Bhayana Awards

Over many years the Bhayana Family Foundation has created partnerships with United Ways across Canada to recognize the extraordinary work in the non-profit sector. These awards are made possible by a generous donation from Raksha M. Bhayana and the Bhayana Family Foundation. As a former member of United Way Toronto’s Board of Trustees, Raksha is a dedicated community volunteer and a passionate champion for the recognition of staff who make a difference in the community every day through leadership, innovation, partnership, and community building.

All award recipients will be invited to an in-person event to honour their success. Winners will receive a monetary award of $1,000.

Congratulations to our 2023 Bhayana Awards recipients!

Partnership, Collaboration, & Connection Awards

This award recognizes organizations and individuals for unique efforts in creating partnerships and collaborating with other groups to expand impact in their community.

David Kirby – Clinical Services Manager – Distress Centre

David Kirby is a clinical services manager at the Distress Centre in Calgary. He has been a leader in the Emotional Wellness Response Team (EWRT) collaborative for over a decade. The team is a collaborative of 13 Calgary based non-profit and government organizations who collectively provide emotional wellness during disaster responses in Calgary.

In his role as the off-site coordinator, David demonstrated an unwavering commitment to ensuring the well-being of evacuees and fostering collaborative efforts among various agencies and organizations involved in the response. David’s leadership and collaborative spirit shone when ensuring shifts to provide psychosocial support to the NWT evacuees that were filled. His dedication went above and beyond the call of duty.

David serves as an inspirational figure in his community.

Amber Qureshi – Community Engagement Coordinator – Punjabi Community Health Services

Amber has been working in social services since 2010, and currently works with PCHS Calgary as a Community Engagement Coordinator. PCHS is a grassroots not for profit organization offering culturally and linguistically appropriate counselling services to the South Asian community in Calgary. Amber has taken the community reach of PCHS Calgary to another level through her efforts to build community connections This has led to increased awareness of mental health and addiction relations issues in the community.

Amber manages the volunteer program where she continues to train the youth in social services. She creates a positive impact in the community by providing awareness, conducting workshops, engaging in conversations with the local Radio stations and TV, and providing in-services to other organizations to spread the word about the counselling services for the South Asian community.

Hiroko Nakao – Financial Empowerment Manager – Momentum

Hiroko has been working in the Financial Empowerment department at Momentum for 10 years, focused largely on helping the most marginalized participants gain the knowledge, skills, and confidence they need to better manage their finances. Hiroko’s work in the Money Matters program was based in the mental health and addictions sector, where participants with those challenges are supported to take greater control of their money.

Hiroko is inspirational; her humble approach to her work with participants and professionals make her a safe place to take risks. Hiroko has always been about making a bigger impact, with the participant at the center. She believes that everyone deserves to be hopeful about their future and that by bringing together the mental health and addictions sector and the financial empowerment sector, the most marginalized Calgarians now have access to programming and supports that can give them hope for their future. In Hiroko’s progression from front-line facilitator to department manager, she’s demonstrated a strong work ethic, a strong commitment to poverty reduction, and an understanding that taking a systems approach to the work is the only way to make big impacts.

Azita Afsharnejat – Program Coordinator – Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association

Azita has been working closely with the Healthy Aging Alberta team at United Way of Calgary and Area to launch an initiative that brings together immigrant-serving organizations throughout the province to discuss relevant and persistent challenges faced by organizations in service delivery for older adult immigrants. She has been looking for a way to bring organizations together and have a common space to have important discussions faced in the sector.

Azita understands the issues faced by her organization and others that work in the same community and she wants to share these issues with other organizations providing services to immigrant seniors in communities throughout Alberta. Azita has developed a panel discussion with a focus on the immigrant serving sector to bring people from senior serving organizations together to share resources, create further discussions and present opportunities beyond the local context.

Kim Brudrit – Collective Impact Lead – Dementia Network Calgary (DNC)

Kim is the collective impact lead for the Dementia Network Calgary and demonstrates a commitment to partnership and collaboration through her role in coordinating the work of the DNC and strategic advisory council. Kim and her team underwent a significant process of co-designing a Community Strategy Map around addressing dementia in Calgary and Area. This innovative approach brought in more than 100 stakeholders to contribute their visions to how teams might collectively come together to help ensure Calgary is a supportive, innovative environment where people impact by dementia can live well.

Innovative Leadership Recipients

These leaders play an exceptional role in helping others contribute to their organization and advance its mission. They have introduced new approaches or contributed innovative solutions to their organizations.

Sarah Rosenfeld – Associate Director of Counselling Initiatives – Calgary Counselling Centre (CCC)

Sarah is the leader of the counsellor training programs at CCC and has exemplified innovative leadership through the development and implementation of a hybrid onboarding and orientation platform for CCC students. Her innovative approach demonstrates her commitment to optimizing the learning experience for both students and staff. By introducing this platform, Sarah has made it possible for students to benefit from a flexible, online learning experience, combined with invaluable in person practice.

The hybrid model challenges traditional assumptions about learning and training. It demonstrates Sarah’s willingness to take calculated risks to pursue continuous improvement. Sarah has been actively embracing technology as an integral part of the learning process. She is addressing issues of accessibility and inclusivity by opening doors for a more diverse range of learners, challenging the status quo that often-hindered access to counselling education.

Jessica White – Manager of Volunteer Engagement & Igniting Neighbours – Calgary Seniors Resource Society

Jessica stands as an exemplar of innovative leadership in the realm of community service and social change. Her visionary approach, deeply rooted in human-centered design principles and social innovation, has redefined the way the organization mobilizes volunteers to support seniors in the community. Her ability to infuse a human design approach and social innovation into her work is remarkable. Rather than focusing solely on the organizational needs and goals, she places the emphasis on the individual volunteers and the seniors they serve. She recognizes that the key to meaningful and sustainable community engagement lies in understanding the needs and motivations of both the volunteers and the beneficiaries.

Tara Selinger – Social Worker – City of Calgary – Community Hubs Initiative

Tara is always looking for ways to create warm welcoming spaces and programming for the Bob Bahan Hub. Tara has taken on the challenge of single-handedly leading the Bob Bahan Hub Site in the Greater Forest Lawn Community and risen to the task time and time again. Not one for the spotlight, Tara has used her role to support and champion her Community Connector and other resident leaders to bring programs and projects into the neighbourhood. She’s been the catalyzer for several large-scale Indigenous-focus events, from hide preparation to mural installation. Her approach to leadership is one that sees the opportunities to enable and empower others, rather than standing alone.

On any given day, Tara might split her time between supporting residents in getting access to basic needs and planning large-scale community events. Residents know her as “Tara from the pool,” an indicator of trust and reliability within the community. Her leadership and work at Bob Bahan has strengthened the connectedness of the community and challenged the conception of what it means to be a resident of Greater Forest Lawn. Being able to respond to resident needs and desires and deliver on them is a unique challenge for Tara. She goes beyond this by creating programing and projects that have staying power. That are representative of residents and bring the community together.

Bukola Ojemakinde – Executive Director – Bridge to Oasis Foundation

Bukola brought Bridge to Oasis Foundation to life during the pandemic, noting the lack of supports for Black and African seniors in the city that was exacerbated with the effects of isolation. Bridge to Oasis is a grassroots organization relying on the Black and African community to support each other while also partnering with established organizations in the city. This work resulted in greater opportunities to learn about community resources and services and provide wider gathering opportunities to learn from other communities.

Bukola understands that the needs of Black and African seniors are often not heard. Bridge to Oasis aims to bring these needs forward by amplifying their voices and advocating for them at various tables in a manner that educates stakeholders and moves the ball forward in understanding how to better serve this population. She is highly engaged and active in various spaces bringing forward the voices of these seniors to tables that she feels will benefit from hearing the diverse stories and better understanding how to best support these seniors.

Doreen Williams – Executive Director – Circle of Wisdom Elders & Seniors Centre

Doreen has built an organization that is Indigenous-led and staffed to support urban Indigenous Elders and seniors. The Circle of Wisdom was born when she hosted a dinner for Elders and listening to them talk about the need for a welcoming and healing space to gather that would support Elders and seniors regardless of where they are from (Indigenous, Metis, Inuit). She has followed the teachings and guidance of various Elders and follows protocols in program and service delivery.

Her most recent project that the Circle of Wisdom launched is called the Blanket Project which uses the medicine wheel as the basis of triage and assessment for working with Indigenous Elders and seniors. The Medicine Wheel considers the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of the person. Given the complexities that most Elders and Indigenous seniors face with the impacts of residential schools and intergenerational trauma, this approach offers a more holistic way of working through the needs of those that come to the Centre. The goal of this project is to build the capacity and resiliency of the people who come to the Centre so they are better able to heal themselves and help others.

Thank you to all the recipients of the Bhayana Awards. We recognize and appreciate all you do to help Albertans and uplift our communities!

Bhayana Awards

Elijah Beaver2023 Bhayana Awards: Recipients