2019 Canada’s Volunteer Awards recipients
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Thérèse Casgrain Lifelong Achievement
Roberta (Bobby) Farr
Roberta (Bobby) Farr has been volunteering for over 50 years and is a community leader who encourages others to get involved.
Bobby is a founding member of the TELUS Community Ambassadors, a program that strengthens communities through one act at a time. She helped to transform a local volunteer program into a national program. TELUS Community Ambassadors has 23 clubs across British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada, with more than 5,000 members.
In 1993, Bobby initiated Kits for Kids, a program that provides backpacks with essential school supplies to children from low-income families. Launched in Vancouver, the program is now national and distributes 13,000 kits annually through the TELUS Community Ambassadors.
Bobby cofounded Comfort Kits, an initiative that provides personal hygiene items for those living in temporary shelters. Since 2006, TELUS Community Ambassadors has collaborated with the shelters to distribute over 160,000 Comfort Kits to those in need.
Bobby also created a knitting program called Baby Kits. Telus Community Ambassadors knit baby blankets, toques, socks and mittens, and donate them to hospitals to give to low-income new mothers. Bobby expanded the knitting program to include sewers and crocheters. Since 2006, TELUS volunteers have donated over 8,000 baby kits across Canada.
British Columbia and the North: Kalwinder Dosanjh
Kalwinder (Kal) Dosanjh strongly believes in the benefits that come from engaging youth in sports. After serving more than 20 years in law enforcement, Kal witnessed an increase in youth crimes, particularly crimes involving gangs and drugs.
He believes that sports can help divert youth away from this harmful path. He creates positive environments where youth can express themselves in healthy ways.
Kal founded the Kids Play Youth Foundation to create opportunities for youth to discover their potential. It is a volunteer-run organization offering sports tournaments and activities. Kids Play has engaged over 500 volunteers and served over 60,000 kids through organized sports programs. The organization collaborates with:
- sports organizations in British Columbia
- community law enforcement government
In addition to serving as a positive role model for youth, Kal has cultivated a culture of giving back in the community through volunteering. Many of the program’s participants return to volunteer with the Foundation, acting as youth mentors.
Kal is a community leader who is helping to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged youth through sports. His efforts empower youth to develop teamwork and leadership skills, and to reach their full potential.
Prairies: Shadia Rahman
Shadia Rahman provides support and helps people worldwide who wish to settle in Canada. As an immigrant herself, she understands first-hand how Canada’s immigration process can be costly and confusing. New immigrants face numerous challenges including:
- understanding the immigration process before leaving their home countries
- finding employment
- finding accommodations
- finding support after they arrive in Canada
Motivated by her lived experience as an immigrant, Shadia started the online platform ImmigrationandSettlement.org. She used the power of social media to inform others about the Canadian immigration and settlement process.
Her efforts inform others about visas, permanent residency and citizenship processes. Thanks to Shadia’s free digital platforms, people can learn about immigration without having to pay enormous brokers’ fees.
As a community builder, she inspires others to get involved. She created a network of volunteers who offer their time and talents.
Through her initiative, Shadia has helped to support over 50 families to settle in Canada’s Prairie Provinces. Her website is helping to increase public awareness about immigration to Canada.
Ontario: Thunder Bay 55 Plus Centre Volunteers
The Thunder Bay 55 Plus Centre launched in 1991 in partnership with the City of Thunder Bay. It is a City run facility that partners with volunteers offering programs and services for older adults in the community. With almost all volunteers aged 55 and older, the Centre lives by its motto of “Seniors for Seniors”.
The Centre provides unique engagement opportunities in a welcoming recreational space for seniors to call their own. Every day, almost 500 seniors with physical, mental and social needs walk through the doors of the Thunder Bay 55 Plus Centre.
Many participants credit the Centre’s volunteers as the reason they are able to continue to live in their own homes. Volunteers help participants to deal with the many challenges of aging, such as:
- social isolation
- income insecurities
- health issues
The Centre provides seniors with:
- affordable healthy meals
- a safe space to network
- opportunities to share their knowledge and experiences with the academic community
The legacy of the Centre is strong after 28 years because of all the lives the volunteers have touched through their service. Many appreciate the volunteers’ contributions, and they have had long-lasting impacts on the community.
Quebec: Caroline Lavallée
Caroline Lavallée has contributed a great deal to her community. Her greatest contribution is sharing her personal experience of living with heart disease.
Since 2011, Caroline has supported the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada by promoting the organization and heart health. She volunteers approximately 50 hours every year as a spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. She also sits on several committees and shares her knowledge and personal experiences.
- given about 15 media interviews
- shared her story in more than 25 conferences
- run 15 half-marathons to raise money for the Foundation
- served on the organizing committee of the Soirée gastronomique des Grands Cœurs
From 2011 to 2014, Caroline volunteered with the Young Ambassadors of the Douglas Foundation. The Young Ambassadors promote wellness among young professionals and work to remove stigmas surrounding mental health. Caroline also sat on the organizing committee of the Alzheimer’s Walk in Longueuil in 2019.
Atlantic: Dr. Lloydetta Quaicoe
Dr. Lloydetta Quaicoe is a well-known community leader and recognized for her commitment to advancing across Newfoundland and Labrador:
- multiculturalism and immigrant integration
- diversity and inclusion
Her dedication to addressing psychosocial needs among young immigrants and refugees compelled her to create a not-for-profit organization called Sharing Our Cultures (SOC). Under Dr. Quaicoe’s leadership, SOC has been offering free intercultural learning programs to thousands of culturally diverse youths for over 20 years.
Dr. Quaicoe expanded SOC to serve newcomer parents and seniors, helping them to better integrate into Canadian society. SOC’s programs have also helped youth from Indigenous and Francophone communities gain an improved sense of acceptance, belonging and security.
She has worked with all levels of government to advance diversity and inclusion in public policy and the education system. Her contributions include approval by the provincial government to include SOC programs in school curriculums across Newfoundland and Labrador.
Since 2006, the City of St. John’s has incorporated SOC’s anti-racial discrimination initiative into its official charter proclamation. This takes place in recognition of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Dr. Quaicoe serves as a role model to many, particularly to young newcomers to Canada and Indigenous youth.
British Columbia and the North: Vivian Tsang
As a young medical student, Vivian Tsang wanted to make an impact in public health. She founded the not-for-profit organization, Humanitarian Organization for Providing Empowerment (HOPE), in 2012.
HOPE’s goal is to reduce barriers to education and healthcare for low-income and homeless individuals. One of the organization’s programs, HOPE for Success, has supported over 3000 at-risk youth through mentorship programs in high schools.
Vivian is a proactive and innovative young leader. She builds partnerships with local organizations to help improve the health of marginalized groups. She likes to approach systemic issues from new angles and offer innovating solutions to local issues.
Vivian served for 7 years with the KidsCan Young Person’s Research Advisory Group. It is a pediatric advisory group at BC Children’s Hospital. This resource allows local pediatric doctors to gain youth input on research that focuses on children and youth. She now leads the National KidsCan team in Canada.
She also volunteers with the Canadian Medical Association and recently represented Canada as part of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students delegation to Slovenia.
Despite her busy schedule, Vivian continues to spend time mentoring youth. She believes that her experiences can empower future leaders to impact the lives of others.
Prairies: Mehul Gupta
Mehul Gupta moved to Canada from India with his family in the early 2000s. He used his own bullying experiences at his new school to create a positive change in the area of youth mental health. He is dedicated to raising funds and awareness for mental health.
He has helped raise over $100,000 for organizations working with youth. For example, the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation and Kids Help Phone.
Mehul helped start Youth Stories in 2017 with the goal of raising awareness for mental health resources in Calgary. He wanted to show young Calgarians that it was okay to reach out for help and that there were people who cared about them. The movement has since expanded to other cities across Canada.
Mehul is a role model who works to empower youth. He is a member of the National Youth Council for Kids Help Phone and the Mayor of Calgary Youth Council. By taking adversity and shaping it into motivation, he gives youth the tools they need to make a difference in their communities.
Ontario: Katie Heggtveit
Katie Heggtveit began volunteering at the age of 12 and established Bootcamps for Change when she was 21 years old. Katie worked with local gym and business owners to create community events to raise funds and awareness for homeless youth. The program has delivered over 160 weekly in-shelter fitness and wellness programs in the Greater Toronto Area.
Bootcamps for Change has a scholarship that funds fitness certifications for homeless youth. The scholarship recipients facilitate fitness programs to their peers in shelters. The scholarship also supports the recipients with mentorship and job opportunities.
Bootcamps expanded its activities to Waterloo and Halifax, and plans to establish in other cities across the country.
Katie volunteered with several organizations while pursuing her university studies. Her volunteer activities included:
- volunteering with Trek for Teens Foundation for homeless youth as an outreach coordinator
- fundraising for SickKids Foundation, Jays Care Foundation, Canadian Cancer Society and the Toronto Humane Society
- tutoring elementary students in the low-income community of Jane-Finch
- participating on short-term outreach trips to Jamaica and Kenya to address health inequities
Quebec: Adamo Donovan
Adamo Donovan found innovative ways of bridging and strengthening the student and healthcare communities while studying Experimental Medicine at McGill University. Serving as the co-director of Medical Direction’s Shadowing Program, Adamo:
- established partnerships with over 20 physicians at the McGill University Health Centre
- interviewed over 60 McGill University students
- assigned over 120 volunteer shadowing sessions
The volunteers who participated in the shadowing program:
- applied their knowledge learned in class
- observed physician-patient interactions
- learned about new procedures and the use of emerging technologies in medicine
Adamo also co-founded the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Bridge Program. Its mission is to limit the mental health impact that the emotionally charged ICU environment can have on staff, patients and visitors. The program achieves this through increased communication, heartfelt gestures and an innovative electronic diary.
Prior to the program, those visiting their loved ones in the ICU often faced barriers, such as:
- unoccupied front desks
- unanswered phone calls
- locked doors
- staff preoccupied with caring for the hospital’s most sick
The program addresses the need for a human presence at the reception desk in Montreal’s ICUs. Bilingual university student volunteers welcome and bridge the gap between visitors and patients. The program currently has 160 volunteers serving in 4 Montreal hospitals.
Atlantic: Emma Moore
Emma Moore has faced numerous health challenges since the age of 10. Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease during her first year of university, she felt called to help those going through the same thing.
In 2018, she decided to become a lead volunteer with the GoHere Washroom Access Program. The program collaborates with businesses, organizations and municipalities across Canada to improve washroom access. The goal is to make washrooms accessible to individuals living with incontinence-related health conditions, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Emma is dedicated to spreading awareness about the impact of invisible disabilities on individuals living with incontinence-related health conditions. This includes the urgent need to find an available washroom during flare times. She successfully registered 18 businesses with the GoHere Program, including all 5 locations of the Sobey’s grocery chain on Prince Edward Island.
Public washroom access is a major social challenge in Canada especially for seniors and people living with incontinence-related conditions. Addressing this specific need directly benefits those living with:
- Crohn’s disease
- multiple sclerosis
- prostate cancer
British Columbia and the North: SAP Canada Incorporated
SAP Canada Incorporated is a leader in volunteerism. It fosters economic and community growth by supporting entrepreneurship and bringing opportunities for technology education to underrepresented populations.
SAP has invested in organizations that offer Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. For example, it created partnerships with:
- Let’s Talk Science
- Templeton Secondary School’s STEM Program
The company has also invested in entrepreneurial training to underserved youth, helping them to thrive in today’s digital economy. Its mentorship programs and STEM education workshops help young people to explore technology and discover career pathways.
SAP promotes employer-supported volunteering and skills-based volunteering. Its commitment to community engagement is evident through in-kind contributions of 8,000 volunteer hours from more than 1,700 employees. They also provide micro-grants to offset overhead costs for their staff’s volunteer engagements. SAP’s unique employee volunteer program invests in their technology professionals’ talent to support the not-for-profit sector. Its leadership in volunteerism demonstrates how companies can generate positive social change and help to create a sustainable future for Canadians.
Prairies: Cenovus Energy
Cenovus Energy is a leader in corporate social responsibility. The company strives to ensure the communities where its employees live and work are stronger because of its presence. Cenovus understands that in order to create positive change, a company needs to invest and engage in the community.
Cenovus addresses unique social challenges by collaborating with the not-for-profit sector. It provides meaningful community engagement opportunities for its employees. Since 2009, Cenovus has supported over 600 volunteer events across Alberta.
Cenovus partnered with the Calgary Youth Justice Society in 2010 to create the In the Lead Program. This leadership development program matches at-risk youth with employee volunteers from Cenovus.
Employee volunteers coach youth to help them reach their full potential and contribute to their communities. Statistics show that 85 percent of youth participants reported that their resiliency had improved thanks to the coaching and mentoring they received. Resiliency is a characteristic known to reduce behaviours that can lead to criminal activity or high school dropout.
Ontario: Pricewaterhouse (PwC) Canada
Pricewaterhouse (PwC) Canada contributes to the community through employer-supported volunteerism. More than 3,000 PwC Canada employees participate in firm-led team volunteer initiatives annually. This represents almost 40% of its workforce. During their fiscal year 2018 to 2019, PwC Canada employees contributed over 20,000 volunteer hours to communities across Canada.
PwC Canada supports initiatives that help youth gain skills to increase their employability. PwC created the Young People Project to help address youth unemployment in Canada. It supports approximately 10,000 young people across Canada with:
- digital literacy training
Recently, the PwC Canada Foundation committed $750,000 in funding to 7 non-profit organizations focusing on youth employment. The Foundation used inclusion and diversity to vet each charitable organization. Through its Foundation, PwC Canada has positively influenced the lives of an additional 250,000 young people across the country.
The Foundation also provided funding to Youth Fusion/Fusion Jeunesse, a Francophone non-profit organization based in Montreal. The organization works with over 15,000 young people from 250 schools in rural, urban and Indigenous communities.
Quebec: Resolute Forest Products
Resolute Forest Products has facilities in Ontario and Quebec in diverse business sectors. In Quebec, the company is active in more than 20 municipalities.
Resolute strives to be a positive and valued member of the community. To do this, Resolute set up a community engagement program. The program encourages employees to give their time and money to their community.
Employees first decide which causes the company will financially support according to the pillars of sustainable development targeted by the company:
- social sector (community healthcare and education)
- environmental sector (community projects and education)
Then, they decide which organizations will receive money in their communities.
Contributions may include:
- financial support
- material support
- employee volunteering for various causes
In 2018, Resolute raised $200,000 through the Resolute Golf Classic. The money was given to organizations working in the community and health fields in Lac‑Saint‑Jean, like the Dolbeau-Mistassini and Roberval hospitals foundations. Employee volunteers also helped raise $98,000 for the foundation Sur la pointe des pieds.
The company’s work in the community relies heavily on its employees. Resolute builds awareness and encourages all employees to take part in activities in their communities, which in turn motivates them to stay involved.
Atlantic: Comeau’s Sea Foods
Comeau’s Sea Foods is a major contributor to southwestern Nova Scotia’s economy. With over 500 employees, it is one of the largest employers in the region. The company engages in the community by locally supporting the following sectors:
- Acadian cause
- health care system
- Francophone communities
The company supports the health care system by donating to the following organizations:
- Halifax IWK Hospital Foundation
- local hospitals by allowing them to purchase needed medical equipment
- new medical clinic in the community of Clare
Comeau’s Sea Foods believes in the importance of supporting the small Francophone communities of Nova Scotia and French-language education. The company provides scholarships to students attending Université Sainte-Anne, the local French university.
The company collaborates with L’Atelier de Clare to support people with disabilities who require supervision to work. The program enables them to be more independent and to engage in the community.
Comeau’s Sea Foods is also a strong community arts supporter by contributing financially to:
- Clare’s Acadian Festival
- arts festivals
- music concerts
- local artists
British Columbia and the North: Yellowknife Breastfeeding Support Group
Yellowknife Breastfeeding Support Group began in 1999 in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (NWT). A group of mothers identified the need to help other women in their breastfeeding journey. While the organization remains a peer support group for breastfeeding at its core, it also offers a range of parenting resources such as:
- breastfeeding resources on its website
- Facebook groups for virtual breastfeeding support
- a toll-free 24/7 telephone help line
In 2017, Yellowknife Breastfeeding Support Group received a storefront in donation. With new space, the Group volunteers created additional support groups for:
- sharing birth stories
- Dads only
- new mothers experiencing post-partum depression
The space is also available for parents to spend time with peers or for mothers to nurse their babies when they are downtown.
Through their breastfeeding peer support programs, the organization helps new parents in the NWT feel supported. The volunteers in Yellowknife provided groups of moms in other NWT communities with advice and training to start their own peer support groups. Thanks to the organization’s volunteers, breastfeeding has had a positive impact on the health and wellness of families living in the NWT.
Prairies: Goodwill Industries of Alberta
Goodwill Industries of Alberta promotes volunteerism, job creation and the environment. This not-for-profit social enterprise is one of the largest employers of people with disabilities in the province.
Goodwill annually engages approximately 100 volunteers in up to 55 organizations, including within its own operations. Many individuals with developmental disabilities begin as volunteers and eventually obtain employment through Goodwill’s Career Connections Program. This initiative improves lives through:
- career development
- job creation
- sustainability projects
The success of Goodwill begins with the generosity of people who donate used household goods and clothing. Goodwill sells donated items in their thrift stores, providing the community with the opportunity to acquire quality goods at an affordable price.
Goodwill uses the revenues of its thrift stores to support employment and volunteer training. Local businesses and organizations collaborate with Goodwill to offer paid positions and volunteer opportunities to people with disabilities.
Thanks to the large volume of donations and its Sustainability Action Plan, Goodwill has diverted millions of kilograms of waste from landfills. By recycling glassware, ceramic, cloth and plastics, it has created another means of employment for Albertans with developmental disabilities.
Ontario: Chai Lifeline Canada
Mordechai Rothman launched Chai Lifeline Canada (CLC) in Toronto in 2006. When a child or parent receives the diagnosis of a serious illness, the family may not know where to turn to for help. CLC addresses this.
CLC provides a range of free support services to families of children and parents with life-threatening or lifelong illnesses. It operates under the philosophy that it takes a community to support a family in crisis.
CLC has several programs specifically designed to support children, parents, siblings, and extended family. CLC’s goal is to help alleviate the isolation, stress and anxiety that occurs when a family member has a serious illness. CLC supports families through:
- tutoring for children missing school
- meal deliveries
- case management support
- financial assistance
- family respite vacations
- summer camps
CLC has grown from a one-person operation to an organization with 20 employees and 600 trained volunteers. It annually supports 400 children and 2,000 family members in Toronto, Montreal and Western Canada. CLC’s services gives families stability and a sense of normalcy.
Groupe de Recherche et d’Intervention Social (GRIS) - Montréal is a non-profit community organization created in 1994. It strives to dispel myths about sexual orientation and gender identities through personal stories. It is like a large family of 250 volunteers who work every day to build a more open society.
Since 1994, GRIS-Montréal volunteers have met with more than 439,500 young people during more than 16,000 information workshops. These workshops, requested by the institutions visited, have led to more than 1,000 interventions each year.
GRIS-Montréal is mainly active in:
- elementary and high schools
- youth centres
- youth employment centres in Montréal
Volunteers who share their stories give testimonial workshops. Volunteers have been trained to answer questions from youth. A team comprised of 2 individuals of diverse sexual or gender identities gives each intervention. This allows young people to put a face to a reality that sometimes scares or intimidates them.
GRIS-Montréal volunteers want schools to be more inclusive and open to diversity. They also help many young people to express themselves, either as LGBTQ+ or as allies.
Atlantic: Autism Nova Scotia Society
Autism Nova Scotia Society (formerly known as the Provincial Autism Centre) started in 2002. There were previously very few community-based resources across the province available to parents of children living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Those that did exist were almost exclusively grassroots groups, led by parents.
Today, Autism Nova Scotia Society has become a vital resource in helping to address gaps in services and support for individuals on the Autism Spectrum. It has become the second-largest community-based autism society in Canada.
Individuals living with an ASD can face significant barriers to achieving a full quality of life. Challenges include long wait times for assessment and support, along with increased household expenses due to gaps in services. Statistics show that 1 in 68 Canadian children receive a diagnosis of ASD annually, this works out to approximately 14,000 children in Nova Scotia.
Autism Nova Scotia Society provides innovative programs and resources for those living on the Spectrum. The organization breaks down social and systematic barriers that autistic individuals may face. Autism Nova Scotia has helped to increase life choices available to those living on the Spectrum in Nova Scotia.
Autism Nova Scotia Society helps to increase access to:
- early intervention
- primary healthcare
- employment support
- community supported housing
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