A non-profit organization that started out as a high school club dedicated to raising awareness of disabilities is among 23 recipients of the 2021 June Callwood Outstanding Achievement Award for Voluntarism.
Hand Over Hand was founded by five 17-year-olds with disabilities who wanted to raise disability awareness in their school. Today, it creates safe, accessible spaces with and for the disability community and provides programs and social opportunities to young adults with disabilities and their families.
The June Callwood award, presented annually by the provincial government, is named after one of Canada’s most well-known social activists. Callwood was a journalist, author and Order of Ontario appointee and founded or co-founded more than 50 Canadian social action organizations. The award recognizes the leadership, innovation and creativity of individual volunteers, volunteer administrators and volunteer organizations who support communities across Ontario.
Award recipient Rukshan Para founded the Youth and Parents Association of Markham as a youth. Today, he’s the chairman and president of the non-profit organization, which provides support to parents and children in their learning journey. Para also volunteers with many other organizations such as the Markham Stouffville Hospital’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and chairs Markham’s International Woman’s Day celebrations.
An independent selection committee appointed by the Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism reviews nominations and recommends award recipients. Since 2009, 226 individuals and groups have received the June Callwood Outstanding Achievement Award for Voluntarism.
“The past year has been challenging for us all and it’s impressive to see how volunteers and organizations stepped up to support their neighbours and communities,” says Minister Parm Gill. “On behalf of all Ontarians, I thank our June Callwood award recipients for their kindness, compassion, and selfless commitment to helping others and for making our province such a great place to live.”