THE BLOG

The Great Community Builders I Celebrated in 2013

12/24/2013 12:20 EST | Updated 02/23/2014 05:59 EST

As Toronto becomes increasingly known for the misadventures of its naughty crack smoking mayor, there are many individuals that are a positive force for our city. They may not be household names quite yet, but their impact is far-reaching. They are providing examples of a great citizenry with quiet, eloquent grace.

As we conclude 2013, I would like to highlight them and their work within Toronto.

Everton Gordon, the interim CEO Jamaica Canadian Association is a rare activist and community builder. He has served in management positions within Sojourn House Refugee Shelter as well as with the Margaret's Housing and Community Services -- Mental Heath and Justice Program. For hundreds of refugees and new immigrants, he has served as a link to their basic necessities in housing, career, educational and other needed services to support their transition to Canadian society.

At the Jamaican Canadian Community Association he is known to spend countless hours mentoring young people in achieving their future best in mentorships and employment opportunities. In looking for solutions to social ills, Gordon is known to look beyond the status quo and within his clients by being responsive to their individual needs and wishes. Kudos to Gordon; Toronto needs more leaders like him. I wish him the best in 2014.

Yohannes 'Johnny' Ayalew, is employed by APPA -- Africans In Partnership Against HIV/AIDS -- and previously by the Ethiopian Community Association as an HIV/AIDS preventative officer. In the later role, he helped empower generations of Ethiopian-Canadian youth to become more engaged and empowered in their new adopted land. He has given lectures and worships, in such a dwindling budget, to help facilitate an important subject in the community such as AIDS and mental health. Ayalew also hosts an online TV show where he profiles emerging positive everyday stories of new immigrants and Canadians.

At APPA, he has served as a volunteer coordinator mentoring Canada's newest immigrants understand the value of volunteering and the transition to employment. I wish him good health and look forward to continued positive and important work from him in 2014.

Nadine Williams is an emerging poet and spoken word artist based in the GTA. Her powerful voice has been heard in many noteworthy places, the highlight of which was the opening ceremony of the Jamaican Diaspora Conference in Montego Bay, Jamaica, where Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller was the Keynote Speaker.

At events, big and small, Williams has given her time and resources, sharing her original work with audiences from all walks of life. For instance, her poem "The Immigrant Child" has been a favourite at many prestigious events all over Toronto, especially at Citizenship ceremonies. Two years ago, she performed it for the first time at Queen's Park during Black History Month celebration. As she concluded her set, it was then Ontario Premier, Dalton McGuinty, who shed some tears and told her how much her voice is needed in public service. I thank her for her service to us and wish her continued success in 2014.

It was Margaret Mead who uttered the most powerful words when it comes to community builders among us. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." I have no doubt that Gordon, Ayalew and Williams are moving us to the ideal of those words as well as closer to the perfect citizenship that we all envision ours to be.