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2021 BC Achievement Community Awardees Announced

Press Release

VANCOUVER – Premier John Horgan and Anne Giardini, OC, OBC, QC, Chair of the BC Achievement Foundation, today named this year’s recipients of the BC Achievement Community Award, marking the 18th offering of the program.

“This year’s Community Awardees are, without exception, remarkable British Columbians who have strengthened their communities during challenging times,” said Premier John Horgan. “As a result of their commitments to causes beyond themselves, they have ensured that BC is a better province for all of us.”

“It is a particular honour this year to recognize these twenty-five outstanding British Columbians,” added Giardini. “This year’s recipients exemplify the spirit of the Community Award. Celebrating their achievements honours the very best of our province and inspires us all to public service and excellence.”

The recipients of the 2021 Community Award are:

Amber Anderson C.C.C., Vancouver
Harbhajan Singh Athwal, New Westminster
Ann Blaauw, Langley
Doug Chinnery, Hornby Island
James Robert (Bob) Coates, Victoria
Kal Dosanjh, Surrey
Norah Flaherty, Vancouver
Dr. Balbir Gurm, Surrey
Yúya’ainux̌v Anita Hall, Bella Bella
John & Joyce Henderson, Salmon Arm
Teresa Kazemir, Port Coquitlam
Zeba Khan, Vancouver
Angelika & Peter Langen, Smithers
Dr. Christine Loock, North Vancouver
Lil Mack, Williams Lake
Pulchérie Nketsap Mboussi, Victoria
Jack McGee, West Vancouver
Elaine Monds, Victoria
Marcia Nozick, Vancouver
Nirmal Parmar, Terrace
Dr. Jane Jae Kyung Shin, Port Coquitlam
Lurana Kikuko Tasaka, Vancouver
Rosemary Thomson, Kelowna
Linda Williams, Sechelt
Cheryl Young, Aldergrove

An independent committee selects the recipients of the Community Award. The 2021 selection committee members are Mayor Lee Brain of Prince Rupert, Mayor Michelle Staples of Duncan, and past recipients, Aisha Amijee, Aart Schuurman Hess and Andy Yu.

The 2021 Mitchell Award of Distinction, selected by the BC Achievement Board in consultation with the community, is presented to Chef Amber Anderson for her work with H.A.V.E. Culinary Training Society. The Award of Distinction recognizes an individual who, through his or her work and volunteer activities, has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to elevating the community in which they live, and those who serve it. Amber has shown a unique and selfless leadership style that empowers others to lead. Named in honour of Keith Mitchell QC, BC Achievement’s Founding Chair and guiding light for 13 years, Keith is a leader by example and a mentor at heart, who brought clarity to the role of the Foundation in its mission to celebrate excellence to inspire achievement in British Columbia.

Community Award recipients are traditionally recognized in a formal presentation ceremony in Victoria, in the presence of the Honourable Janet Austin, OBC, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the 2021 awardees will instead be celebrated online and through BC Achievement’s digital #shinethelightbc campaign. Each recipient receives a certificate and a medallion designed by BC artist Robert Davidson, OC honouring their achievements.

The BC Achievement Foundation is an independent foundation established in 2003 whose mission is to honour excellence to inspire achievement. The Community Award was the first initiative of the foundation, followed by the Carter Wosk Award in Applied Art and Design, BC’s National Award in Canadian Non-Fiction (2005-2018), the Fulmer Award in First Nations Art, and the Indigenous Business Award. Most recently, BC Achievement is honoured to work in partnership with the Office of the Lieutenant Governor in presenting the inaugural 2021 BC Reconciliation Award program.

Contact:
Rup Kang
Program and Communications Director
BC Achievement Foundation
604-551-1102
Rup@bcachievement.com

2021 Community Award – Backgrounders

Amber Anderson C.C.C., Vancouver
As the Executive Director of Hope Action Values Ethics (H.A.V.E.) Culinary Training Society, Amber has impacted countless lives. In 2007, Amber was asked to develop a school and cafe in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to offer culinary training to some of the province’s most marginalized people. Through H.A.V.E., Amber fosters community, instilling confidence in each of her students as they work towards graduation and beyond. When COVID forced Amber to close the school and cafe, she quickly reinvented H.A.V.E. to continue the work. Today she focuses on providing nutritious meals for the local community, hiring H.A.V.E. students as catering cooks, while also securing funding to offer free meals to the homeless. Amber’s empathy and generosity of spirit has helped more than 1,300 people shift their story to a more hopeful one.

Harbhajan Singh Athwal, New Westminster
Harbhajan Singh Athwal has been a pillar in his community since his arrival to Canada in 1968. After retiring from his role as a sawmill laborer, where he worked for over 38 years, Harbhajan Singh took on a volunteer position as President of the non-profit Khalsa Diwan Society Gurdwara Sukh Sagar in 2006. Through this society, Harbhajan Singh contributes to the spiritual, educational, and social services available to the New Westminster community. In 2007, he spearheaded the creation of the Guru Nanak Free Kitchen program, providing meals for the homeless community in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Over the past 14 years, volunteers have been preparing and distributing meals to this community and others every week. Harbhajan Singh has helped to create many youth-oriented programs, services and workshops, including scholarships for high school and university students. A devout Sikh, Harbhajan Singh follows the service to humankind path, this ethos underscoring everything he does. Over the years, Harbhajan Singh has extended his home to many new immigrant families, and he continues to offer community and friendship where it is needed most.

Ann Blaauw, Langley
A retired poultry and cranberry framer, Ann worked incredibly hard alongside her husband to achieve tremendous success. Grounded by family, noble values and a tireless work ethic, today Ann is equally dedicated to her philanthropic work. Ann’s generous gift to support the new Sunny Health Centre’s patio will enable children access to fresh air and nature as they heal, both physically and emotionally. Her support of Langley Memorial Hospital’s new emergency department and Langley’s Hospice Society’s new residence will impact the community for generations to come. Ann nurtures meaningful partnerships. None more so than that with Trinity Western University. Together they have created the Blaauw Eco Forest, preserving a pristine conservation area for Langley visitors and residents to enjoy and learn from. With purpose, integrity and quiet modesty, Ann continues to enrich and improve life for her Langley community.

Doug Chinnery, Hornby Island
Doug leads by example. As Hornby Island’s Fire Department & Rescue (HIFR) Chief, Doug holds a position of immense responsibility. In 2020, HIFR took 171 callouts, of which Doug personally attended more than 100 – serving his community in his trademark unassuming, effective way. Doug’s recent contributions have included developing a pandemic outbreak plan for the community, training over 100 volunteers in naloxone administration and working with community groups and outside agencies to reinstate the island’s helicopter landing zone to fly out those requiring immediate medical care. Doug is the person community members reach out to when mental health issues arise, and countless other community initiatives have benefitted from his input and insight. He fosters community spirit by organizing the annual Polar Bear Swim and hosting the annual Christmas Fair among other events at the firehall. Whether he’s training volunteers, maintaining safety standards, or organizing rescue operations, Doug inspires others to step up and get involved. As a leader he builds confidence and as a volunteer Doug represents the very best of British Columbia.

James Robert (Bob) Coates, Victoria
The quintessential good neighbour, Bob is the kind of person who is always willing to lend a hand. It was through his work at the Optimist Club of Victoria that Bob recognized a need to assist Victoria’s youth by repairing bicycles and donating them to families at the inner city schools. Bob understood that receiving a new bicycle is a memorable moment in a young person’s life and made it his goal to put as many refurbished bikes as possible into the hands of young students. Over the past 25 years, Bob has repaired and placed almost 2,500 bicycles for families in need, bringing joy, and normality to many young lives. All year round Bob can be found with his garage door open restoring bicycles with purpose and determination. The Optimist Club supports Bob’s efforts by providing funds to purchase bike helmets and bike parts when needed. A much admired member of his community, Bob works with humility, humour and heartfelt generosity changing lives one bicycle at a time.

Kal Dosanjh, Surrey
As a Detective with the Vancouver Police Department, Kal has spent considerable time serving Vancouver’s DTES area. During patrol duties Kal was exposed to the challenging realities faced by the community. This experience led him to create the Kids Play Youth Foundation, a non-profit that gives kids the opportunity to become involved in sports and other recreational activities. By creating constructive outlets, building a sense of belonging and self worth, Kids Play steers kids away from a lifestyle of drugs, gangs and violence. The Foundation has also developed after school mentorship programs with the Surrey and Langley school districts. Since its launch in 2015, more than 60,000 kids have accessed Kids Play. Without question, Kal’s vision is helping to reshape a community while building and lifting up a generation.

Norah Flaherty, Vancouver
With tenacity and a clear sense of purpose, Norah has spent over two decades working to ensure that individuals with disabilities have access to education, social services, employment and opportunities for recreation and socialization. Focusing her efforts on youth and young adults with disabilities, Norah has served multiple organizations, volunteering her time generously and effectively. Since 2014 Norah has worked towards increasing financial freedom for people with disabilities through her leadership role with the BC Registered Disability Savings Plan Action Group. She has also volunteered her time to Community Living BC, the Canucks Autism Network, BC Partners in Workforce Innovation, the BC Ministers Council on Employment and Accessibility, and many more. Whether she’s volunteering in an advisory role, as a committee member, representative or leader, Norah advocates to increase opportunity and accessibility for the people she serves. A guiding light for those who work to support diversity and inclusion, the scope of Norah’s work is truly inspirational.

Dr. Balbir Gurm, Surrey
Balbir’s achievements both professionally and as a dedicated volunteer have inspired her colleagues and community alike. A long time advocate for women, Balbir is the founder and chair of the Network to Eliminate Violence in Relationships. For the past decade, she has been a source of strength and leadership, working to break down gender and cultural barriers, facilitating collaboration between volunteers and external groups, while striving toward the common goal of preventing relationship violence. Last year, Balbir authored, Making Sense of Global Pandemic: Relationship Violence & Working Together towards a Violence Free Society. As a Nursing Professor, Balbir is a role model for students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, inspiring them to become fellow agents for change. For decades, Balbir has used education, research, and community engagement to advocate for violence prevention. She is truly a champion for women, and a trailblazer within her community.

Yúya’ainux̌v Anita Hall, Bella Bella
Anita, a member of the Haíɫzaqv Nation, believes wholeheartedly in the ability of those around her to succeed. As the Elementary Principal at Bella Bella Community School, she has created a place where students feel safe and included. Anita exemplifies what a decolonial and community-rooted approach to education can look like. Through her vision, students thrive both academically and personally. Under her leadership, in spite of the challenges COVID presented, Anita has shaped a school community to which Bella Bella youth want to belong. Anita also serves as the Director for the Heiltsuk Emergency Operations Centre, and volunteers her time on local boards including, Heiltsuk Káxlá Society, and Kunsoot Wellness Society, who are working towards the opening of a collaborative, land-based healing centre for the Haíɫzaqv Nation. As an educator, an advocate, a volunteer and a leader, Anita is a powerful force for positive change.

John & Joyce Henderson, Salmon Arm
John and Joyce have been residents of the Salmon Arm community for 57 years. As medical professionals, John, a doctor and Joyce, a registered nurse, their path was always one of service. But it’s so much more. They volunteer their time and energy to many organizations, including: Shuswap Community Foundation, Shuswap Theatre Association, Okanagan University College, Good Food Box, First United Church Ghana Project, Salmon Arm Minor Hockey, and City of Salmon Arm Council, to name a few. Through donations to the Shuswap Community Foundation, they support local projects and students at UBCO who are involved in international community development projects. In every aspect of the Salmon Arm community, from arts and culture, to healthcare, education, and the environment, their contributions can be felt.

Teresa Kazemir, Port Coquitlam
BC Hands & Voices is a parent-driven organization that serves families with children who are deaf and hard of hearing (DHH.) It’s thanks to Teresa’s unwavering and inspired leadership that BC Hands & Voices has been able to support hundreds of families, providing them access to networks, resources, information and community. Teresa’s philosophy of ‘we can’t do everything, but we can do something’ helped to grow BC Hands & Voices into the sustainable, strong organization it is today. As an advocate, volunteer and leader, Teresa’s efforts mean that families across BC have consistent access to parent-to-parent support. Known for her patience, her valiant work ethic and her infectious enthusiasm, Teresa is a much loved figure in the DHH community.

Zeba Khan, Vancouver
At just 24-years old, Zeba is an inspiring example of young leadership, vision and generosity. While studying for her Bachelor of Neuroscience at UBC, Zeba dedicated countless hours towards causes that resonated deeply. A staunch believer in equal access to healthcare for all, Zeba advocates for free access to menstruation care supplies. As the founder of Free Periods Canada, Zeba and her team have distributed over 20,000 menstrual supplies across Canada. Zeba is a research assistant at the Contraception & Abortion Research Team (CART) at UBC and a board member of Options for Sexual Health and is working with these two groups to evaluate sexual and reproductive health care access needs of immigrant youth in BC. Through her World Awareness Initiative Foundation, Zeba provides a platform for young leaders and activists to work together. It’s through this initiative that she will inspire the generation to come.

Angelika & Peter Langen, Smithers
Angelika and Peter have dedicated their lives to wildlife rehabilitation, public education and ongoing research for the betterment of both the wildlife and the public. Their work benefits not just their local community of Smithers, but the entire province and beyond. Initially funding it themselves, Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter (NLWS) has been a registered charity since 2001. NLWS garnered a huge amount of attention in the news and on social media, culminating in the development of the television series Wild Bear Rescue. In addition to public-facing activities they have worked with government officials to collect valuable scientific information about the animals and hosted graduate students working on wildlife biology. Their contributions to the scientific community have been extremely important and rewilding animals around the world has been more developed thanks to their efforts.

Dr. Christine Loock, North Vancouver
Christine is a developmental pediatrician at Children’s and Women’s Health Centre of British Columbia, including Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children and BC Children’s Hospital. For over 20 years she has also served as the medical director of the provincial Cleft Palate Craniofacial Program. Early on in her medical training Christine developed an interest in “Social Pediatrics” advocating for innovative approaches for health service delivery to vulnerable children and families. She has pioneered work on identifying youth with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) in the justice system and was instrumental in creating FASD-related programs and services run out of Crabtree Corner Community Resource Centre. Her ‘Key Worker Program’ has been particularly life-changing for the community as it provides one-to-one and group support to families affected by FASD. A mentor to many, Christine also led the development of the RICHER (Responsive, Intersectoral, Interdisciplinary, Child & Community, Health Education & Research) Social Pediatrics Program in BC and initiatives with the Canadian Pediatrics Society, where she is a founding member of the Social Pediatrics section. An Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, UBC, Christine’s ground-breaking research and networks of interdisciplinary and intersectoral care delivery, improve the lives and circumstances of some of Vancouver’s most vulnerable people.

Lil Mack, Williams Lake
Lil has been an ever-present, quietly powerful literacy force in Williams Lake for many decades. As one of the founders of the Cariboo-Chilcotin Partners for Literacy in 1997, Lil continues to keep literacy front and center, promoting early childhood, adult, and financial literacy. With her late husband Bruce, she implemented the “Bright Red Bookshelf”, a book-sharing platform with shelves all over Williams Lake. Her own home has become a mini-library with a “Take a book” box in the front yard. Lil initiated various festivals for families: Baby Fest, Children’s Fest, and Family Fest, where she staffed a table to give away free books, packed in homemade book bags. She was also instrumental in the first “Relay for Life” Cancer Fundraiser held in Williams Lake in 2005. Lil and her daughter Rana brought the “Roots of Empathy” program to the community in an effort to address residential school-based intergenerational trauma. Lil’s “no job is too big” motto helped grow the group to 26 facilitators across the region.

Pulchérie Nketsap Mboussi, Victoria
Since arriving in Canada almost three decades ago, Pulchérie has devoted her life to promoting an environment in which all Canadians can experience and learn the cultures, history and traditions of the African continent. In 2012, she created the African Arts and Cultural Society to raise awareness, understanding and appreciation for the richness and diversity of African and Caribbean cultures. Pulchérie also launched ISSAMBA (Cameroonian Beti dialect meaning ‘Come Together’), a group of world-renowned African musicians and dancers whose energetic and interactive performances have captured the imagination of audiences throughout the Province. In 2017, Pulchérie began advocating for the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent: five municipalities in the Capital Regional District have since adopted  the Proclamation. In 2020, Pulchérie reached a major milestone by opening the ISSAMBA Centre, the first physical hub for people of African descent on Vancouver Island.

Jack McGee, West Vancouver
As a Founding Board Member of the Pacific Autism Family Network (PAFN), Jack was co-founder of and initiated the Autism Awareness and Techniques Program for First Responders resulting in over nine thousand first responders in British Columbia and across Canada being trained on autism prevalence, relevance, and support strategies. His work has benefited countless first responders, families, and individuals who are on the autism spectrum. In addition to his work with autism, over the years Jack has volunteered for over fifty other charitable and not-for-profit organizations, with a focus of supporting youth and families, sport, community, public safety, post-secondary education, hospice, and the disadvantaged. To this day he remains active in the community serving on the Boards of the Sovereign Order of St John and as Board Treasurer for the PAFN. Jack continues to make a profound difference across our communities in British Columbia through his genuine approach, passion, and commitment to the inclusiveness and betterment of society.

Elaine Monds, Victoria
Elaine is an internationally respected curator, writer and gallery director. She has a unique, international upbringing which informed her compassionate and innovative approach to her work. Throughout her career Elaine supported hundreds of artists and their cultural art forms, notably the revival of Northwest Coast art in the 1980s and more recently with the rebirth of contemporary Coast Salish art in BC. Elaine has been one of BC’s leaders in promoting Indigenous art and artists from the entire Pacific Rim and Canada, establishing the Alcheringa Gallery in Victoria as one of the top Indigenous art galleries in the world. Elaine also established Alcheringa as an international space for cross-cultural experiences, including as a member of the not-for-profit Pacific Peoples Partnership. She led an initiative to link Pacific Indigenous communities with their Canadian First Nations counterparts through reciprocal exchanges between artists from Papua New Guinea and Canada, the USA and the UK. Elaine’s work has been essential to the conservation and promotion of Indigenous culture in BC and beyond.

Marcia Nozick, Vancouver
Marcia is widely recognized as a pioneer in community economic development. Her book, No Place Like Home: Building Sustainable Communities, challenged thousands of planners to rethink the way cities integrate social, economic and environmental solutions into urban development. Early in her career she mobilized government, business, and community leaders to address underlying social and economic problems in Vancouver’s DTES. Ultimately Marcia founded EMBERS, an innovative charity that uses business to create social change. She grew the organization to a successful, multi-million dollar social enterprise before this type of business structure was well known. Today, EMBERS continues to grow its economic and social impact: in 2020, EMBERS employed 2,500 individuals, paid over $12 M in wages/benefits, and provided skills training to more than 400 people.

Nirmal Parmar, Terrace
Nirmal moved to Terrace from India in 1969 with his young family and quickly became one of the city’s most prolific volunteers. He volunteered with the Thornhill Fire Department early on and in 1984 Nirmal, along with a number of like-minded individuals, started a new multicultural group, which eventually became The Terrace and District Multicultural Association. In the last 50 years Nirmal has organized, facilitated and delivered innumerable multicultural-focused workshops for community groups and schools in the Terrace area. In 2000, Nirmal teamed up with other community groups to address the issue of institutional racism in the workplace and schools which resulted in the creation of the Skeena Diversity Society. Nirmal has also served as a board member and/or trustee for the Kermode Friendship Society, Terrace Public Library, Northern Saving Credit Union, Terrace Co-operative Association, Terrace and Area Health Council, Scouts Canada and Vanderhoof & Districts Co-operative Association.

Dr. Jane Jae Kyung Shin, Port Coquitlam
Jane has been dedicated to community and public service since youth. She is currently the Vice President of Students & Community Development at Vancouver Community College. In this role she works to advance access, inclusion, representation and opportunity for all students, especially those most marginalized and facing multiple barriers. Previously the youngest woman in BC’s 40th Parliament and first Canadian of Korean descent in Canada to be elected as a Member of Legislative Assembly, Jane worked tirelessly for many issues but most notably in support of racialized and equity seeking groups. She is natural at bringing together communities to engage in meaningful dialogues and initiatives that impact and transform the society.

Lurana Kikuko Tasaka, Vancouver
Lurana (Kikko) has been a dedicated volunteer committed to helping vulnerable seniors for more than 25 years. As a child whose family was interned in Greenwood, following displacement from Steveston in 1943, she subsequently devoted herself to caring for others. Today Kikko is the driving force behind seniors care at the Japanese Community Volunteers Association (Tonari Gumi). Firstly, as a staff member for ten years, then as a volunteer for the last 20 years, Kikko has devoted herself to supporting seniors who were either alone or isolated due to language and cultural barriers. She is also an enthusiastic fundraiser for community organizations and her church, ensuring funds are available to assist seniors in need. Kikko’s motivation, determination, passion and commitment to helping seniors have sustained Tonari Gumi which now has more than 300 members and over 200 volunteers.

Rosemary Thomson, Kelowna
Rosemary is in her fourteenth season as the Music Director of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra (OSO) and has recently been named Artistic Director of Opera Kelowna. She is the visionary, pioneer, and motivating force behind those organizations’ performance and educational programs. Rosemary is a community champion and has not only brought musical excellence to the Okanagan but has inspired the lives of residents and enriched communities through her engagement activities. She initiated “Heartstrings” an OSO initiative funded by a generous donor which ensures economic circumstances are not a barrier to attendance. Understanding that music can transform lives, Rosemary spearheaded Kelowna’s participation in Mysterious Barricades, a national concert in support of mental health awareness and suicide prevention. COVID did not stop her and her teams from implementing programs to bring music to her community in this time of need, including Sidewalk Serenades where opera singers safely perform live to seniors in isolation, and the Apollo Initiative, a digital performance of six BC youth orchestras raising funds for youth mental health. Rosemary was recently diagnosed with ADHD and advocates for ADHD awareness and support and will be the subject of a forthcoming documentary about her work shepherding the OSO and Opera Kelowna through COVID while coming to understand and celebrate her neurodiversity.

Linda Williams, Sechelt
As Chair of the Coast Cultural Alliance, Linda has shaped the arts community on the Sunshine Coast. Since 1999 Linda has coordinated the Sunshine Coast Purple Banner Tour Guide and starting in 2010, the annual Sunshine Coast Arts Crawl an event that has grown to featuring over 350 local artists and contributed to the economic and cultural vitality of the Sunshine Coast. She is instrumental in supporting local musicians and helped to establish a youth endowment with the Sunshine Coast Community Foundation to provide grants to young musicians. Her initiatives have stood the test of time and are now sustainably woven into the rhythms of her community. Linda is Chair of the Sunshine Coast Jazz and Entertainment Society, and festival director for the Gibsons Landing Jazz Festival. Known as a person who brings people and ideas together, Linda leads and performs in the Knotty Dotters Marimba Band and is the musical director with the Sokole Balkan singers. All these initiatives have been hit hard by the pandemic and Linda remains a strong advocate as she navigates the current challenges to bring arts and culture to the Sunshine Coast in new and imaginative ways.

Cheryl Young, Aldergrove
Cheryl is the founder and Executive Director of the Fibromyalgia Well Spring Foundation, an organization that she initiated in the absence of any organization or group focused on people with Fibromyalgia. An often-misunderstood disease, Fibromyalgia can be emotionally and physically debilitating. An incredibly determined woman, Cheryl typically donates 2000 hours annually to the cause while battling Fibromyalgia herself. Her biggest accomplishments for the organization include a Supportive Work Program and the Supportive Living Program; two initiatives that support sufferers by giving them flexible work opportunities and secure living arrangements. Cheryl also led the Walk to Banff, a significant fundraising endeavour in 2016, and met with community leaders, supporters and sufferers in an effort to raise the level of awareness about Fibromyalgia.

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