in a terror attack in Kenya in 2013, at the age of 29. Thanks to a new eponymous scholarship established at the University of Ottawa, her name will live on.
“The scholarship was created to keep Annemarie’s memory alive and help students in need,” says Madeleine. “She would have given the shirt off her back for others. It’s fitting that she can continue to help people.”
You might say that Annemarie Desloges was a born diplomat. Both of her parents, now retired, were members of the Canadian foreign service. She was born in Bogota, Colombia, and over the years, her family lived in Jamaica, Ivory Coast, France and India.
After she completed her degree in health sciences at the University of Ottawa, Annemarie became a foreign service officer with Citizenship and Immigration Canada. She ended up in India, and then Nairobi, Kenya, where she assisted East African refugees and oversaw family reunifications. She loved her work and had a gift for it.
She seemed headed for a brilliant career. But on September 21, 2013, she was with her husband at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi when a terrorist group attacked. More than 60 people, including Annemarie, were killed. Her parents were in shock.
In the months that followed, speaking to other parents who had experienced a similar grief, they came up with the idea of creating a scholarship to keep Annemarie’s memory alive. As she had studied at the University of Ottawa, it made sense to consider establishing it here.
The Annemarie Desloges Scholarship provides assistance to an undergraduate student in the Faculty of Social Sciences or Health Sciences. One criterion is that the recipient must demonstrate financial need. This is very important to the family. “We want to help someone with the potential but not the means,” says Madeleine.
It’s also very important for the family that applicants for the scholarship learn about Annemarie’s story. “She must be remembered after we’re gone,” says Madeleine. “I want my grandchildren to know who Auntie Annie was, and for her memory to live on forever.”
“The scholarship keeps Annemarie close to us,” adds Michel. “I would like some good to come of this tragedy, and for her to continue to contribute to society.”