Unsung Heroes

Video Series Project

 

Each year in Canada, millions of workers and volunteers make sacrifices in order to live, breathe and work for change, without expecting anything in return. At CharityVillage, we call these people Unsung Heroes and we feel, it’s about time to sing their praises!

These Unsung Heroes will be featured in a series of professionally produced, high-quality video biographies shown online at CharityVillage.com and in social media across Canada so that their neighbours, colleagues, families, friends and the rest of the country will have a chance to acknowledge and celebrate their achievements

The Unsung Hero project was conceived by Mary Barroll. A former TV journalist and presently an entertainment lawyer and television producer, Mary was inspired by the stories she discovered about the people behind Canada’s charitable and nonprofit sector when she joined CharityVillage as General Counsel and VP Media Affairs. “I love the idea of exploring the untold stories of secret heroes who live among us – real-life Canadian super heroes whose great works should be acknowledged and

Meet Carmen Yirka – “The Energizer”
Nathalie Maione – “The Deliverer”
Meet Shannon Tessier – “The Reactivator”
Meet Jack Mogus – “The Iceman”

Meet Carmen Yirka – “The Energizer”

At Mercy Ships Canada, people from around the globe come together with one common goal: to bring hope and healing to the world’s most impoverished people. Mercy Ships runs the world’s largest charity hospital ship, the Africa Mercy, which delivers free surgeries and medical training to thousands of people in West and Central Africa. While the medical professionals who volunteer with Mercy Ships are often at the forefront of the organization’s work, there is an Unsung Hero who toils behind the scenes in the kitchen to energize this hardworking team.

As the Galley Team Leader, Carmen Yirka keeps the volunteers aboard the Africa Mercy well fed so they can perform life-changing surgeries and medical procedures. At any given time, the international crew can number up to 450 volunteers, including 150 Canadians. Feeding a team this large truly is a task of heroic proportion!

Energizing body and soul

But Carmen does much more than simply provide fuel for the body. Born with Apert Syndrome, Carmen has undergone more than 20 surgeries and has overcome much adversity in her own life. Not only is Carmen an inspiration to the team at Mercy Ships, she also provides comfort and hope to the people who come to the Africa Mercy for treatment.

“I like to be with the patients to give them hope,” says Carmen. “I have a clear and intimate understanding of what they’re going through.”

Feeding both the body and soul – this is Carmen’s power as The Energizer. Join us in celebrating this most deserving Unsung Hero.

Many Thanks

Thank you to JoJo Beattie for nominating Carmen Yirka to the Unsung Hero Video Biography project and to the volunteers aboard the Africa Mercy for so helpfully assisting with the filming of this video.

Thank you to all of you who nominated your Unsung Heroes. Getting to know these Canadian superheroes is immensely inspiring and we are thrilled to be able to share their stories with the world!

Meet Nathalie Maione – “The Deliverer”

Ottawa’s Nathalie Maione is a mother of six and a full time Early Childhood Educator. As if that didn’t keep her busy enough, in 2005, Nathalie and a friend founded Helping With Furniture after realizing that many Ottawa residents had good quality furniture they didn’t need, while others were struggling to furnish their homes.  Every week, for nearly a decade, Nathalie and her team of volunteers have tirelessly delivered gently used furniture and household goods to families and individuals in need. In particular, HWF focuses on newcomers to Canada who are living in the Ottawa area. Since 2005, HWF has helped more than 900 families!

New beginnings for HWF

HWF is run entirely by volunteers. There are no employees and all work is funded by donations. The organization recently received a generous grant from the Ottawa Dragon Boat Foundation, allowing HWF to acquire a warehouse to store donated furniture for timely donation to new families. This means that all the furniture will be in one location, allowing volunteers to work indoors sheltered from the weather, with adequate heating and cooling and lighting. With this grant, Nathalie looks forward to being much more efficient and delivering to many more families in the future.

“There’s no reason for us not to do something to help out,” she says. Believing that she gets back more than she gives, Nathalie doesn’t consider herself to be a hero. But we can’t think of a better word to describe her. Nathalie – you are most definitely a hero, and your praises deserve to be sung!

Many Thanks

Thank you to Jeanne Gagnon for nominating Nathalie Maione to the Unsung Hero Video Biography project and to Helping With Furniture’s dedicated team of volunteers who graciously supported filming Nathalie’s work.

Thank you to all of you who nominated your Unsung Heroes. Getting to know these Canadian superheroes is immensely inspiring and we can’t wait to share their stories with the rest of the world! We are currently researching and filming additional video biographies to profile. Stay tuned.

Thank you also to Proper Television, whose production assistance has helped CharityVillage shine the light on the amazing and inspiring work done by real Canadians whose efforts have changed lives and made Canada a better place.

Meet Shannon Tessier – “The Reactivator”

Shannon Tessier is already giving back to society with her groundbreaking research into suspended animation – a biological process that has huge possibilities for the medical community. But Shannon’s dedication to helping others doesn’t stop there – in 2007 this biochemistry PhD and Harvard Research fellow founded the Chance Foundation, an all-volunteer organization dedicated to improving the well-being of underprivileged kids in Ottawa and around the world. Their most recent project was the restoration of Bingham Park, an inner-city green space that had fallen into deep decline. Shannon and her team, in partnership with the Lowertown Community Association, played a critical role in turning this ‘Needle Park’ into a valuable community space where children can safely swim and play.

Reaching beyond the Canadian border

The Chance Foundation’s generosity isn’t limited by geography or borders. In addition to supporting projects in their own backyard, the organization also works hard to help children in communities around the world. One of their current projects is the rebuilding of a Haitian orphanage where children orphaned and left homeless by the 2010 earthquake were living in deplorable conditions. Working with retired RCMP and UN peacekeepers who are in Haiti to help with the rebuilding efforts, the Chance Foundation is giving these children a comfortable home and a solid foundation for the future.

“It’s a new beginning for them, a new life,” says Shannon. “This is what drives me to keep going for these projects.” Sparking new life – this is Shannon’s special talent as The Reactivator. Join us in celebrating this most deserving Unsung Hero.

Many Thanks

Thank you to Lorna Lemay for nominating Shannon Tessier to the Unsung Hero Video Biography project and to the Chance Foundation’s dedicated volunteers both in Ottawa and Haiti for so helpfully assisting with the filming of this video.

Thank you to all of you who nominated your Unsung Heroes. Getting to know these Canadian superheroes is immensely inspiring and we can’t wait to share their stories with the rest of the world! We are currently researching and filming video biographies to profile. Stay tuned.

Meet Jack Mogus – “The Iceman”

Jack Mogus comes by his generosity and passion for giving back to others naturally – he and his two sisters have spent most of their young lives volunteering for a variety of causes. But when Jack found out that children in northern Canada were spending their hockey season sitting on the bench, simply because they lacked the equipment to play the game, this former AAA hockey player knew he had to get involved. Jack founded the organization Change By Youth, and has collected thousands of skates through individual donations, skate drives at local schools, and even by scouring thrift shops and purchasing used skates with his own money.

It’s more than just a game

For the kids living in Cat Lake, a remote First Nations community, hockey is more than just a game – it’s an important part of life while enduring the frigid northern Ontario winters. Since Jack last delivered skates here in 2013, the kids in this community have won tournaments and brought home trophies, and this year the community is sending both a Bantam and a Peewee team to an upcoming tournament. But perhaps most importantly, the opportunity to play hockey helps the children stay focused academically because they have to be attending school in order to be involved with any of the teams.

“It’s made me feel great, knowing that I can keep continuing this,” says Jack. “I’ve learned that you’re not too young to make an impact in someone’s life.”

Helping other young people take joy in a sport that so many Canadians take for granted – this is Jack’s power as The Iceman. Join us in celebrating this most deserving Unsung Hero.

Many Thanks

Thank you to Emma and Julia Mogus, for nominating their brother, Jack Mogus, to the Unsung Hero Video Biography project and to the community of Cat Lake for so helpfully assisting with the filming of this video.

Thank you to all of you who nominated your Unsung Heroes. Getting to know these Canadian superheroes is immensely inspiring and we can’t wait to share their stories with the rest of the world! We are currently researching and filming video biographies to profile. Stay tuned.

Celebrating Invisible

CharityVillage partnered with Bhayana Family Foundation and United Way to celebrate heroes in the social services. People who go above and beyond in the sector often go unnoticed, and these three organizations decided to change that. The team travelled across Canada to find social justice heroes and bring their bravery and compassion to light in a series of video biographies.

You might have come across people like that in your nonprofit career. Perhaps you are one of these, often invisible, but vital heroes of the nonprofit sector who serve your community daily. Watch these inspiring videos and celebrate these Everyday Heroes with us.

All of the social services workers are recipients of the Bhayana Family Foundation Awards.

Created in partnership with Bhayana Family Foundation, United Way and CharityVillage.

360 Kids – Video (York Region, GTA)

Bonnie Harkness is a champion for homeless youth in York Region, who knows how to reach them and provide support when others have given up hope. Her innovative programs provide street kids with safe shelter, warm meals, education and access to employment to help them make the transition to adulthood as responsible members of society – giving them a foundation for their future life.

With special thanks to United Way Greater Toronto.

Club Inclusion (Halifax)

Justin Eweka is a frontline worker at a community agency called Club Inclusion in Halifax who thrilled some young people with disabilities. Justin used his own money to hire a pink stretch limo for their special prom night and created unforgettable memories for the beaming kids. Without Justin, these kids wouldn’t have gotten the real “prom” experience many of us take for granted.

With special thanks to United Way Halifax.

Collingwood Neighbourhood House Video (Vancouver)

Najia Elancel was an immigrant and former victim of partner violence in Vancouver who now makes it her mission to empower other new Canadians – one meal at a time. Najia leads the kitchen team to provide hot meals to those who need a little help starting their new lives in Canada. She uses the universal language of food to build community, break barriers and welcome newcomers.

With special thanks to United Way Lower Mainland.

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