Our History

We’re called USC Canada because we started out way back in 1945 as the Unitarian Service Committee, founded by the energetic and indefatigable Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova. We’re still planting the seeds that Lotta sowed. Find out more about our founder, Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova.

We've collected some resource materials about Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova’s life and work, including links, articles, speeches, presentations and reminiscences about Lotta, as well as a  “Spirit Play” story designed for children.

Articles, talks and the “Spirit Play” story

“Bouncing Back and Moving Forward: Embracing Resilience, Rights and Respect!”, a presentation by USC’s Executive Director, Susan Walsh, to the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa, January 21, 2005.

“USC Canada: still planting the seeds that Lotta first sowed”, a presentation by USC’s Legacy Gift coordinator, David Rain, to the Unitarian Congregation of Niagara, April 19, 2009.

We've gathered together some photos of Lotta that span her career at USC Canada.
The gallery will appear here soon.

We've gathered some stories and reminiscences recounted by people who knew or remembered Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova. We hope you enjoy them.

And they called her The Atomic Mosquito” ….

Stuart Keate writes [1984]: “We referred to her as ‘The Atomic Mosquito’. She cut a dashing figure in newsrooms and rode herd on her newspaper friends. She examined copy closely – both editorial and art – and did not hesitate to chastise editors if her beloved USC was consigned to the inside pages of the paper.”

(from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC story”)

And we all knew the leader….

Lotta was a wonderful person – wonderful for her commitment and for her passion. She showed us all that anyone can make a difference just by pushing ahead to do so. I met her when she would show her excellent slides in Vancouver. I think I joined the Unitarian Church thinking in large measure that what the USC was doing gave the Unitarian Church its own small OXFAM, and we all knew the leader! It is wonderful that she is being honoured. (JM)

We've compiled some quotes from Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova, covering a wide variety of topics, taken from some of her articles, speeches, interviews, radio and TV public service announcements from the 1950s to 1970s. We think they're still relevant (and fun to read) today.

Accepting the Rotary International Award for Human Understanding ….

Your organization and ours are truly walking on the same path. I completely share your belief that the little ones and the elderly must be given as much assistance, protection and love as possible…and thus we are all brothers and sisters, aiming at one single goal: to help make this torn, crying, bleeding world of ours a peaceful shrine for everyone – whatever his or her language, background or color.

Let us promise to remember this important gathering that has brought us together from many parts of the world…some of you will say that mine is a Utopia, and that may be so; but are we not on earth to make it a better, a kinder world for all?

With all our might we must avoid another holocaust, which would be a catastrophe. Instead of destruction we must aim at construction – and very little time is left….

(from Clyde Sanger’s 1986 biography, “Lotta and the USC story”)

We invite you to watch three short films celebrating Lotta's life and work.

Dr. Lotta's 100th

In 2009, on the hundredth anniversary of Lotta's birth, we created a  public service announcement featuring archival images from Lott'as life of service .  (We'd like to thank Kensington Communications for donating the time and resources to make this video.)

(Youtube - http://www.usc-canada.org/web/films-about-her-life)

If you're old enough to have watched Canadian TV in the 50s, 60s or 70s you probably saw Lotta's televised public service announcements.  We bet you remember her unique uniform and cap.  We invite you to watch a few of her most memorable PSAs.

If you're old enough to remember the 50s then you probably remember Lotta's voice on the radio.  She always ended her appeals with our address: 56 Sparks Street, Ottawa.  Her voice made this the best known address in Canada.  We invite you to listen (again) to her voice.

our history pic-1

In 1945, Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova (1909-1990), a Czech refugee rescued from war-torn Europe founded the Unitarian Service Committee to help those suffering the aftermath of World War II, especially children. Her compassion struck a chord with Canadians. Thousands answered her call and gave food, clothing and cash to help those in need, making USC Canada one of the very first international development agencies in our country.

our history pic-2

Seeds of Survival

In the decades since, the world and its needs changed – and USC Canada responded. Today, our core program is Seeds of Survival (SoS). Working in 12 countries around the globe, SoS supports farmers so they can stay on their land and grow more healthy food for their families and communities. At the same time, our programming aims to preserve the environment and enhance valuable biodiversity, essential to healthy food systems.

Seeds of Survival was born in the wake of civil war and severe droughts in Ethiopia in the 1980s. Facing starvation, farmers were forced to eat the seeds they had saved for planting. This imperilled the thousands of seed varieties in this centre of origin for world food crops.

Ethiopia’s diversity of seed genetic resources was in trouble – and so was its long-term food security.

Working in collaboration with the Ethiopian Gene bank, USC Canada supported a plan to rescue as many precious stores of farmer seeds as possible, multiply them out and give them back to the farmers.

It worked!

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Since these early years, the SoS concept and model has evolved to include farmer led seed banking networks, seed breeding programs, training and knowledge exchanges. Similar programs are now in more than 50 countries, many as a direct result of involvement in an SoS training program.

In 1999, the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC) awarded Seeds of Survival for its innovative programming in the area of food security.

our history pic-4

Regional Community Seed Bank and International Learning Centre, Wollo, Ethiopia opened in 2010 with USC Canada support. It is one of a now established network of community seed banks run by farmers in collaboration with scientists.

SoS is part of a widespread, farmer-led movement for environmentally sound agriculture. With partners in 11 Global South countries, USC Canada supports women, small-scale farmers and young people. In 2013, Seeds of Survival went truly global when USC Canada brought the SOS approach to Canada to support farming communities here at home.

Born in Prague on November 28, 1909, Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova came to Canada during World War II as a refugee.  In 1945, she founded the organization to which she would dedicate her life: the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada (today's USC Canada).

LottaHitschmanova tbnWhat's in a Name?

We’re called USC Canada because we started out way back in 1945 as the Unitarian Service Committee, founded by the energetic Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova. We’re still planting the seeds that Lotta sowed. Find out more about our founder, Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova.

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  • Phone: 1-800-565-6872

USC Canada is a Registered Canadian Charity 11927-6129-RR-0001

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