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From the nominators:
Nekpen Obasogie came to Canada in 2008 from Nigeria. She was born and raised in the Ancient City of the Great Benin Kingdom in Nigeria. She is popularly known as an online tv host, community mobilizer, and custodian of the Benin history and culture. Her first book titled, Great Benin: The Alcazar of Post-Colonial Culture and Its Relationship with the Europeans Since 1400 AD is currently making waves in some parts of the world. The book is also been recommended for students in some Universities.
Nekpen Obasogie grew up with a burning hope of a brighter tomorrow. Her mother, Janet, was a struggling mother, with much love in her heart, who either through culture or circumstances was skeptical about the prospect of female education. But Nekpen’s father, an educated Benin man, Roland Obasogie believed in the potential of Nekpen at a critical age. Her father saw light in her that many could not comprehend when she was very young. But her mother and some members of the family opposed her acamedic ambition because she was a young female. Most pathetic of all, Nekpen became an orphan in her early twenties, leaving her with younger siblings to care for. Such were the origins surrounding the now success story of Nekpen Blessing Obasogie. No one would believe the hurdles and emotional challenges she had to endure to overcome and become what she is today. What has been her motivation? It was the inspiration and guidance her late father, passed on to her soul; stressing every time that “education is the tool for success and breakthrough in life, the way out of doom!”Dispirited at the demise of her father in 1994, it was like her world came crashing down as there would be no one to provide that educational lever that can see her through life. But she was never going to give up. Her father’s words kept ringing in her mind and that became the inner message that fired her up and saw her climbing the educational ladder, years after leaving Secondary School in 1994.Today, she has two degrees, one in Sociology, and the second one in Law and Society, a Master’s degree in Social Work and to boot, a certificate in Refugee and Migration Studies at York University (Toronto), and currently working towards achieving her Ph.D. Who knows what else, she could want to reach next? In any case, her second book is in the running to be published in 2022.
Access the video biography on YouTube.
From the nominators:
Kristina has a passion for offering an alternative to standard education that she has developed over years within Toronto’s homeschooling and alternative school communities. Recently, she opened the Passages Centre for Self-Directed Learning with one learner in September 2020, during the pandemic, and has grown the Centre to having 19 youth undertaking the program.
Similarly, Kristina has grown Passages to include 10 board members, placement for students at a university and college, and incorporated numerous volunteers to enrich the program. Her outreach to the community both locally and more broadly is truly incredible. She’s committed to serving youth who want to take a different educational path and is extremely keen to offer this option to a larger audience.
Kristina’s energy and enthusiasm for self-directed learning (SDL) is inspirational and once one understands the benefits of SDL, it is difficult not to commit to making this type of learning grow.
I believe Kristina is an Urban Hero for filling a much-needed need where there was none before and should be recognized for all the work she has done and will do.
Ethan Waisberg, a twenty-one-year-old medical student from Toronto, Canada who attends UCD School of Medicine in Dublin, for your award. He co-founded Balls 4 Eyeballs, a youth-led non-profit whose mission is to make tennis ‘greener’ while funding eye research.
To date, he has 30 partner clubs and has kept over 50,000 tennis balls out of landfill. Balls 4 Eyeballs demonstrates Ethan’s passion for the environment, research, and giving back to his community, by helping fund eye research and improve the lives of the blind and visually impaired. He is an inspiration and role-model to other youth for his concern about environmental and social issues.
For more information please visit: balls4eyeballs.org
I proudly nominate James for the ongoing stellar volunteer work he does in the Hydro Field near the Police Cricket Field area.The Police Cricket Field is kept meticulous due to the phenomenal cricket games that are played there. James works with the company that provides the maintenance of the field and continues where they leave off cutting the grass to the fences of the many homes that border the field. The space he cuts is quite a large area. James provides his own equipment and gas for this work.
The field is kept in stellar condition due to the teamwork of James and the hired company. The environmental impact is so positive. It is known that green spaces can act like a blanket or insulation panel absorbing sounds from people, cars, trucks, and animals. Grass is also known for cleaning the air and cooling the environment. Before James took on this task, there were frequent visits from coyotes, now with the regular maintenance there are no sightings of these animals.
This area is providing a safe, healthy environment for the children to play during the week when there are no cricket games. The pandemic imposed many lifestyle changes for everyone, but James made sure these children had a well-groomed safe haven to play.
James has been a role model for these young individuals. Seeing a neighbour doing regular maintenance on a space they play on shows these children the importance of being in a community and caring for the environment. He proudly displays the role of a motivator as he gathers all of them including his grandchildren and participates at times in their playing of games. They share camaraderie with the dedicated influence of James Ince. Thanks, Danielle Stockley
Amanda Coombs is an Urban Hero because she dedicates her time and most of her life to serving individuals who are racialized, reside in low-income communities and particularly individuals who have been impacted by community violence.
Amanda has been a tenant representative for the past eight years in the Jane and Finch Community. In this volunteer position, Amanda advocates for the needs and concerns of residents, helps community members to organize events and assists in any way possible. Amanda has hosted community BBQ's, given out hundreds of wrapped toys at Christmas and knapsacks filled with school supplies for children to return to school.
Amanda was also selected by her community in 2017 to become a Mental Health First Aid Facilitator. Since then, Amanda has certified over 700 individuals in several Toronto Community Housing neighborhoods as Mental Health First Aid Responders. These individuals are now equipped with the knowledge to support individuals who are living with mental health problems or experiencing a mental health crisis. They also support families of victims who have been impacted by community violence and assist individuals who are living with depressive, anxiety and trauma related disorders which have been heightened since the pandemic.
Amanda continuously applies for grants to ensure that residents do not have to pay for their certifications and in January of 2022 she became a CPR Instructor to help certify individuals in the community that need a certification for work but can't afford to pay for it.
Amanda graduated from York University with a B.A. in Psychology and is completing her master’s in clinical psychology. In her spare time, she provides free culturally competent counselling services to individuals in the Jane & Finch Community. She is also the founder of an outreach team "Neighbours Helping Neighbours" that provides various supports to families who are experiencing challenging times such as groceries, clothes, homework assistance, legal support and mental health assistance.
Amanda is the founder of Back2Basickz Youth Support Services, an organization that provides academic and entrepreneurial services to Youth involved in the Justice system.
Missing profile info
On Saturday May 28th at about 4:30p.m., 10-year-old Griffin Toth and his three-year-old sister, Stella, were running around and playing together in Westlake Park as their mother watched on from afar.
Out of nowhere, and without warning, a coyote ran up and bit Stella, knocking her to the ground. As the coyote stood by, Griffin picked up his little sister and ran with her to safety. The coyote was in pursuit, but Griffin got Stella to his mother as fast as he could and without hesitation. Eventually, the coyote retreated back into the bush nearby and fortunately, due to Griffin’s heroic efforts, Stella wasn't harmed any further.
Justin Van Dette has spent his entire life working to create a better Toronto Community and neighborhood. Informally and formally he has been a dedicated civic leader that works tirelessly to support his community through fundraisers, local politics, championing local improvements, working for and supporting awareness building for Michael Garron Hospital, his local hospital.
He has hosted annual Christmas dinners for those that otherwise would have been alone and led the Parkview Hills Residence Association. Justin also worked with City councillors to help local constituents address issues with safety and security, parking, and access issues. He is the go-to guy when you have a local issue or need support during a crisis like a fallen tree or a power outage, or for transportation for shut- ins.
Justin has helped literally thousands of city residents over his lifetime by making their life journey a little easier. Justin is so deserving of this award, his tireless work as a community ambassador, his leadership in community development, his volunteering for better government at the local, provincial and federal levels, his support of his local community, local BIAs and local hospital are legendary.
He has raised millions of dollars through events like McHappy Day, Shoppers Drug Mart Campaigns, Taste of the Danforth Bed Race, Saul Korman’s Golf Classic, Celebrity Baseball Tournaments, Laughter is the Best Medicine Galas, and so many other events that are too numerous to name.
He brought more attention to the hospital and other causes by involving celebrities and news personalities to raise profile and awareness and funds for important issues. He is a passionate ambassador for his community and even established the East York Hall of Fame with John Candy as the first inductee. He is truly an Urban Hero! His legacy is one of a caring and compassionate neighbour and civic leader, and I can't think of anyone that is more deserving of this Urban Hero Award in recognition of him as a good neighbour.
While heroes come in all shapes and sizes, my hero has always been my dad, Rob. Growing up, my family was very close and in 2010, when my mom lost her battle with brain cancer, we weren’t quite sure how our lives were going to look.
Palliative care is not something a lot of people think about day to day, or even at all. But, as our family experienced, hospice and end-of-life care can make a huge difference in the lives of the patient and, even more so, their loved ones and caregivers. Our family spent nearly two months visiting my mom at the Dorothy Ley Hospice in Etobicoke. The facility and staff made those tough months so much easier. Instead of focusing on caring for her, we got to focus on being together and sharing memories and stories. We even had the family dog come for visits.
Even after our life altering loss, my hero of a dad used the struggles we were going through to recognize that we were not alone and there are many people who experience loss and need support.
Knowing he wanted to give back in some way and what meaningful support was provided at Dorothy Ley Hospice, Rob applied to be a volunteer in 2015. He started out helping in the kitchen, greeting families, and making rounds to patients for a quick chat or just a smile and a calming presence. He continued to grow his involvement by being part of the finance committee and leading a bi-weekly support group for men who have lost a partner.
His work with Dorothy Ley was so rewarding that he continued to look for other ways he could provide support to the Hospice community.
In 2016, he volunteered to join the board of The Healing Cycle Foundation (THCF), which funds and empowers the hospice and palliative care community and champions the right for all Canadians to dignity, compassion, and quality end-of-life care. Rob is involved with planning and executing the annual Cycling Event and 5km Walk to raise funds and awareness. Even throughout the pandemic years, THCF held virtual challenges and were committed to providing for the community in a time when palliative care was more important than ever and faced so many challenges they had never had to deal with prior to COVID-19. Rob is very excited that they will be holding The Healing Cycle Live Ride on September 25th as an in-person event again, as well as the 30 Days of Activities Virtual Challenge!
In 2021, Rob was given the honour of being inducted into the June Callwood Circle of Outstanding Volunteers in recognition and appreciation of his involvement with the palliative care and hospice community in Ontario.
Heroes usually start out with an origin story of what caused them to become the hero they are today. The tough time our family went through was Rob’s origin story and from this challenge came so much good, for Rob, for our family, for the hospice community and for the greater good of everyone. I am very proud to nominate my dad for the Urban Heroes Awards. He is caring and compassionate, hard-working and fun-loving. He loves giving back to the hospice community because they played such an important role in making his beloved wife’s end-of-life journey as peaceful and comfortable as it could be. Knowing that he can be a small part in helping others who are experiencing loss cope and work through the difficult emotions that they feel, are the rewarding moments that make the work so fulfilling.
Chemi is a true Torontonian through and through, to whom community involvement and engagement comes naturally.
At Parkdale Collegiate, Chemi served as Parkdale Collegiate’s Tibet club president and president of University of Toronto (Scarborough) Student Union.
Her work didn’t stop at school. After school, she would serve delicious pancakes at a local restaurant in Liberty Village, and then squeeze critical community care work in what was left of her hours in the week.
During the COVID lockdowns, Chemi initiated a program to serve hot meals to the elderly in Parkdale. Today, Chemi is a well-known advocate in the human rights and advocacy sphere, having been recognized by Maclean’s as one of 50 Canadians that are changing how we live and think. She was also a featured speaker at the Oslo Freedom Forum in 2022.
Garth is the President of Soso World Ministries, a Scarborough-based organization that provides support for low income residents, the homeless and those in need. He leads this organization with a calm demeanour and steadfast focus on its clients and its values.
I've witnessed him 'in action' interacting with clients and found his approach to be refreshing - he approaches clients and volunteers as equals, ensuring that he both gives respect and receives respect. It is entirely clear that he is making a difference in his clients' lives, as well as collective community's life! He exemplifies service and placing others' needs above his own.
Lillian Mcmullin works tirelessly in the community on various senior’s programs, including travel, housing, recreation, dining and outreach programs. She organizes & serves luncheons at our local community centre, and also researches and struggles with city planners to provide more affordable housing for seniors in her community.
Lillian has been organizing and planning both day trips, overnight, and weeklong trips where she volunteers to be the tour guide. She has worked with two to three different senior's tour companies on an unpaid and strictly volunteer basis for the past ten years approximately.
Lillian would not have time, were it not for the support of her loving and dedicated husband, Bob, maintaining the home front duties, which allows Lillian to help seniors.
When Lillian oversees overnight and extended travel trips across Canada the U.S.A., Bob often attends to support his wife on these trips. The number of participants range from 25 to 45 seniors that need to be supervised during the entire trips.
Lillian is a retired senior citizen (in her youthful 80’s) who helps seniors keep well and healthy with both social and travel experiences. Needless to say, this helps tremendously, keeping aging seniors happy and connected with other likeminded seniors.
Lillian’s husband, Bob, suffered not one but two minor strokes in the past year and a half. In spite of this added responsibility and the past two plus years of COVID shutdowns, Lillian has kept up her activities, with the support and blessings from her loyal husband.
Lillian has an amazing spirit and great sense of humour and keeps her seniors entertained with lively conversation, singing, and jokes on the bus tours. Needless to say, her trips are very well attended, and the spots fill up very quickly, owing to the demand.
Lillian could well be an Urban Hero in not only the social category, but health, and education too. Lillian is a unique, charming and hard-working individual. She and her husband, Bob, are quite the incredible, amazing team. Urban Heroes – that we are very proud to have in our community, looking out for so many of us seniors.
Pastor Olu Jegede embodies the term "urban hero". Along with his positive attitude, infectious smile, and friendly disposition; he is passionate about, supports, and advocates, for individuals that are disadvantaged, vulnerable, and impoverished in communities that are stigmatized and overlooked. Giving hope to those that society has rendered hopeless, by living out Christ’s ministry, displayed through love and compassion for those that did not have the opportunity to receive it.
He selflessly and willingly obeyed the call of God upon his life to go into ministry, to serve others on a full-time basis. He traded in a career in IT and relocated from an affluential neighbourhood with his wife and children to the Jane and Finch community, in order to fulfill his calling.
Pastor Olu started out as an assistant pastor at Christian Centre Church from 1992, serving the community, and now is the lead pastor. Over the course of time at CCC, he has fulfilled his pastoral duties being a spiritual leader, a friend, a counsellor, a mentor, giving a helping hand, a support system, warm and welcoming, a visionary, a shoulder to lean on, and a shoulder to cry on. He shows compassion, using Godly wisdom and judgement, one who cares and shares his church with other ministries/groups. As well as spearheading and partnering with organizations (Inner City Outreach, Urban Promise, and Neighbours Helping Neighbours) that evangelizes and assists with food programs, rent assistance, childcare, homework club, summer camp, tutoring, mental health, counselling, elderly care, youth programs and more.
He overseas and assists in raising funds for important projects such as "Project Impact" which provides assistance to countries overseas and at home (Haiti, Ukraine, and Jamaica); by ministering the Gospel, providing medical supplies, food, clothing, building schools, creating jobs, scholarship and mentorship programs for youth. Most importantly, he invest his time with God, and his family, being a great role model for his children, and a loving and supportive husband to his wife.
Philippians 1:6 "Being confident of this, he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus".
I believe that Pastor Olu is an Urban Hero because he is selfless and altruistic in his actions and is always looking for opportunities to improve Jane & Finch, help those who are marginalized, racialized and living in low-income communities.
For example, Pastor Olu and his family moved from their affluent neighborhood to the Jane & Finch community to live among the residents. He has also opened his house to people who are unhoused, international students and people who can’t afford market rent. He also hosts ‘soul food’ brunches at his house where people have an opportunity to fellowship and meet one another.
Pastor Olu also recognized the need for affordable childcare in the Jane and Finch Community and applied for grants successfully. Pastor Olu is opening a daycare called Impact Childcare in September of 2022 that will have 75 subsidized spaces and employ individuals from the community. This daycare is desperately needed. Many parents cannot work because they can't afford childcare and there are waiting lists for subsidized spaces in the community.
Pastor Olu also spearheads, Inner City Outreach, a non-profit that is dedicated to transforming under-served communities such as Jane and Finch. The non-profit creates employment opportunities for over 20 youth, providing them with the opportunity to develop their social skills and gain valuable work experience. Some of the youths are employed as tutors with the Homework Club, as camp counsellors in the spring and summer and as coaches with the basketball program which teaches valuable life skills through athletic teamwork and provides a safe environment for youth to be with their peers. Many of the youth are also part of the Leadership Program where they are mentored and given opportunities to develop their leadership skills.
Pastor Olu also assisted in organizing an outreach team called Neighbors Helping Neighbors. Pastor Olu and the team go out every weekend into the community knocking doors and meeting the needs of residents. Pastor Olu has provided grocery cards, clothes, mental health supports, PPE items and has partnered with other agencies to help resolve some of the issues residents are facing.
Pastor Olu and the church has assisted in providing groceries, rental support to people who were in arrears, legal assistance with law. Pastor Olu goes out with a team on weekend and knocks on people doors to help with what they need. He helps to resolve issues that residence are experiencing.
I nominate Olu Jegede as he has been a good community member to me and many members living around Jane and Finch. Olu participates in community outreach on Saturdays to meet the needs of the community partnering with Christian Centre Church. The church also provides different services to the community members like grocery drop ins, after school child care programs, basketball, gym, ESL lessons etc..
Olu is a solid member and leader in the Jane and Finch community. Through his work with Christian Centre Church, he has brought many fresh ideas that have give our youths and young children a step up in a positive light for their future. One of these ways is the current construction of a daycare that is greatly needed for the community. Reverend Olu is always available with an open heart and willing hands to help when called upon.
Seema David is committed to ensuring that no one in her community goes hungry! She set up 5n2 Kitchens in 2013 in an effort to fight food insecurity in Scarborough. Amazingly even during COVID-19 the food bank and kitchen continued to operate 7 days a week despite the increased demand; because Seema knew that shutting down was not an option. Currently, 5n2 serves 3,500 meals every week to families in marginalized communities. This was not an easy feat as there were added stressors, increased need for safety, reduced number of volunteers, and other partners she was dependent on had to shut down.
Scarborough is a welcoming city to new immigrants and is affordable for low-income families, but this also means many of these new immigrants are living in poverty and highlights the need for not-for profit organizations like 5n2 to be available to quickly mobilize to help those in need.
In addition to fighting food insecurity, Seema has also uncovered other needs; many seniors are now more isolated because of COVID-19. To help with this, Seema started EdU; a program that helps seniors become more independent. Helping them to learn how to use technology so they can socialize, stay connected and lead a healthy lifestyle. She also expanded the program by helping select seniors learn more about nutrition and providing them with healthy meal kits so that they can independently make their meals.
Post pandemic Seema is seeing a dramatic growth in need for her food for multiple reasons; job losses, increase in grocery prices, and mobility restrictions to name a few. Seema is hoping that more donors and local organizations will join her as she continues to help the local communities.
I would like to recognize Seema for not giving up regardless of the challenges in her way and more importantly for continuing to uncover barriers faced by our communities and finding innovative solutions to minimize these struggles. PS: I did not have enough space to write about the challenges Seema has faced over the last year, so I have attached an article.
Ali Ladak is creating a safe space for kids to play chess online, creating chess online courses for seniors and the global community. Ali is also a Chess International certified arbiter, chess mentor to kids, chess historian, online chess coach for kids and chess commentator.
Christopher is passionate about supporting youth in the GTA reach their goals in basketball, as well as promoting personal growth and development off the court as well.
Through coaching, he has helped many talented basketball players elevate their skills to earn scholarships and play at post-secondary institutions across the U.S. and Canada. Currently a teacher and head coach at J. Addison School, he is also the founder of EMPIRE Basketball Canada, a Director of Women’s Basketball for the Advantage Titans, and a summer coach at ‘A’ Game Basketball.
Christopher always puts the athletes first - even above his own coaching goals. If he had to choose between supporting an athlete towards receiving a scholarship and moving up the coaching ranks, he would choose advancement for the student every time. He has helped countless athletes over his 17 years as a basketball coach to achieve their athletic and academic goals, leading over 100 players over his coaching career to play at the post-secondary level.
An expert in NCAA clearinghouse requirements, and with extensive knowledge about U.S. college applications, he personally assists players with the process of applying to post-secondary institutions, and the vast majority of this work is done on a volunteer basis for the teams he coaches outside of school.
He organizes free workshops for players to hone skills and at his birthday parties every year, he raises money for the various teams he coaches as a volunteer. He also helped to set up a scholarship for students with financial need to attend J. Addison School, and recently founded Authentically Genuine, with a goal of helping people be their authentic selves, through which he helps athletes with personal development, with activities like workshops on how to handle the ups and downs in sports.
Ian is a community leader and hero. As a new Canadian, he has dedicated himself to numerous efforts to build and support his new community. After having been a leader in the inclusive and mixed-ability rugby community for a number of years, where Ian was President of Muddy York (Toronto's oldest inclusive rugby club) and having introduced mixed-ability to the club as well as a women's side he decided to go even bigger.
In 2021 Ian created the Rainbow Griffins, in partnership with Toronto Inner-city Rugby this club provides inclusive, mixed-ability rugby, to all gender identifying players. The club has delivered Mixed Ability rugby over the last nine months and has attracted 46 new active players and over 65 supporters from across Canada.
It has also invested in the development of new rugby coaches, with their head and assistant coach gaining Level 2, World Rugby coaching certification, and it also plans to fund three of its members to achieve level 1 World Rugby refereeing certification. During the last 5 months, several parents from the community, especially parents of trans-youth have reached out seeking to enroll with the club. Recognizing the need to expand their mandate, the board expanded the mandate to include juniors, this program is the first of its kind in Canada and for a member club of International Gay Rugby (IGR), the global membership organization for 2SGLBTQ+ inclusive rugby clubs.
Bhuttu Matthews, Vice- Chair of IGR said that “The leadership of Toronto's Rainbow Griffins RFC, especially Ian Royer, have done a marvellous job in expanding the reach of gay and inclusive clubs to youth. Rugby is for everyone. Only by normalizing the sport for all youth will the generational trauma of bullying, homophobia, and transphobia be eradicated. IGR looks forward to the creation of more such teams within our clubs.”
The impact Ian has had on the community is huge, many parents of trans youth and queer people have found a home with the Griffins due to Ian's work.
Coach Phillips is like an Angel to our community in the Leslie and Finch neighborhoods.
As a parent and a resident of the community, I have observed and worked with Terence Phillips, the Lead Coach at Phillips Basket Academic Academy (PBAA) for several years now. His selflessness has always amazed me!
Coach Phillips makes inclusiveness his golden rule when creating opportunities for our youths, boys and girls alike, to play basketball, while still pushing them toward academic excellence through mentoring and homework support.
What makes Terence and the PBAA Team different is that they make the opportunity open to everybody, including those who cannot pay for the little stipend they charge to rent a gym, etc. In situations where a student’s family cannot afford the program, Terence has subsidized their enrolment with his own money from his 9 to 5 job, rather than saying no to these kids.
He brings in experts in basketball, nutrition, and motivation speakers to encourage the kids. Every child is valued and recognized though acknowledgement and constructive feedback
Our community is better and safer as more of our young people are engaged in productive activities like playing basketball, doing their homework, or getting mentored, rather than roaming the malls and streets. Thanks to Coach Terence Phillips and his PBAA team for the service to your community. I highly recommend him and it’s my honor to nominate him for this year’s 2022 Urban Heroes Award.