As Art Director for the Papal Visit and Creative Director for Parades, Ceremonies and National Days, Sam also served on the Planning and Permits Board for the City of Vancouver. He assisted with the siting of Expo 86 Public Art legacies and coordinated students, artists, designers and craftspeople to produce the Gateway to the Canada pavilion at Yokohama’s Expo 89. He was a founding member of the Vancouver Public Art Committee and has produced numerous events and fundraisers highlighting BC artists and designers. He was one of the founding members of the Canadian Craft Museum. Sam has worked with Emily Carr graduates from throughout the province who not only have selected young artists to mentor, but also to produce artwork for the Spirit of Place Culture, Sport and Sustainability BC Young Artists Exhibition for the Cultural Olympiad, 2008. This exhibition travelled to the Governor General’s residence, Rideau Hall, in Ottawa during the spring and summer of 2009.
As Haida Cultural Ambassadors, Kihlyahda Christian White and Candace Weir-White are visionaries who merge compassion, strength and understanding to elevate their people and community. Through years of personal dedication, education and skill, they justly earned their places as cultural leaders, language carriers, mentors and community ambassadors.
Christian is a globally recognized Haida Master Carver, educator, mentor and Elder, dedicated to working with youth and Elders in intergenerational programs and venues. Candace is a Haida song and dance leader/organizer, an apprentice and learner of the language with Elders. In addition, she plans and arranges all aspects of cultural events in their community.
Christian and Candace are people who lead by doing and being. They are dedicated to learning, teaching and ensuring a future for their Haida culture. Together, they continue to seek out knowledge and wisdom; share and teach others by being leaders within their community; and strive to carry on the work, for the present and future – for the People.
Spencer van Vloten is the force behind BCDisability.com, a website that helps persons with disabilities, and their allies, connect with resources and support. Through BCDisability, Spencer has allowed thousands of British Columbians to access vital information to promote physical and mental well-being, locate funding for assistive devices, and find adapted youth programs, childcare, and education. For the past two decades Spencer has mentored youth and young adults in the community. Each year he hires a young person with a developmental disability as an intern providing them with fully paid work experience. He has also been a visible and vocal advocate serving as the chair of Community Living BC’s Vancouver Council.
A nationally published author, Spencer writes on community inclusion- one compelling piece led to the City of Vancouver declaring October as Community Inclusion Month. Spencer’s latest endeavour is the Vancouver Community Pocketbook, a printed guide of local resources, tips and interviews to help people overcome barriers to finding community support. The book is distributed at no cost by over a dozen organizations serving underrepresented community members.
Gary Thandi is the founder and executive director of Moving Forward Family Services (MFFS). MFFS is a registered non-profit agency that provides low-barrier counselling to the most vulnerable people in our communities. Gary’s innovative model uses supervised counselling school recent grads and current intern counsellors to provide free and low-cost counselling services to people who may not be able to afford private therapy or qualify for public counselling. MFFS counsels between 1,500 to 2,200 people monthly and the cost to those individuals is negligible.
MFFS reflects Gary’s strong sense of community. He seeks partners who are from traditionally marginalized communities and offers services in over 30 different languages. Gary lives his ethos that “no one will be turned away”. An orientation toward fostering multiculturalism and accessibility is the foundation for this demonstration of service, inclusion, mentorship, philanthropy, and safe connections.
Upkar Singh Tatlay works to support the health and social needs of underserved, marginalized and vulnerable individuals. Upkar founded a non-profit organization providing free youth programming and, for the past decade, these programs have supported hundreds of children, youth, and families. By offering a myriad of public health and social service programs through Engaged Communities Canada Society, Upkar was able to meet the vital and growing needs of at-risk populations during the pandemic. This included the delivery of food, personal hygiene supplies and services, health education and resources, testing and vaccines, distribution of rapid COVID-19 tests, extreme weather response resources and shelter sites, and crucial youth programs.
Upkar responded to the drug toxicity crisis and developed the Overdose Intervention App, a free multi-lingual tool that walks individuals through identifying and responding to opioid poisoning. He coupled that with an educational initiative to raise awareness about the impact of the toxic drug supply in often neglected racialized communities. By rallying volunteers and delivering innovative technologies to improve health outcomes, Upkar’s impact reaches thousands of individuals across BC each year.
An international speaker, trainer, and consultant, Jessie Sutherland works with organizations and communities to encourage diversity, build belonging and ignite intercultural collaboration. Her approach creates sustainable community change that effectively addresses complex social problems. Jessie’s work has been delivered in over eight languages and has taken her across Canada and around the world to support communities in their efforts to address challenging issues including poverty, homelessness, the overdose crisis, elder abuse, reconciliation, youth engagement and more. Many of her clients go on to win awards for their work in engaging diversity and fostering collaboration for sustainable and lasting change.
As founder of the organization Intercultural Strategies, Jessie helps leaders and groups build cultures of belonging to create change in an inclusive and positive way. She is the innovator of the award-winning Belonging Matters Conversations series and capacity-building framework designed to change mindsets, deepen interconnections, impart greater social capital and build stronger communities. Jessie is a TEDx speaker and author of the book, Worldview Skills: Transforming Conflict from the Inside Out.
Sahara Shaik has become a leader to her peers and made lasting impacts on the community. With over 20,000 volunteer hours logged, she has given her time in nursing homes, as a mentor and coach for children with special needs and supported people experiencing homelessness in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side neighbourhood.
In 2017, Sahara became an advocate within the cooperative housing movement for lower-income Canadians, often newcomers to Canada. Through personal discovery, she identified the need for more co-operative housing models. Sahara sits on the Board of Directors for the Co-operative Housing Federation of British Columbia (CHF BC) and Canada (CHF Canada). In her work through the CHF, Sahara supports the accessibility of housing for people who are struggling to find affordable homes. Never afraid to roll up her sleeves and help out, Sahara continues to be hands on with all of her projects.
A long-time resident of Strathcona, and an artist herself, Esther Rausenberg established what is now known as Georgia Art Studios with her partner Richard Tetrault over 40 years ago. Along with a small group of local artists they co-founded the Eastside Culture Crawl; an open studios festival that invites the public directly into artists’ workspaces. In 2013, Esther took on the role of Artistic and Executive Director for the organization, catapulting it to success, and evolving the organization to what is now the Eastside Arts Society. Most recently, Esther has spearheaded the Eastside Arts District – the establishment of a recognized district devoted to the preservation of arts and culture spaces.
As a volunteer, Esther has given her time as a Selection Committee member for the Downtown Eastside Small Arts Grants program, bringing critical opportunities to underserved artists in the community. She also served as a member (2012- 2017) and Co-Vice Chair of the Arts and Culture Policy Council for the City of Vancouver. Esther now sits as a Trustee for The Vancouver Art Gallery and on the Board of Governors for Emily Carr University of Art & Design.
Stephanie Quon is a forward-thinking engineering student at the University of British Columbia (UBC). She founded The Sprouts Initiative in 2017, a community initiative focused on pillars of accessibility, sustainability, and community. Since its inception she has acted as the executive director of The Sprouts Initiative, raising a stunning $670,000 in funding for community projects. This work includes spearheading over 80 national community service projects and leading a team of over 300 volunteers and student leaders.
To date The Sprouts Initiative has donated over 12,000 meals to local shelters, distributed 13,000 pieces of interactive art around the world and assembled 5,500 care packages. Accessibility is a priority for Stephanie, and through The Sprouts Initiative she has supported dozens of projects in the community including installing power doors at a hospital and supplying students in need with accessible technology. Through her work with UBC Women in Engineering she has also taken on the role of event organizing and fostering STEM events for young people in addition to logging hundreds of hours as a Crisis-Line volunteer.