The Real Housewives of Toronto: Joan Kelley Walker Is Not A Betch

Notable met with Slice’s Real Housewives of Toronto ahead of broadcast to get to know the cast on a more professional level. What you may not see on The Real Housewives of Toronto is that each woman is successful in her own right, professionally and personally.

Plus, Joan Kelly Walker is not a betch.

I was raised in a super super small town in Southern Saskatchewan, in a hamlet called Wilcox. My dad was a grain farmer and my mom was a nurse. I was raised up from a fairly simple, humble beginning and it instilled in me my priorities: My family, my friends and my church. What I love about small town living is people have transparency, and can’t just make stuff up or try and be something they’re not. I’ve carried this understanding with me throughout my life, and I’m trying to raise my kids with the same transparency too.

It sounds like family is very important to you.

Family is everything to me. I think these days family isn’t the traditional way of looking at family. It’s your inner circle, the people that make a difference in your life.

How would you describe your role in your inner circle?

I think I belong in a lot of circles. I have a mom circle, a wife circle, a daughter circle, a girlfriend circle, and a philanthropic circle The Real Housewives of Toronto is a new circle and I’m trying to thread it all together and keep my life in tact.

What are your tools for finding balance?

I think experiences are more important than stuff in your life. I look at this show being a really really interesting experience. I’m trying to get out of [the show] as much as I’m putting into it. My personal goal for Real Housewives is to be real. Even though there are parameters [for drama] when shooting the show, there can’t be cameras with me twenty-four seven. So there are layers to my personality I would have liked to show more, like my philanthropic side.

Can you tell Notable about your philanthropic leadership?

When I met my husband about 20 years ago, he was already sponsoring about 20 children through World Vision. I have now travelled to Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Costa Rica, Cambodia, and Mozambique with World Vision and my family currently sponsors 30 kids. 

A Hi Kulene

We have also invested in an area development program in Mozambique in A Hi Kulene, a community that desperately needed water, schools and infrastructure.  So we said “O.K., let’s fund this”. It’s shocking to me that, in this day and age, there are still people who don’t have clean water and I set out to do what I could. 

One of the most empowering moments of my entire life was standing in A Hi Kulene, where we had built the first well — something so simple. It felt like a million degrees outside and we were splashing around in the well water in a very joyful moment. Suddenly, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a small group of mothers huddled together. They were pushing one woman to the front, towards me.

Through the translator she said this to me, and it still brings tears to my eyes: “ Thank you for the well, because now I know my children won’t die from waterborne disease.”  Here we were horsing around with the water when I truly realized that well was a life-or-death situation for these mothers.  

That’s why I do what I do. 

Can you tell me about the power and effect of being a leader in philanthropy?

Everyone can lead in their own way, it doesn’t matter your station in life or how much money you have. I think making gestures in your community — like shovelling your neighbour’s driveway when they’re not able to, mowing someone’s lawn because she is a single mom and doesn’t have a lawn mower — doing seemingly small things can make a huge difference to people.

Being a leader will inspire others to do the same. It sounds to me that you’re a community leader in that sense, through example.

Canadians are known for helping each other out and being supportive of every kind of person, no matter their differences. Even if you do a small thing for someone else, you’re being a leader. Philanthropy is not even charity, it’s just a means for kindness and showing love to your neighbour. I work with the tools that I have, to the scale that I can afford, and everybody can be a leader by doing the same within their own means.