Local Champions is a one year capacity building program designed to provide seasoned grassroots leaders with the vocabulary, context and tools so that they can influence the systems that affect them.
Local Champions come from across the City of Toronto and reside in one of Toronto’s 31 Neighbourhood Improvement Areas or 8 Emerging Neighbourhoods.
Local Champions is a key part of Toronto Strong Neighbourhood Strategy 2020
Each year the Centre for Connected Communities brings in a new cohort of 25 grassroots leaders. Local Champions graduates members of the Local Champions Network.
The Local Champions Network is a dynamic network of grassroots leaders seeking to influence the systems in the City that affect people living in marginalized neighbourhoods. C3 supports the Network by providing:
- Connection to ongoing capacity building opportunities
- Connections to people/resources/tools that will help Local Champions Network members meet their individual and collective goals
- Direct connections with opportunities (paid and unpaid) for Local Champions to influence the systems that affect people in marginalized communities
- Facilitation of annual collective priority setting processes
- Facilitation of one additional annual event
- Referrals to relevant potential employment opportunities as they arise
For more information on Local Champions, please contact Janet Fitzsimmons
Local Champions Network
Local Champions - 2017 Cohort
Local Champions - 2018 Cohort
Joanne Griffith is a resident of Malvern. Joanne has ben 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.
Issaq Ahmed envisions a thriving and productive community and is passionate about creating and unveiling opportunities for residents that would not have otherwise been available. He is a member of the resident advisory board for the City of Toronto’s TSNS 2020, his neighbourhood Event Planning Committee, and plans and implements ideas that would benefit the community, including former and current residents. Issaq defines success as bringing people together in a capacity that builds bonds and not only in the form of a charity. His optimism is infectious and he strives to create loving energy that influences others in a beautiful way. Issaq is currently filming and editing a documentary on the lives and experiences of members in his community called Project Susan.
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.
Jason Collette is a member of the Eglinton East community. He is passionate about raising awareness on climate change and improving solid waste practices. Jason is currently a 3Rs Ambassador that promotes residents of apartments, condos and co-ops to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
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.
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.
Karlene Ruddock represents Weston Pelham-Park and envisions it being an independent, empowered community. She enjoys teaching members of her community and has organized several life skills workshops as a result. Most recently, she facilitated a technical training about technology and witnessed how participants were truly able to recognize their potential. Karlene enjoys using her creativity to successfully bring ideas to life.
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.