Carleton University’s alumni network is widespread and its grads are creating positive social change through volunteerism and activism all across Canada. From November 14-27, 2018, Here for Good Coast to Coast to Coast will feature alumni from different Canadian provinces and territories in order to showcase the positive impact they are each having in their local communities.
Susan Hwang (MA/16), Ontario
My name is Susan Hwang and I graduated from NPSIA in 2016.
For the past 12 years, I focused my efforts on Rotary International. As an organization that has a presence all over the world, Rotary provided me with a sense of continuity as I moved around and allowed me to quickly integrate into the communities that I found myself in. I contributed to international causes such as polio eradication, disaster mitigation, and clean water and sanitation. I also planned more specific international projects ranging from micro-financing for women-owned businesses in India to child literacy in rural Thailand. Thanks to Rotary, I was able to participate in more volunteer opportunities with community groups than I would have if I did not have the support of the organization. I cannot think of a better way to get involved, develop leadership skills, and meet people who put service above self. More recently, I transitioned to using my experiences and skills in an advisory and board capacity for other organizations.
As a recent graduate who transitioned to the workforce, I have been having a lot of fun organizing volunteer opportunities for my colleagues. The most memorable are:
- Participating in the Fill the Freezer program at the Parkdale Food Centre where we prepared food with the donations that we collected.
- Making over 100 sympathy cards for the Roger Neilson House, which provides palliative care for children and youth.
- Contributing to the Purse Project where we collected sanitary products for the Cornerstone Housing for Women.
I have found that activities like these ground the team in the community and are a great way to learn about the work of other organizations. Best of all, some colleagues are exposed to volunteering for the first time and at the end, everyone leaves the activity feeling inspired to continue on their own.
Thanks for reading! I am always excited to share my volunteer experiences because of what happens after – people, both in and outside of my network, start opening up about the things that they are involved in and passionate about. Connections are made and ideas are exchanged, and this positive synergy is created around us. It is incredibly humbling and reassuring to know that there are more people than we know who build up our community and world every day.
Rebecca Mearns (BA/11; MA/17), Nunavut
My name is Rebecca Mearns. I am Inuk, originally from Pangnirtung, Nunavut, but I now call Iqaluit, Nunavut, my home. As Dean of Education, Inuit and University Studies at the Nunavut Arctic College I am Here for Good.
I graduated from Carleton University with a Bachelor of Arts, Honours in Sociology with minors in Aboriginal Studies and Law in 2011. I then went on to complete a Master of Arts with the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies in 2017, with my thesis entitled “Nunavut, Uqausivut, Piqqusivullu Najuqsittiarlavut (Caring for our Land, Language, and Culture): The use of land camps in Inuit knowledge renewal and research.
Throughout my MA research and the writing of my thesis, I spent a lot of time reflecting on post-secondary education and the purpose of conducting research. I was away from home for much of my post-secondary education with exception of the summers spent in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut working with Elders and youth, where I began to understand the importance of research conducted for Nunavummiut by Nunavummiut.
I often struggled with wondering how this research would make a positive contribution to the community, the territory, and academia, from outside of my home territory. I wondered how I could bring the research back, drawing on the lessons learned during my Masters research, and transferring that knowledge into the work I do.
Our knowledge comes from the connections we have with iliqqusiq (culture), uqausiq (language), and unipkaat (living histories). Through my research, and in understanding how land camps are a place for knowledge renewal, we build and strengthen the connections between generations, and a place for communities and researchers to connect.
As Dean I am working to support Nunavummiut in pursuing post-secondary education and support research for Nunavummiut, by Nunavummiut in Nunavut. Providing programs that are grounded in Inuit knowledge, language, culture and values.
Melissa Wakefield (BAS/07; M.ARCH/10), New Brunswick
Saint John, New Brunswick is a beautifully gritty, industrial port city on the Bay of Fundy. Once an economic powerhouse, the city has weathered significant population loss, and stalled growth and development in more recent decades. In spite of this, Saint John’s cultural scene has flourished – particularly in the last few years – sprouting numerous arts and music events that have shifted the energy of the downtown significantly. As an architect, you couldn’t ask for a more exciting context to work in; the ocean and the fog, the grit and character of the Victorian era city fabric – it’s a creative playground. Even so, I certainly never imagined that I would one day find myself living here despite my mother being a born and raised ‘Johner,’ as they say. But! In November 2014, when a tantalizing work opportunity led me here, I unexpectedly found a home, a community that I cherish, and the passion to be Here for Good.
In the four years since moving to Saint John I have served on 3 boards, presented a pecha kucha talk on architecture, delivered a speech on proposed urban design guidelines, presented a public art installation, and became a founding member of Building Equality in Architecture (BEA) Atlantic. That’s the thing about small cities – they need engaged, impassioned young professionals to get involved and spur-on initiatives of all kinds.
Now half way through my first term on the Heritage Development Board, I have been able to contribute to the ongoing preservation and stewardship of Saint John’s world class heritage building stock. I do so by being a community advocate for our heritage architecture, and an ambassador for design excellence through my own design work, but also through policy making. Over the last year, I have helped shape new policies aimed at protecting the integrity and heritage character of Saint John’s Victorian streetscapes while also facilitating development and growth in these same areas in ways that engage with their context in exciting, modern ways.
In addition to my role on the Heritage Development Board, I am Vice Chair of the Neighbourhood Action Team. Appointed by our Mayor, this citizen committee was assembled to provide city staff with feedback on development of Saint John’s Central South Peninsula Neighbourhood Plan and first Urban Design Guidelines. Not only have I been given the opportunity to champion community-oriented priorities that will create positive change for my fellow citizens, but I have also helped develop initiatives that celebrate arts and culture, foster continued growth and ultimately the revitalization of Saint John’s downtown core. My time on the Neighbourhood Action Team has given me a unique platform to share my personal passion for architecture too; advocating for the value of architecture in our daily lives and the possibilities in which design excellence can shape the future of Saint John.
As architects, we all set out to ‘do good’ in our communities; designing buildings that give children the space to learn and grow, exciting public spaces for coming together and recreation, spaces to raise families in and more. However, as I have come to learn firsthand, in fragile, economically stunted communities the role of an architect can be so much more.
Barbara Grantham (MPPA), British Columbia
I’m a VERY proud Carleton Master of Public Admin graduate from a long, long time ago! I learned a lot of important things at Carleton – statistics, economics, public policy, organizational behaviour – the list goes on. What I also learned, from faculty and fellow students, was the importance of being a good citizen while in the course of doing good professional work. I’m so grateful to have learned that lesson – it has stood me in such solid stead through my career in the non-profit/philanthropic sector. All of us have a responsibility to bring our very best selves, in our professional and community leadership roles, to every commitment we undertake. Carleton was important in teaching me that life lesson.
Last week, that life lesson really came home for me. One of my professional colleagues was presented with an annual industry association award for Outstanding Professional and one of our volunteer youth leadership teams was presented with the Outstanding Youth Volunteer Leadership award. It was a reminder for me on the importance of mentoring, of giving everyone a chance to find their best selves as professionals and as citizens, of giving everyone an opportunity to find the right ‘spaces’ – through work, education, volunteering, etc. – where they belong and thrive.
I’m Here for Good because I can be, and because I have the privilege of offering colleagues and volunteers the opportunity to thrive, benefiting themselves and those around them. For me, that is better than Good. It’s Great!
Benjamin Ryan (BCOM/12) and Joseph Sparling (BSc/72), Yukon
Joseph Sparling and son Ben are supporting Here for Good from Canada’s Westmost Northern Capital, Whitehorse, Yukon. Joe founded Air North, Yukon’s Airline, in 1977, and the airline has become an engine for economic and social impact in the community. Air North is 49% owned by the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation of Old Crow, Yukon, and Air North also has a local shareholder base of over 2,000 residents in a population of fewer then 40,000 total residents, making Air North truly ‘Yukon’s Airline’. The airline connects the Yukon to many destinations in Canada, including Ottawa, where Joe and Ben both studied at Carleton University. Ben is actively involved in the business, and also runs a subsidiary called Chieftain Energy, which is responsible for the entire fuel supply chain of the airline, and which also has established partnerships with 7 of the 14 self-governing First Nations in Yukon. Each year, Joe and Ben participate in the United Way Plane Pull, which is a charitable fundraiser whereby teams in costume compete to pull an Air North Boeing 737 across a designated area at Air North’s operational base in Whitehorse, Yukon. Each year, Air North and Chieftain Energy contribute over $500,000 in charitable contributions to the local community through causes, such as the United Way Plane Pull.
Joe and Ben understand the importance of doing ‘good’ through their business by engaging with and giving back to their local community.
Martha Muzychka (BJ/1984), Newfoundland and Labrador
I’ve always enjoyed volunteering. From my first stint as a high school candy striper for our local children’s hospital to my latest as an occasional maker of reusable bags for local shops, volunteering has offered me opportunities to learn and give back to my community.
There are so many things we can do as volunteers, it can be hard to choose. I’ve been fortunate to work with amazing people from all sectors and life experiences in my volunteer work. One of these people became a fabulous mentor, and she gave me an excellent piece of advice which I have used to this day. She told me when looking at volunteering, we should choose those things which help us grow as a person, allow us to give back meaningfully to a community, and let us have fun and experience joy.
When I was at Carleton in the mid-80s studying journalism and later education, I volunteered with the Charlatan and a School of Social Work journal. Both publications gave me a chance to apply my writing skills in creative ways. I still accept opportunities to volunteer, not only to share my current skills, but to also acquire new ones. One memorable opportunity to learn about royal visit protocol came with facilitating media relations for Princess Anne’s visit when she was in Newfoundland and Labrador to present the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Awards in April 2010.
In the past 25 years, many of my volunteer posts have involved board governance and community organizing. I had the honour of working on some fabulous national boards, which gave me a chance to see what was happening in different parts of our country and to work with incredible women on key policy developments including our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Locally, I was really proud to have been on the board of our local Canadian Mental Health Association division in Newfoundland and Labrador for six years. Mental health is something we all need to care about and it’s been really special to see how far we have come since those early days when the stigma made talking about these issues quite challenging. I feel that those of us who have good mental health need to find ways to support those with lived experience of mental illness and work with them to support informed policy and evidence-based decisions. Working with the CMHA board was one way I could advocate effectively for good mental health for everyone.
In the last two years, I helped organize my 40th high school reunion. It was certainly joyful and our committee had a huge amount of fun, judging by the amount of laughter we generated at our meetings. These days, I volunteer with my professional association managing an annual professional development day where people can share their experiences while learning new skills. Seeing people shine as they share their successes is always a highlight. No matter what I take on as a volunteer, I know I am Here for Good.
Denise Dobko (BA Mass Comms/1985), Saskatchewan
My name is Denise Dobko and I am Here for Good…always have been! I graduated from Carleton in 1985 with a BA in Mass Communications. Volunteering has always been a part of who I am. My time spent at Carleton and in Ottawa saw me donating my time on and off campus including aquatics with the City of Nepean, Ottawa Cablevision, as well as brief stints with The Charlatan and CKCU FM. I believe that through volunteering I can help make a difference in my community (and I won’t lie, it provides an opportunity to socialize and make great friends).
Why volunteer? In the case of Langenburg Central School, a new pre-K to grade 12 school in Langenburg, SK (where I have lived for the last 30 years), it meant raising 1.5M dollars in less than two years. I believe in these words: “Plant trees in whose shade you will never sit.” I think it goes without saying, and I think my children would roll their eyes and agree, learning and student engagement is important. In a small town, the school is the centre. Besides helping out on the committee, I donated $5,000 from the profits of a cookbook. The cookbook was a collection of the recipes from Conversations Café, a fine dining restaurant located in the original two-story school house built over 110 years ago in Langenburg. The cookbook seemed like an apt fit for this cause.
Since 1989, I have been a member of the Langenburg Arts Council (LAC). The vision of our council is to provide a high standard of artistic experience by creating, encouraging and inspiring, and thereby enriching the community. As a non-profit group we raise money in many ways. We operate a performing arts centre where we showcase talent from across Canada, host art shows and run a movie theatre (all with volunteers). A lot of our fundraising comes from our live drama productions. In March 2018, I was the producer for the musical Chicago, with the help of a great director, choreographer, live orchestra and cast from six communities. This show took 7 months to produce and it raised over $26,000 to keep arts happening in our community. But more than the money, it showcased how important it is to have room for the arts in our small towns. Band, drama and art programs in our schools (which we made sure our new school would have) give students talents that allow them to give back to others through musicals like Chicago.
In 2006, along with my best friend, Patti Zerr, we raised enough money ($5,000) to build an endowment fund for the Friends and Family Community Foundation. The first Pink and Chocolate Campaign was held 12 years ago and continues to be held every October to raise money to ensure our community is educated on breast cancer and its causes, prevention and treatment. It even supports teaching young girls how to check themselves for possible signs of breast cancer.
I won’t lie, I get back tenfold compared to what I give as a volunteer. It is not only rewarding but I am surrounded by like-minded people who share in the same vision and causes. That is both empowering and personally gratifying. I truly am Here for Good!
Robert Vineberg (MA Canadian History/73; Graduate Diploma Public Admin/84), Manitoba
I learned from the example of my parents how important and how rewarding it can be to give back to our communities. As a graduate of Carleton, I have contributed annually to the university as one way of giving back. After retirement from 37 years with the Public Service, I have found great pleasure in volunteering for not-for-profits in both the arts and in immigration. I am past Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Manitoba Opera. I am also Chair of the Board of Directors of the Immigrant Centre Manitoba, a major immigrant settlement agency in Winnipeg. On a national level, I am Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax. My career was spent mostly with the federal immigration service and I am glad to be able to volunteer my expertise in this area.
Through my involvement with these important organizations, I strive to make a positive impact in my local community and encourage others to be Here for Good!
Stephen Dunbar (MA Political Science), Northwest Territories
Since graduating, I have been volunteering with the Yellowknife Ski Club, leading a program for young skiers aged 9-13. Our focus is to develop skills for life with an emphasis on healthy living and positive social interactions. It’s a great privilege to have been part of the lives of the more than 100 children who have gone through the program. Cross country skiing is a demanding physical sport in the best weather – in the Northwest Territories where winters are long, dark and cold, it is even more so. We are always looking for ways to keep our practices fun and engaging, to keep the kids interested.
I’ve been able to take kids to competitions across western Canada, Alaska and Greenland, working with them as they set their goals and strive to achieve them. For some of the athletes, their goals involve competitions that are two to three years in the future. As they learn to deal with disappointment when a race goes poorly, they are learning important coping skills that are applicable in many situations.
To me, Here for Good means helping young athletes to develop the skills they need to succeed – both in sport and personally. I believe that learning how to set goals and how to readjust expectations when events do not go as hoped are essential skills for future success. I’m proud of all my athletes, and love to hear from them as they embark on new challenges.
Are you Here for Good? Visit https://futurefunder.carleton.ca/ to join the movement!