2020 Women of Distinction Nominees | Community Champion

Recognized nationally, the YWCA Women of Distinction Awards honours individuals and organizations whose outstanding activities and achievements contribute to the well-being and future of our community.

Congratulations to the 2020 nominees in the category of Community Champion.


Barbara is Co-Founder and Board Director of Hockey Education Reaching Out Society (HEROS), a mentor-based ice hockey program that empowers marginalized youth through sports training, mentoring, educational development and scholarships. Barbara recognized the need for food security amongst the participants and developed an afterschool snack program to ensure all participants would be well-nourished and knowledgeable about healthy food choices. Barbara made a conscious effort to increase women volunteers, allowing girls to feel comfortable in participating. Currently, more than a third of participants and volunteers are female. Building on the HEROS mandate, Barbara has helped expand the organization from a single chapter in Vancouver to 12 chapters and 28 programs across Canada.  Barbara also developed tailored programming for children with physical and cognitive challenges with the Super HEROS program. 


Aisha is the Founder and Executive Director of Voices of Muslim Women Foundation (VMW), which provides an inclusive space for Muslim women and girls, regardless of how they practice their religion or identify as Muslim. VMW offers education, mentorship and a digital storytelling program, as well as hosts an awards gala and professional development and networking conferences for girls and women in Vancouver. Aisha produced the Muslim Identity and Representation Conference to explore media representation of Muslims and how to use creative mediums as tools to self-represent Muslim identities. As a professor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Aisha has helped create and run the KPU DigitalLENS program, a digital literacy program for marginalized youth in Surrey.  Aisha also recently took on the role as a panellist moderator at KDOCSFF 2020.


Sonia is Founder and Executive Director of Shakti: Empowerment of Women, Children and Families Society and works to raise awareness of violence against women in the South Asian community. Through Shakti Society, Sonia began hosting annual wellness days and community cafes to address mental health issues and provide resources after recognizing these topics were rarely discussed in immigrant populations. To honour South Asian women, Sonia founded the Shakti Awards to recognize women who have overcome challenges and have become role models. Sonia introduced Shakti Society's community cafes to address sexual violence against women and invited trained counsellors to facilitate conversations and healing. For more than three decades, Sonia has supported racialized people through community forums, media interviews, talk shows, individual counselling sessions and through her career as a social worker.


Antonia is the Founder and Executive Director of Burnaby Neighbourhood House. Seeing a gap in services, Antonia worked as a volunteer community organizer and was instrumental in establishing Burnaby’s first neighbourhood house. In 2001, she was named the organization’s first Executive Director and has held the position since. Under her leadership, the Neighbourhood House worked to address the shortage of child care services and established nine licensed childcare centres. In 2014, Antonia helped realize the dream of a permanent home for the organization when the Neighbourhood House moved into a City-owned building; she also worked closely with the City to expand the celebration of Neighbourhood House Week into Burnaby. Responding to the community’s needs, Antonia initiated a development process to establish a second house in North Burnaby.


Karen is an independent consultant specializing in accessibility and inclusion who works to shift perspectives of disability and challenge the status quo on inclusion. She created and delivered the Face to Face Mentorship program for BC Centre for Employment Excellence, matching people with disabilities to companies and organizations to practice their interview skills and has assisted organizations with the development of accessibility plans. Through her consulting work, Karen facilitates workshops where she role models vulnerability and curiosity and creates an environment that encourages questions and conversations based on her own lived experience with cerebral palsy. Karen is pioneering a new way to approach inclusion in outdoor recreation having worked with kayaking tour companies and is participates in aerobics, kayaking, skiing, biking and hiking.


Devinder is the Founder of The Saheli Foundation, an organization dedicated to empowering children and families facing challenging circumstances by providing them with tools, resources and support to fulfill their potential. In meeting with the Surrey School Board, Devinder discovered many students were coming to school hungry and without backpacks and supplies. Through The Saheli Foundation, Devinder fundraised and developed a network of corporate partnerships to provide students with supplies and bi-weekly deliveries of groceries to their families. Since then, her Foundation, run by a strong group of women volunteers, has continued to operate the Annual Backpack program. The Saheli Foundation also provides scholarships, Christmas hamper programs and regular grocery deliveries to support families at Harmony House.


Margaret, a Resource Social Worker, Ministry of Children and Family Development, initiated the Youth Aging Out of Care Project in the City of Surrey, in collaboration with other organizations, leading to provincial government support to extend beyond a young person’s 19th birthday. Margaret fostered children for more than 15 years, providing her with a unique perspective to better support children in her care at home and work. Margaret also co-founded Daughters of Hope International Community of BC in 2005 to provide support and empowerment to new immigrants, especially women and children, as they adjust to life in Canada. She is a long-standing member of the Surrey Poverty Reduction Coalition Committee and Provincial Council Representative in her local constituency association in Surrey-Whalley, among several other community non-profits of which she is active with.


Amy is the Founder and Executive Director of LOCO BC, a local business alliance that engages in research, education and economic development in Metro Vancouver and in BC. Amy leads LOCO BC with the goal of growing the local economy, building strong, sustainable businesses and encouraging a shift toward local purchasing by consumers, businesses, institutions and government. LOCO BC launched BC Buy Local Week in 2012. In her role, Amy commissioned a study to determine the local impact of consumer spending at locally owned businesses. Amy coordinated and championed a second study titled The Economic Impact of Local Business that looked at the local recirculation of the revenue by BC retailers and restaurants. The data from these studies provides a basis for advocacy and investment into local businesses across sectors.


Sussanne is Secretary-Treasurer, BC Federation of Labour, representing more than 500,000 affiliated union members from across the province. Sussanne passionately advocates for gender equity, human rights and Queer rights. In her role, Sussanne focuses her work on workers’ rights, including leading the campaign for ten days paid leave for people leaving sexual and domestic violence. Sussanne is an advocate for the Be More than a Bystander initiative which helps educate men on how to challenge discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Sussanne is a spokesperson and champion of the United Ways period promise campaign resulting in free menstrual products being offered in all of BC schools.


Katheren, a volunteer community leader in Newton, Surrey, lives with a disability and serves as a social innovator and advocates for those like herself who have survived systemic social, physical and sexual abuse. She is the Founder of Cedar Bark Poets which regularly publishes the work of local poets and is Co-Facilitator of Friends of the Grove, a vibrant community collective that uses music, art and playfulness to bring peace and harmony to the community. To ameliorate loneliness and isolation for residents, Katheren organizes annual parties, meetings, picnics and holiday events and she holds vigil every day to welcome and listen to residents to share their experiences. She is a sought-after speaker and is endearingly known as The Heart of Newton. Katheren organized Canada’s first Fambul Tok (Krio for Family Talk) an event of community reconciliation.

Meet the 2020 Women of Distinction Award nominees in other categories.

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