2021 Canada’s Volunteer Awards recipients

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

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National awards

Thérèse Casgrain Lifelong Achievement

Marilyn McLean

Marilyn McLean has volunteered with Special Olympics British Columbia (BC) for 42 years. Special Olympics BC provides year-round sport and competition opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.

In 1980, Marilyn was a signing officer for their first Constitution. She was also a member of their first board of directors. At that time, there were very few opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities in health and sports. Marilyn saw a need, and worked with other like-minded people to set up Special Olympics BC.

In 1982, Marilyn formed the Kamloops chapter of Special Olympics BC. She has been involved with it ever since. Today, the chapter has over 200 athletes and volunteers involved in their year-round programs.

Marilyn also played a key role in the Provincial Games when Kamloops hosted the event. The event brings thousands of athletes and volunteers together to compete.

Marilyn has also:

  • sat on the Special Olympics BC Provincial Advisory Council
  • trained people for the Athlete Speakers Bureau
  • engaged volunteers to help support the games
  • volunteered as a Program Coordinator
  • been head coach for rhythmic gymnastics

Marilyn always takes on any role asked of her. Her efforts have been a great support to the community.

Regional award

Community Leader

British Columbia and the North: Sudhir Jha

Sudhir has spent most of his years working as a civil engineer in the North. As a volunteer, he promotes science to help improve people’s lives. Sudhir also helped schools in Nunavut to get better access to technology.

For 20 years, Sudhir has mentored Northern youth to develop life and career skills. He has helped children gain science skills through:

  • workshops
  • forums and talks
  • school events

Sudhir serves on many Boards of Directors, including:

  • Skills Canada NWT
  • Asset Management Canada
  • Engineers Canada
  • Canadian Institute of Quantity Surveyors Prairies NWT

As a leader and mentor, Sudhir is a role model to many.

Prairies: Sandra (Sandy) Dzedzora,

Sandy Dzedzora has been a community leader for 37 years. She helped to transform North Point Douglas into one of Winnipeg’s safest inner city communities.

Sandy takes concrete actions to address the needs of others. She also inspires people to get involved and invest in their neighbourhood.

Through the organizations she has led, Sandy helped strengthen North Point Douglas and has helped to:

  • reduce crime
  • decrease gang activity
  • create the Eagle Wing Child Care Centre
  • engage seniors to get involved in their neighbourhood
  • update Barber House, a hub for community programs and events

Sandy is a true leader. Her actions help to ensure a safe and healthy neighbourhood for all.

Ontario: Vaccine Hunters Canada

Vaccine Hunters Canada (VHC) is a national community of over 100 volunteers that helped Canadians find COVID-19 vaccines. Andrew Young founded VHC after he faced issues finding information about vaccines.

From March 2021 to March 2022, this group of volunteers joined forces to assist local communities during the pandemic. Using technology, they:

  • informed the public on vaccine eligibility
  • shared the latest information on where to obtain vaccines
  • helped Canadians to schedule a shot anywhere in Canada

VHC worked closely with public health units. They fact checked all information before sharing with the public. VHC also created a website, Find Your Immunization (FYI) to provide updates on vaccine availability. FYI was a central source for all provinces and territories.

VHC wrapped-up after their mission was complete. They proved that when a group of volunteers join forces, they create an impact and can make a difference.

Quebec: Marco Ottoni

Marco Ottoni has been a volunteer for 25 years. He serves his community through La Maison St-Raphaël.

La Maison St-Raphaël is a palliative care home and day center. The center has a direct impact on people living with diseases that have no cure. They offer free, end of life care in Montreal, Quebec.

La Maison St-Raphaël began in 2007. Marco played a key role in all stages of the project and was central in bringing the centre to completion. Today, Marco serves as the Vice-Chair of the centre’s Board of Directors. He continues to raise awareness on the impact of quality palliative care.

Marco is a leader who can mobilize others around a cause. His vision to serve his community inspires others to do the same.

Atlantic: Karen Martin

For 29 years, Karen Martin has supported survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA).

Karen is a founding member of Survivors of Abuse Recovering (S.O.A.R.). S.O.A.R. provides peer support to adult survivors of CSA in Nova Scotia.

At S.O.A.R., Karen is a peer supporter. She also helped to create training tools to share with other organizations. Through Karen’s efforts, S.O.A.R. has become a leader in training and engaging volunteers.

Karen continues to teach the public about childhood sexual abuse. She speaks at public training forums and events in Nova Scotia and beyond.

Emerging Leader

British Columbia and the North: Rochelle Prasad

Rochelle is the founder, CEO and Executive Director of SPARK Foundation. SPARK provides free life education programs around the world. To date, their programs have reached more than 150,000 people.

In her role Rochelle leads:

  • 5 board members
  • 11 staff
  • 300 volunteers

During the pandemic, Rochelle helped her local community and SPARK provided:

  • 200 meals for frontline workers
  • 150 backpacks with supplies for schools
  • 250 care packages for homeless people in Surrey
  • 250 care packages for low income people in the lower mainland
  • 50 mental health kits to partner organizations

Rochelle is a leader who is making an impact in communities at home and abroad.

Prairies: Christina Caouette

Christina Caouette is the CEO of Young Diplomats of Canada (YDC). She helps young policy leaders advance their careers.

Since joining YDC in 2017, Christina has:

  • enhanced YDC’s brand to better reflect the diversity of Canada
  • improved YDC’s hiring practices
  • helped connect youth with volunteering positions through an online database
  • formed new partners across Canada

Christina has led and strengthened YDC’s reach and impact. She continues to earn the respect of YDC delegates, and to support their knowledge of global issues.

Ontario: Aditi Sivakumar

After seeing the impacts of gender-based violence, Aditi Sivakumar made it her mission to provide support and education. In 2018, Aditi founded My Empowerment Platform. It is an organization to help women and children facing violence and homelessness across Canada.

Some of Aditi’s programs include:

  • wellness kits and booklets that include services and help about pregnancy, legal and housing supports
  • a free delivery service for groceries and hygiene products to shelters across the Ottawa region
  • a website that helped women and children facing violence to find services in Ottawa during the pandemic. Community centres and shelters across the Ottawa region also use the website
  • a free phone App that provides a list of free resources including legal, medical and safety planning tips. The App is shared with shelters across Canada

Aditi worked with many organizations to donate money and wellness kits to thirteen charities in Canada, across every province and territory. Each charity helps a different group of people. They include women in the sex industry, women who are pregnant and homeless, youth leaving the foster care system and more.

Through her many programs, Aditi has helped women and children in need across Canada and gave support shelters.

Quebec: Vanessa Manroop

Vanessa Manroop is a volunteer and mentor at Black Girls Gather. Black Girls Gather is a not-for-profit program and book club that celebrates Black girls.

Vanessa is also involved with the West Island Black Community Association (WIBCA). In 2015, she hosted the WIBCA banquet. As well, in 2020 and 2022, she co-hosted their Meet and Greet with Black Professionals events online.

Vanessa is also an active volunteer through her church and serves as:

  • Vice-President of the youth group, where she plans many events
  • A Sunday school teacher, where she raises funds to support the program

Vanessa is a loyal leader who gives her time and effort to enrich the lives of others.

Atlantic: Rebeccah Raphael

Rebeccah Raphael equips youth to harness their drive and power for good.

Rebeccah has helped many students to succeed in school. At the start of the pandemic, she founded the Halifax Helpers. The Halifax Helpers is a not-for profit that offers tutor support for students.

At the Halifax Helpers, Rebeccah:

  • designs programs
  • manages 120 volunteers
  • works with partners and networks to serve schools

Rebeccah has also volunteered with the Canadian Association of Disabled Skiing (CADS) for eight seasons. She provides ski lessons to students and is one of the youngest certified coaches in Nova Scotia.

Business Leader

British Columbia and the North: Do Some Good Community Contribution Company Inc.

Do Some Good is a social enterprise based in Kelowna, BC. They built a digital platform and app that allows volunteers, not-for-profits and companies to connect, learn and support one another.

The platform and app are free for not-for-profits and allows them to:

  • match volunteers with roles
  • promote their cause
  • attract donors
  • streamline event planning

Do Some Good also offers training to users on:

  • how to use the platform
  • how to build programs and campaigns
  • how to thank donors

Since 2015, Do Some Good has matched 25,000 volunteers. This led to:

  • 1.2 million volunteer hours logged
  • 10,000 not-for-profits helped
  • 1,400 communities across Canada served
  • thousands of potential donors reached

Prairies: PCL Constructors Inc.

PCL is one of North America's biggest construction firms. In Edmonton, they have 1100 staff members. They strive to give back to the communities where they work and live.

Through the United Way, PCL connects their staff with not-for-profits to volunteer. PCL urges staff to get involved in a many ways such as:

  • serving on the United Ways’ Board of Directors
  • serving on committees
  • volunteering
  • giving funds

In 2021, over 400 staff members volunteered 1060 hours. They served:

  • United Way of Alberta (PCL is their largest partner)
  • Edmonton Food Bank
  • Canadian Red Cross

As well, through the United Ways’ GenNext program, PCL inspires future leaders to give back to their community.

Ontario: Zavitz Insurance & Wealth

Zavitz Insurance & Wealth were founded in 1983. They are one of the largest brokers in Canada.

For 25 years, Zavitz has served as a role model in the business community. Their staff volunteers for:

  • Children’s Health Foundation
  • Red Shoe Society for Ronald McDonald House
  • Rainbow Youth Umbrella Group
  • Liver Foundation

Zavitz also supports the local community through:

  • London Food Bank
  • London Cares
  • London Humane Society

Zavitz Insurance takes pride in showing up for their community.

Quebec: Phil Inc

The people behind Phil Inc. (Phil) know that businesses can be more than a vehicle for profit. Phil connects organizations to solve local problems. They support not-for-profits and social enterprises by:

  • providing communications and fundraising tools
  • promoting the impact of giving

Phil urges their staff to give back to the community. In 2021, their team of ten volunteered over 700 hours. They offered free consultations, webinars and other support to many diverse groups.

Through their efforts, Phil helps the not-for-profit sector help others.

Atlantic: McInnes Cooper

McInnes Cooper is one of the oldest law firms in Atlantic Canada and actively supports their staff to volunteer.

McInnes Cooper partners with organizations that align with one of their core causes:

  • mental health
  • poverty relief
  • youth empowerment
  • access to justice for marginalized people and groups

In one year, McInnes Cooper supported over 250 projects and 100 charities. They ensure that projects focus on:

  • community
  • environment
  • pro bono legal advice
  • wellness
  • diversity, equity and inclusion

Many Atlantic communities benefit from McInnes Cooper’s volunteer efforts. They mentor youth, support meal programs, and help improve access to food through social purpose gardens.

Social Innovator

British Columbia and the North: The Progressive Intercultural Community Services (PICS) Society

Since 1987, Progressive Intercultural Community Services (PICS) has been serving Surrey and the Lower Mainland.

PICS shares resources and tools to address the following issues:

  • drugs and gangs
  • racism
  • elder abuse and isolation
  • gender-based violence

PICS has addressed these issues through a range of programs and services such as:

  • employment program
  • settlement services
  • housing service
  • children and youth program
  • mental health services

These programs serve:

  • seniors
  • workers
  • women
  • youth
  • new immigrants

PICS is driving the change they want to see in their community.

Prairies: The Immigrant Education Society (TIES)

The Immigrant Education Society (TIES) has been serving Calgary for over 30 years. They help newcomers and low-income Canadians find their place in Calgary.

TIES started with five volunteers. Today they have:

  • 146 staff and 200 volunteers
  • three locations in Calgary
  • helped over 250,000 clients

TIES serves the community with programs such as:

  • English training – they offered online learning during the pandemic
  • job training
  • settlement aid
  • integration support

During the pandemic, TIES worked with the COVID-19 Teen Volunteers group to address youth mental health. They also ran a campaign to promote COVID-19 vaccines.

Ontario: Broad Reach Foundation for Youth Leaders

Since 1998, Broad Reach Foundation for Youth Leaders (Broad Reach) has supported disadvantaged youth. They offer a sailing program that hosts 300 to 500 youth each summer. Through sailing, youth learn positive skills that have lasting impacts.

Broad Reach partners with:

  • 40 youth-serving social agencies in Toronto
  • six yacht clubs in Toronto
  • sail volunteers from these clubs

In 2020, Broad Reach grew nationally through the Ships2Shores project. They engaged 50 high schools online from coast to coast through webinars.

Broad Reach supports youth by combining sport, science and sailing. They also teach young people the skills they need to transform their futures.

Quebec: Partage et Solidarité

Since 2017, Partage et Solidarité has been on a mission to end food waste.

Partage et Solidarité gathers unsold food in Montreal to give to low-income families. Any extra food goes to collective kitchens. Fruit and vegetable scraps go to farms to feed animals. Each month, they:

  • collect over 15 tonnes of unsold food, that would have been thrown away
  • deliver free food to 8,000 people in six neighbourhoods

Partage et Solidarité has 70 volunteers, many of whom benefit from the program. Volunteering provides them:

  • skills to help them enter the job market
  • a way to break the cycle of isolation
  • the chance to learn and share knowledge

Partage et Solidarité educates the community on ending food waste. They often speak about food recovery at schools and libraries.

Atlantic: Seniors Association of St. Margaret’s Bay

The Seniors Association of St. Margaret’s Bay (Bay Seniors) is a not-for-profit with over 500 members. Bay Seniors provides services to the entire St. Margaret’s Bay community. They also bridge people to over 250 local and provincial service providers.

Since 2009, Bay Seniors has helped local seniors to:

  • take part in social and wellness events
  • reach their retirement goals
  • maintain control over their lives
  • share their skills and experience

Bay Seniors is run by volunteers. They are a trusted resource that others turn to for guidance and support.

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