Ana Oliveira believes everyone has the right to live with dignity and is a poverty reduction advocate. She represents Weston-Pelham Park and is co-chair at her local planning table. As a Neighbourhood Grant recipient, Ana successfully coordinated food handlers certification training for members of her community. In addition, she has deputed alongside the Fair Fare Coalition, led the chants for a poverty reduction march, and is an activist with the Bread & Bricks Social Justice Group. Ana describes herself as strong-willed and determined with lived experience of poverty. Overcoming hardships has made her a stronger person and she is here now to seek social justice for anyone who is going through a similar experience.
Dan represents the Weston-Pelham Park neighbourhood. As a social justice advocate, he raises awareness on the importance for everyone to have the basic needs for survival: shelter, food, clothing and more.
Desrene Cole is a community advocate of Kingston-Galloway-Orton Park (KGO) in the West Hill neighbourhood. She is passionate about creating dialogue about the causes and effects of poverty and injustice and to incentivize change from within the community. Desrene hopes for her community to attain higher education to increase economic opportunities and prioritize themselves. She’s played roles in initiatives such as Tower Neighbourhood Renewal, KGO Kicks, and Kids and Cameras. Her message to youth is ‘the difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do.’
Elka Aranzalez Reales believes human rights and community building tools are the foundation for social change. She dreams of a self-sustainable and well-connected community as an involved member of the Davenport Perth neighbourhood. Elka’s roles include a long tenure as peer advocate at the Stop Community Food Centre, member of the Resettlement Committee at her church, and a board member at West Toronto Legal Services. Her personal experience with food insecurity was shared in an article titled, Hunger in a City of Plenty, published by the online magazine The Local. She believes perseverance and resilience are her best qualities. Currently, Elka is a proud member of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) and an elected member of the human rights law committee in her local office with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
Eshrat Meshkoti was born and raised in a rural community of Northern Iran where she learned about the importance of collective efforts in facing common challenges. Her community organizing work began in high school as a member of student council. Eshrat’s journey continued while living in Iran, New Zealand and Canada through campaigning for human rights, encouraging public participation for democracy, fundraising for those in need and leading local projects and programs, specifically for seniors. Her strengths are her enthusiasm and initiative for community building. She has been proudly recognized as an ambassador of Middle Eastern women.
Ibrahim Swaleh is a former member of the Weston-Pelham Park neighbourhood. He is an advocate for accessible crisis intervention services for youth facing challenges as well as affordable housing for low-income singles and families. His studies include a diploma in Police Foundations and advocacy training with The Stop Community Food Centre. Through various roles in community initiatives such as social justice, gardening and cooking, Ibrahim has gained insight on how to help others understand their needs. He is currently working towards starting his own small business and becoming an entrepreneur.
Irum Siddiqui is a proud mother of four living in the Regent Park neighbourhood. She is passionate about her religion, culture, and the well-being of her family and community. She envisions a safe community with well-resourced, equal opportunities for all. Irum organizes and participates in local events with the TD Learning Center to promote a strong sense-of-belonging among residents. As a member of Mothers for Peace, a support circle for mothers who have lost their children to gun violence and advocate for a safer community, she coordinates local events. Irum describes her charisma and voice as her strengths in community building and wants to drive a shift in the balance of power in her community. In her words, ‘drive the power to the people.’
Jennifer Robinson has been a resident of the Malvern neighbourhood for over 40 years. With a passion for civic engagement, she is interested in the things that affect resident’s attitudes and engagement. She was a part of parent/school councils and the Parent Involvement Advisory Committee with Toronto District School Board for all three of her children. As a single parent, it was important for her to use her voice to advocate for them and others like them to reach their potential. Jennifer has played a role with the Malvern Community Coalition, 42 Voices, Connect Sheppard East, Scarborough Transit Action Coalition, 1 Love Malvern and Scarborough Civic Action Network. As a facilitator, deputation trainer, and grant reviewer, she is invigorated by the connection and energy she gets from working with residents. Jennifer recognizes that respecting everyone’s opinion is critical to achieving increased civic engagement in her community.
Khalid Hassan Brhan is passionate about helping others. He is a member of the East York Eritrean Community group and supports newcomers to gather and strengthen their support system. Khalid’s goal is to assist those who are experiencing poverty find the support they need to feed their families and afford necessary expenses such as medication. His proudest moments come from seeing the happiness and joy that families feel when they are supported. He is passionate about human rights and believes that everyone deserves to live a life that involves working toward their goals. Khalid’s perseverance and determination to provide for his parents and siblings has showed him that anything is possible. His personal goal is to obtain a college degree and have the resources to provide others with capacity building or financial support. He dreams of opening an Eritrean school one day.
Leah Yuyitung and her family have resided in Woburn for over 35 years. She is a Registered Early Childhood Educator with extensive experience working in various capacities; frontline, policy, consultant, adult education and advocacy. Through the TSNS2020 Neighbourhood Grant, she formed a Woburn Community Resident group and organized a free neighbourhood event that focused on connecting residents and engaging seniors and youth. The result was 25 new connections with local organizations and 43 volunteers. Utilizing the networks and connections made through the event, she facilitated the formation of the Woburn Local Planning Table, joined the Local Champion program and the TSNS2020 Resident Advisory group. She is also a member of the Scarborough Health Network Patient Family Advisory Committee and Woburn Collegiate Institute school council.
Margaret Nelson is a representative of the Mount Olive-Silverstone-Jamestown neighbourhood. Knowing that children come to school without breakfast encourages her to continue community work. She envisions a place where adults and children live without fear of violence but with increased economic opportunities, and create changes for themselves. She has held roles with the North Etobicoke Resident Council Planning Board, Rexdale Woodbine Casino Steering Committee, Toronto Community Benefits Agreement, Jamaica Canadian Association and more. She has also taught English as a Second Language for more than 20 years in the Jane and Finch area. Throughout her community building journey, Margaret’s strengths have been her ability to connect with people through good communication and listening.
Mildred Agsaoay is an active resident, volunteer and organizer in the Jane and Finch community for the past 11 years. Since the Surplus Harvest Program piloted in 2014, her family has donated their extra vegetables and fruits to the local sharing platform. She strives to reduce food waste using preservation as a way to enjoy food from the garden during the winter. Mildred is currently the Coordinator of the Urban Harvest Program, a joint partnership between Black Creek Community Farm and the City of Toronto. She hopes to inspire more residents to donate their extra produce grown in their backyards to be redistributed to local food banks in the community and learn preservation methods and skills to reduce food waste. She began a Moms Group at Black Creek Community Farm funded by a Neighbourhood Grant received in 2017 and has engaged over 250 parents and their children from low-income neighbourhoods to participate in gardening and a healthy lifestyle program. Mildred is passionate about gardening, reconnecting people back to nature, growing and eating good food.
Moulina Thuraisingham is from the West Hill neighbourhood. She’s a member of the Community Action Coalition, coordinated by the Daily Bread and North York Harvest Food Bank, and the Scarborough Civic Action Network Steering Committee. Moulina has also supported the Lawrence Galloway community garden for the past several years, extending the community garden from 20 plots to 32, securing a direct water connection and assigning plots to the residents, Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities Food Bank and St. Margaret’s Public School. With support from Parks People, she helped create a communal plot inside the community garden and planted 11 native plants donated by the Toronto Region Conservation Authority. Moulina has also served on the Neighbourhood Grants selection panel in the past.
Ping Gu is a representative of the Steeles-L’Amoreaux neighbourhoods. She is currently a resident advisor on the Community Refresh Committee and works to increase resident engagement and input to shape a stronger neighbourhood. In 2016, she received a Resident Action Grant through United Way Toronto to implement an initiative called Mental Health and You. Ping has developed her leadership skills through extensive volunteer work and supporting the participation of diverse groups in community life. She proudly accepted the Ontario’s Leading Women Building Communities Recognition Award in 2017. For leisure, Ping enjoys reading urban romance and spy warfare novels.
Ruxin Yang represents the Steeles-L’Amoreaux neighbourhoods as an active participant and community organizer. His past experiences include supporting the Mental Health and You program funded by United Way Toronto. Through this program, Ruxin built his community engagement skills and he strongly believes that as long as one has enthusiasm and dedication, they can proudly be of help to others. He describes himself as easy-going and considerate. Ruxin’s hobbies include keeping up with international news and watching Chinese literature and arts television programs.
Shakhlo Sharipova is a proud resident of the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood. She is passionate about ensuring people access the programs and services available to them and as a community ambassador for the Reach for Change group, she connects local organizations to residents. She’s also an advocate for the inclusion and equity of people living with disabilities. Shakhlo helps newcomer women settle in Canadian society and supports a network of families who have children with special needs by organizing events and activities. She has extensive experience in project management and fundraising with one of her proudest moments being when she helped provide equipment to open a social cafe in Tajikistan that employs young adults with autism. Shakhlo holds a medical degree and her personal interests are clinical psychology and baking.
Srimathanky Srikugan is a member of the Mornelle community in the Morningside neighbourhood. She hopes to see more personal and professional development opportunities available to residents in addition to accessible programming. Srimathanky began her community building journey as a Community STEM Club Facilitator with Visions of Science which led to her organizing neighbourhood initiatives like a Youth Board Games Cafe. Through her degree program in Health Studies, she recognizes the importance of social determinants and health promotion. Srimathanky remains open to learning from others and continuous growth.
Yuanda Zheng works in the Woburn community as an instructor for literacy and basic skills. In addition to delivering programs, he supports members of the community in areas like mental health, employment and housing. He is passionate about discovering new ways for people to acquire skills and pathways to economic opportunity. Yuanda has held various roles in finance, IT and even as a pizza maker. Now with Frontier College Scarborough, the expanded computer program has allowed him to empower people in job searches and be more effective employees. His proudest moment was when a young learner recognized him as the best teacher he’s ever had before graduating from the program. Yuanda’s strengths lie in his curiosity and determination, which often leads to the steady pursuit of solutions to problems. He enjoys playing badminton and soccer in his spare time and admittedly can sometimes dive too deep into the Youtube recommendations rabbit hole.
Ismail Afrah is passionate about learning and creating changes in the City and for his community of Regent Park. While his preferred areas of study have been philosophy and religion, in the last year, he has fallen in love with community-building. Ismail’s first role began as volunteering with the Regent Park Neighbourhood Association. He later worked as a part-time recreational worker and now, has most recently, become a full-time social development coordinator working on the redevelopment of his neighbourhood. With so many changes and opportunities arising since he embarked on this journey, he attributes a lot of his progress to the power of relationships and social networks. Ismail identifies as a twin who learns by thinking out loud; he invites others to think out loud with him for the purposes of learning from each other and together.
Raekwon Banaby is a member of the Downsview-Roding community. He is most passionate about the members of his community and supports them to access the tools and resources necessary to achieve their goals. Raekwon has been a member of the TSNS 2020 Resident Advisory Committee and is currently the Chief Operations Officer at 360 Degrees Chiefs. He exemplifies resilience and perseverance; despite hardships, Raekwon manages to keep a positive face in any situation.
Alicia Bartholomew is a member of the Glenfield-Jane Heights community. She is passionate about maintaining community safety and supporting youth to reach their full potential. Alicia is currently working as a Youth Outreach Worker and a critical voice on behalf of her community.
Angie Buado has always wanted to make a difference for her community, whether in a small or big way. Since 2013, she has played an instrumental role at the Bathurst-Finch Hub having been a part of the resident leadership group of Action for Neighbourhood Change, chair of the Social and Event Committee, as well as being a panel member of Resident Action Grant (RAG) program of United Way Toronto. As the founding member and coordinator of Friends of Earl Bales, Angie has created partnerships to revitalize Earl Bales Park and hosted events through North York’s Cultural Hot Spot Initiative, Live Green’s Clean Toronto Together Initiative and many more. She was selected as a panelist for CivicAction 2015 Boot Camp as a speaker on public spaces, physical activity, and health and was one of 15 recipients of the 2018 Community Award - York Centre.
Phylicia Davis is the founder and project lead of the KGO Adult Literacy Program, a community-based organization that supports adults 21 and older with their literacy and numeracy skills in East Scarborough. She is a recipient of the Youth Volunteer Award by the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration and Leading Women Award from the Ministry for Status of Women. Phylicia is a graduate with her Masters in Education focusing on Adult Education and Community Development from the University of Toronto and is an Instructor Coordinator with Frontier College. In addition, she co-chaired the Spotlight on Literacy Planning Committee for 5 years and was published in media discussing the importance of adult literacy on a national scale. Phylicia is currently a board member with Parkdale Project Read.
Ko Hosoya is passionate about accessibility issues. She recognizes the many physical barriers that community members are affected by and advocates for improving communities to have safer access by all. Ko is the co-founder of Barrier Free Hunt, an event that advocates for accessibility issues and has performed several accessibility assessments throughout the University of Toronto, St. George campus. She is a regular contributor at community meetings on affordable housing, decent work and community assets and is helping to develop a mental health support group with other women in her community. Ko is currently volunteering with the Harm Reduction Program at Parkdale Community Health Centre.
Nancy Guan is a resident of the Steeles-L’Amoreaux neighbourhood and has a strong desire to help others. She organizes events and activities in her neighbourhood such as gardening workshops and has been a member of several resident groups. Nancy also provides language interpretation service to those in need and high-risk families. Past and present, she has had roles with Agincourt Community Service Association, Centre for Immigration of Chinese Service, Action for Neighbourhood Change - North Scarborough, Steeles/L’Amoreaux Strength in Partnership, and Chester Le Community Corner. Her proud moments come from seeing the members of her community happy and enjoying life. Nancy is a lifelong learner that values honesty and humility.
Tahereh Jalili is a member of the Eglinton East neighbourhood. She can’t recall a time in her life that she wasn’t active in community-building work. Once settling in Canada, however, finding opportunities to get involved in her community proved difficult. Tahereh recognizes the importance of community connectedness in order for everyone to feel welcomed and supported. She believes that the real change begins to happen when everyone has the opportunity to be actively involved. One of her proudest moments was supporting the development of a borrowing system that successfully provided children and youth access to books and literature. From not knowing a word of English, to upgrading her high school diploma in Canada, to ultimately pursuing post-secondary education, Tahereh is proud of her journey.
Sonia Kumar recognizes that there is a gap between the services and supports available to residents and what residents are aware of and able to access. Her community-building journey began by connecting her neighbours to the resources they needed. Sonia is a proud member of the Rexdale community and contributor to North Etobicoke Resident Council. She does community outreach and helps to organize events such as Rexdale Got Talent. Sonia’s accomplishments include a collective of newcomer and immigrant parents she helped form to provide free and affordable child-minding for each other. The support network now consists of 15 families who have all received first aid training and food handlers certificates. Sonia is a caring and compassionate person who believes it’s sometimes the small things that help people when they need it most.
Ann Lapenna proudly stands up for her community and voices their needs. She understands the challenges that residents of TCHC buildings are faced with, especially, seniors who don’t have access to community activities. When she doesn’t see change, Ann is a self-starter who gets things going. She recently helped form a knitting group in her building. As an Ambassador with Parkdale Activity Center (PARC), she has completed several courses that helped develop her skills to connect with people and speak publicly. Recently, Ann was featured in several media channels for her speech at the launch of FoodReach. Next on her agenda is working towards getting a projector to host movie nights in her building.
Mahedar Mellkamu represents the Kingston-Galloway area. She strives to ignite dialogue about mental health in the East African community to establish healthy communities and families fostered through mental wellness. At her first event titled Kitchen Table Talk, the community’s feedback was that they felt safe, nurtured and loved which was a very proud moment for her. Mahedar’s community-building goal is to provide a platform to those that have been silenced around mental health topics of discussion.
Anisa Mohamed is passionate about her community and it returning to the safe and positive neighbourhood that she was raised in. Through her own journey and it’s obstacles, she understands the importance of being aware of the opportunities and resources available. Anisa organizes local events like scholarship application workshops and health days, as well as advocates for investment in her community; having sensored lights installed and receiving resources to obtain a storage unit and outdoor equipment for community events in the absence of community space. She has contributed to projects such as the You(the) Change Pilot and Youth Governance Consultation and helped to create the Ardwick Weekly Drop-in After School Program, which provides hot meals, learning activities and homework help once a week. Anisa attributes her studies in computer science as the push to become a leader that stands for what’s right and challenges what’s happening around her. She is currently filming a documentary that aims to change the negative perspective that society has on youth who grow up in social housing.
Yuzhen (Suzanna) Su is an advocate for improving mental health literacy in her neighbourhood of Steeles-L’Amoreaux. She is passionate about mental health and wellness while being an active resident leader, volunteer and part-time animator. Su has been instrumental in supporting resident groups and projects including: Beyond Academics, Silver Springs Reading Circle, Healthy Happy Friendship Association, Glendower Seniors Group, Scarborough Civic Action Network, and Steeles/L’Amoreaux Strength in Partnership. Through all of her accomplishments, the friendships and connection made in her community are the most valuable. Su is a proud recipient of the Leading Women Building Communities award and currently works with the Steeles/L’Amoreaux Neighbourhood Association and the Bay Mills Seniors Group. Her hobbies include music, cooking and gardening.
Miyadah Subrati is a resident of the Thorncliffe neighbourhood and is deeply committed to helping newcomers and immigrants overcome challenges they face upon joining the community. As a professional civil engineer, she has a wealth of technical experience at the international level which she brings to her role as technical advisor with development and construction projects in her neighbourhood. Miyadah serves on the Community Services Committee for Flemingdon Community Legal Services and is completing Ryerson University bridging program of Project Management for technical professionals. She is proud to approach her community work with sincerity and honesty.
Gillian Sumi is a motivated resident of the Birchmount and Eglinton area of Southwest Scarborough. She advocates for increased accessibility and inclusion in her community. She is a member of TTC Riders, Building Bridges Across Barriers, and Building Bridges Accessibility Advisory Committee. In 2016, she joined the Scarborough Poverty Animators Network and soon after became active with the Birchmount Bluffs Neighbourhood Center in their civic engagement and advocacy work. She went on to do her first deputation on the city budget in Council Chambers at Scarborough Civic Centre. Gillian advocates for accountability and accessibility by raising awareness, writing letters and influencing social action for people living with disabilities.
Agnes Thompson proudly represents the Kingston, Galloway and Orton Park (KGO) neighbourhood. She works at developing unity in her community and actively organizes KGO residents with that vision. She recognizes that some of her toughest battles in life developed the strength she possesses today. Receiving her first ever certificate while in the Playing For Keeps program has been one of her proudest moments. Since then, Agnes has been featured in several media publications including Toronto Foundation Vital Signs Report, CBC Metro Morning, and more. You can always find Agnes organizing fun events and hosting guests speakers for workshops in her neighbourhood.
Mary V Williams is a passionate educator, proud mother to 4 children, and grandmother of 5. She has coordinated programs, hosted events, and facilitated workshops within her community. One of her proudest moments was receiving her Community Worker Diploma from George Brown College after making the decision to return to school as an adult learner. Mary defines success as her ability to work with other community leaders while being aware of her power to create change.
Anna Zhang is an advocate for immigrant seniors of her community. She encourages her peers to overcome the challenges they face, such as isolation due to language barriers and cultural shifts, by communicating their concerns. Over the past 10 years, Anna has volunteered as a translator and tutor for several organizations. She was a member of Toronto’s Seniors Forum and is now a member of the Accountability Table of Toronto Seniors’ Strategy 2.0. While she was honoured to receive appreciation letters from the Mayor, Anna finds her biggest reward in the relationships she’s formed through her community-building work.
Sarah Ali is a dedicated community developer with over 6 years of experience. She has supported multiple neighbourhood projects and is the founder of the Back To Basics Civic Engagement workshop, a highly successful tool for change. Active on the Kingsview-The Westway Resident Advisory Committee, Sarah is a dedicated champion for her community. Whether as an outreach facilitator or youth mentor with Etobicoke Community Council she has built rapport, recruited, and mentored over 476 Etobicoke Community Council youth. Sarah is leading the Don Bosco Community Hub initiative, building local momentum and government awareness of the need for a Community Hub.
Fazilatun Nessa Babli is a proud community member of the Kingston Galloway Orton Park (KGO) neighbourhood where she organizes and advocates for various social justice and grassroots initiatives. She has community development experience in areas of poverty reduction, homelessness, and women and children’s health. Having had the pleasure of working with her fellow community members and stakeholders, Nessa is passionate about collaborating with others to create a collective voice in driving meaningful change.
Jacqueline Dwyer is a founder of the Black Farmers Collective with a background in community development through farming and food distribution. She prioritizes safe space for food literacy training, animation and other educational engagements that empower well-being. Jacqueline has a particular focus on increased availability of culturally appropriate foods from Africa, Caribbean, Latin, South, and Central America that can be grown in the short growing season in Canada. Jacqueline is entering the Masters, Environmental Studies program at York University in the fall of 2017, where she will continue to advocate for access to safe, clean and abundant food.
Joanne Griffith is a resident of Malvern. Joanne has been an active and consistent voice for improvements to the local school system, including mobilizing her community to keep the local school open amidst recent cuts, advocating to abolish split grades and increase opportunities for French-language education. Joanne’s activism comes from her commitment to family, friends and community. AS well as her community organizing, Joanne has also been part of groups that have run health and wellness events, turkey drives and other activities that have increased connectedness across her community.
Miriam Hawkins is a resident in the Rockcliffe-Smythe community. She is a founding member of the Rockcliffe-Smythe Neighbourhood Action Partnership Table and Volunteer Director with the Rockcliffe-Smythe Community Association. Miriam focuses on building resident decision-making, inclusion and awareness. Her creation of the Association’s 2016 Outreach and Development Project helped to advance the Toronto Strong Neighbourhood Strategy 2020 goals. Since 2016, Miriam has been active on the City’s Homeless Shelter Community Liaison Committee, assisting in developing new city emergency housing plans and standards, and continues to help advise the next stages of the new Runnymede Shelter. Currently Miriam is now working with her Local Planning Table to organize a local Community Services Open House for early 2018.
Priya Hawkins has been actively involved in her community since 2012. After fourteen years in the insurance/financial services industry, she has found her calling in community work. Priya began as Chair of the Parent Council at her children’;s school where she increased parent engagement significantly. She facilitated a Newcomer’s Cooking Program and in 2014, took on the role of Project Coordinator in her community, building the capacity of groups she worked with, and creating connections among like-minded residents. Priya is a collaborative community builder who works across sectors to achieve her goals. Priya has also facilitated Poverty Reduction Strategy sessions through United Way Toronto and York Region.
Noel Livingston is a passionate urban farmer whose passion is using local, clean food to improve well-being for marginalized communities. Noel carries a wealth of knowledge about growing cycles and how to improve food distribution channels, and is eager to share what he knows. As part of the Black Farmers’ Collective, Noel works to improve food justice for the Afro-Caribbean community and to mentor black youth to develop skills that will lead to increased food access and well-being.
Nadine Omokaro is a resident in the Malvern community. She is passionate about reducing neighbourhood stigma, and building a community that will be an example of strength and connection. Active in her local Parent Council, Nadine has been able to bring opportunities for local parents to be certified in Food Handlers and First-Aid/CPR training to youth 12 or older. She and her team have implemented a popular reading program and she is active on a number of committees, helping to shape the relationship between residents and local organizations and institutions.
Safia Parveen is a proud member of the Thorncliffe community. She is involved as a Community Animator for the Commitment to Community project, as well as a Peer Support Worker of AWO (Afghan Women Organization). Safia loves to help fellow community members problem solves issues in her community. She is also passionate about organizing events related to mental health and well-being. For more than two years Safia has been facilitating a "Wellness Cafe" Ladies Group three times a month, related to chronic mental health issues. Currently she is working with her neighbours to develop a list of local priorities that can be shared with political candidates and decision-makers.
Suganthine Sivakumar is a resident of the Dorset Park community. She began her community engagement with ACSA through the Action for Neighbourhood Change project in a sewing group at her building. While volunteering she realized the important of leadership in the community in which she is raising her child. She started to attend Dorset Park Neighbourhood Association meetings. Five years later she is the Project Coordinator of Dorset Park’s English Circle for Women. Suganthine has been a regular advocate for Toronto’s Poverty Reduction Strategy and believes strongly in the power of community engagement to encourage individuals to thrive and succeed.