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Global Changemakers

PRESS RELEASE -  For Immediate Release (Provided by the Ontario Council for International Cooperation)

TORONTO, February 8, 2016 –During International Development Week 2016 (February 7-13, 2016) citizens and civil society will honour the achievements of seven young Ontarians deeply committed to global solidarity, access to education for all, disaster management and peace building, fair trade as a means of ethical consumption, and the participation of immigrant youth in social change.

The Ontario Council for International Cooperation (OCIC) is proud to recognize the following Global Changemakers with Youth Ambassador Awards for their contributions to international cooperation and global social justice.

  • Chris Aiken (26), has been working in Mozambique, Myanmar, and the Philippines in community development and disaster and emergency management with Cuso International;
  • Harnoor Gill (18), founded the ‘Peace Welcome Club’, a group committed to sharing volunteer opportunities and encouraging newcomer youth to make a difference in their communities, and has also been playing a leadership role as a Youth Ambassador for World Vision Canada;
  • Sarah Judd, Lainey Oleka, Robin Sagi (25, 22, 22), are leaders within Fair Trade Toronto, spearheading the Fair Trade Campus initiative at Humber College, increasing public awareness in ethical purchasing, and moving their campus closer to being designated fair trade;
  • Marc Lombardo (22), has dedicated himself to promoting universal access to education and gender equality through his academic and volunteer commitments at the Centre for Critical Development Studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough, and with World University Services of Canada;
  • Ashley Rerrie (23), was nominated by Casa-Pueblito for her dedication to working in domestic violence prevention, cultural education for children, community cooperatives and fundraising here in Canada, and in Nicaragua.

Each of the youth the Council recognizes as Global Changemakers have made significant contributions to the world at the community level,” says Kimberly Gibbons, Executive Director of OCIC. “Their contributions are greatly valued by the organizations that they are a part of. By working together as a group of Youth Ambassadors, they have the potential to do even more. International cooperation is about working together to understand and address complex global issues here in Canada and around the world, for the long term.”

OCIC will present the Global Changemaker Youth Ambassador Awards 2016 on Thursday, February 11, 2016 from 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM at the Centre for Social Innovation – Annex (720 Bathurst Street (1st Floor lounge), Toronto, ON

The concept of ‘fair trade’ is well-known to most people, at least as a label, but how many can say that they really understand what it means? Robin Sagi, Sarah Judd, and Lainey Oleka can. All three have worked with Fair Trade Toronto to engage with fellow students and to transform Humber College into a wholly Fairtrade designated campus.

Each stresses that it’s important not only to be aware of global inequality but of how our individual attitudes and purchasing decisions play into the international relationships between Canada and the producers of our food and goods. “When I began to see the connections between globalization and free trade, and the growth of the inequality around the world, it became hard to ignore,” Sarah says, citing problematic yet often overlooked industries like monopolized banana production or the use of conflict minerals in smartphones. For Robin, learning about the importance of food to social justice came in elementary school, as she accompanied her father delivering meals to the elderly. Lainey had a lifelong interest in global issues, but it wasn’t until she joined Humber College’s International Development program that she felt confident enough in her understanding to be outspoken and become more active.

In the same way, that each followed a different path towards Fair Trade Toronto and their current work, each of the three cites a different obstacle to educating their peers and encouraging informed consumption. Lainey struggles with ‘accountability’, an oft-quoted buzzword that she feels, “should be felt on an individual level before it can grow to cover an entire venture,” going on to emphasize how important it is for individuals to take personal responsibility for their beliefs by following through with their actions. Robin describes the difficulty of finding your voice in a field as broad and complicated as international development. “Knowing where you stand in all that takes time… At first, when I got into fair trade I found it difficult to explain… I’d wanted to tell them everything I knew.” That same vastness, and the many different approaches one can take is what Sarah finds most challenging. Not only do different fair trade supporters have different ideas about success but gaining support from the staff and students is a separate piece entirely from gaining traction with the administration in order to change policies.

All three agree that engaging with and supporting youth is critical to building true change and that the drive to address economic inequality through efforts like fair trade are reliant on broad reaching systemic change.


Cassandra Polyzou

OCIC Social Media