In 2018, we got the chance to surprise, visit, and recognize outstanding Ottawa change-makers with Community Builder Awards. Community builders are people who volunteer their time and skills to tackle issues like youth mental health, champion inclusion and diversity, strengthen local initiatives and programs, and create safe spaces for our LGBTQ+ community.
While they each make unique contributions to the community, these individuals share a common goal: to make our city great for everyone.
Check out these local leaders and how they made Ottawa a better place to live in 2018:
Elaina Martin has a talent for making people feel welcome and empowered. As the founder and director of WestFest, her policy is to be fully inclusive, and her mandate has been to keep the festival free and accessible for everyone. Her passion for local extends beyond WestFest: she has volunteered on the boards of Minwaashin Lodge, Odawa Native Friendship Centre, Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa, SAW Gallery, and Ottawa Festivals.
Calla Barnett and six other LGBTQ2S+ youth founded Jer’s Vision: Canada’s Youth Diversity Initiative back in 2005. Over a decade later, the initiative has grown into what it is today: the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity (CCGSD). Calla has held many roles in the CCGSD, most recently she has led the organization into a new era as Board President. Under her leadership the CCGSD is providing the LGBTQ2S+ community with more impactful programs and services, and they are establishing Canada’s first LGBTQ2S+ museum in Ottawa.
Dr. Gregory Motayne joined an agency in 2007 whose mission was the same as his own – helping at-risk youth better their lives. At the time, it was called the Eastern Ontario Youth Justice Agency, and its main focus was providing high-risk youth and young offenders with the programs and services they needed to turn their lives around. With Gregory’s guidance, this agency quickly transformed into what is now known as Youturn. Gregory’s passion for helping people has resulted in hundreds of lives changed for the better (so far!), and his work with YouTurn has been a positive force in Ottawa.
Shelley Rolland-Poruks has been volunteering since she was a child. In every town she and her family have lived in and through high school and university, Shelley always made the time to give back to the community. Today, Shelley is a public servant and continues to volunteer in Ottawa. To celebrate National Public Service Week Shelley received a Community Builder Award presented by Senator Vern White. Shelley has been involved with Renfrew County United Way, the YWCA of Durham, the Kiwanis Club, United Way Ottawa, and many more charitable organizations. She truly is a leader, advocate, and role model in building community within the public service and beyond.
Some of our 2018 Community Builder Award recipients had similar passions for creating inclusive, constructive spaces through basketball. Here are three coaches and league organizers who are making a welcoming, supportive space for young people in Ottawa:
Andy Sparks is the coach for the University of Ottawa women’s basketball team. Within his team and the sport community, Andy is creating a culture where winning does not sacrifice players’ well-being. He is a strong advocate for mental health, putting the mental wellness of his athletes first, prioritizing compassion alongside competitiveness. Because of this, Andy became a sounding board for other coaches in the league whose players were facing mental health challenges. By starting conversations in sports about mental health, Andy is changing the game for the better.
Sharmaarke Abdullahi has helped initiate dozens of community projects, including homework clubs, youth leadership and mentoring programs — and a youth basketball league. The Somali Youth Basketball League is a not-for-profit organization for youth living in social housing. Its goal is to help young people develop leadership and social skills through basketball. Sharmaarke organized the league for a decade and saw the project grow to help change the lives of hundreds of kids in Ottawa.
Andy Waterman founded and is head coach of the Ottawa Phoenix Basketball Club which provides students with opportunities in competitive sports. It focuses on the social development of student-athletes and their sense of citizenship, dedication to sportsmanship, and what it means to be part of a team. He helps enforce the idea that building a better community starts with building strong, responsible youth to carry the torch – something his players deeply appreciate.