Wa­bano’s vol­un­teer co-or­di­na­tor gets On­tario hon­our

Ottawa Citizen - - CITY - EL­IZ­A­BETH PAYNE epayne@post­media.com

She has drawn dozens of vol­un­teers to the Wa­bano Cen­tre for Abo­rig­i­nal Health since taking over as vol­un­teer co-or­di­na­tor four years ago and helped launch a thriv­ing choco­late-based so­cial en­ter­prise.

Now, Pier­rette Vez­ina has been rec­og­nized for her con­tri­bu­tions.

Vez­ina, 57, re­ceived the On­tario Medal for Good Cit­i­zen­ship last month from On­tario Lt.-Gov. El­iz­a­beth Dowdeswell. The medal, On­tario’s sec­ond-high­est civil­ian hon­our, rec­og­nizes in­di­vid­u­als for their out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tions to the well-be­ing of their com­mu­ni­ties.

Al­li­son Fisher, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Wa­bano, said Vez­ina “em­bod­ies the spirit of the com­mu­nity. Her tire­less work to pro­vide a place of be­long­ing for vol­un­teers of all ages is a tes­ta­ment to her com­plete ded­i­ca­tion to the heart of what Wa­bano rep­re­sents.”

Vez­ina, who is Métis, said she be­gan vol­un­teer­ing at Wa­bano af­ter re­tir­ing from a ca­reer with the City of Ot­tawa work­ing with se­niors. “It called to me,” she said of the cen­tre.

Among her ini­tia­tives at the com­mu­nity health cen­tre is Wa­bano Fine Choco­lates, which Vez­ina says is the first Indigenous so­cial en­ter­prise in Canada, as far as she knows. The pro­ject helps train vol­un­teers in choco­late-mak­ing and raises money to sup­port pro­grams.

Vez­ina, who is a trained choco­late maker, said it be­gan as a small pro­ject to make gifts, but has taken off. The choco­lates come with a story about Abo­rig­i­nal cul­ture.

Erin Mac­Don­ald, head of hu­man re­sources, noted that the vol­un­teer pro­gram in­cludes peo­ple from ev­ery walk of life and ev­ery coun­try.

“If some­one has a barrier to vol­un­teer (in­clud­ing phys­i­cal and men­tal dis­abil­i­ties), she of­fers sup­ported op­por­tu­ni­ties in her men­tor­ship pro­gram in or­der to en­sure ev­ery­one has the op­por­tu­nity to feel the pur­pose that vol­un­teer­ing can of­fer,” Mac­Don­ald said.

Vez­ina said she was hum­bled by the hon­our.

Wa­bano is one of 10 Abo­rig­i­nal health cen­tres across the prov­ince that pro­vide a wide range of med­i­cal and so­cial ser­vices, sup­ports, com­mu­nity pro­gram­ming and youth pro­grams.

Pier­rette Vez­ina

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