Champion Stories

“Way to go Champions! Thank you for this amazing work in Nova Scotia!”


The Honourable Andy Fillmore (MP, Halifax)

Champion Stories: Enter a world of Innovation, Dedication and Caring

Congratulations to our award winners, the social architects who help people make transformational changes to their lives and build thriving communities. Read more about them and be inspired!

Here are a few of our featured stories. All stories are taken from the nomination forms.

All Award Winners – Stories that Spark a Smile

Explore our award winner stories by recipient name, by United Way location and/or by year. There are close to 1,000 stories (and counting!) that are sure to inspire.

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Your Champion Stories

Keisa Campbell

United Way Greater Toronto Culture Champion Award RecipientKeisa is recognized for her remarkable leadership in bringing an equity lens and focus to community investment, granting and evaluation processes. Her commitment to collaboration and passion for anti-racism work led to the development of our Community Investment Equity and Reconciliation Action Plan and formation of the Equity and Reconciliation Working Group. Keisa is a champion for equity, a model for authenticity and integrity, a trusted partner with all stakeholders, a mentor to colleagues, and an inspiration in many ways. Keisa demonstrates a strong desire to learn and grow. She dove deep into a comprehensive Community Investment Equity Audit, engaged in a literature review of best funder practices internationally, and contributed to a cross organizational team that secured funds focused on advancing equity in our community investments. Keisa presents hard, truth-telling data on long-standing inequities and systemic racism embedded within non-profit funding, and her notable achievements will lay the foundation for how we move forward.

Meet a Diversity Champion and Award Winner!

Keisa Campbell, Chief Diversity and Culture Officer, United Way Greater Toronto is recognized by the Manaktala Bhayana Spirit Award for “her remarkable leadership in bringing an equity lens and focus to United Way’s community investment, granting and evaluation processes.”

Keisa’s commitment to collaboration and passion for anti-racism work led to the development of United Way Greater Toronto’s Community Investment Equity and Reconciliation Action Plan.

Keisa is a champion for equity, a model for authenticity and integrity, a trusted partner with all stakeholders, a mentor to colleagues, and an inspiration in many ways. A guiding motto for Keisa is: “When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”

Tell us more about your work?

Over the last year, I’ve been leading an initiative at UWGT aimed at i) assessing how equity and reconciliation practices are reflected in our grant-making and funds allocation, ii) developing an implementation plan that captures how UWGT will deepen our commitment to equity and reconciliation in our grant-making and funds allocation; iii) establishing a monitoring plan to keep track of UWGT progress implementing our equity and reconciliation plan.

What motivates you to get up and do what you do every day?

What motivates me is my desire to be a good ancestor. I keep photos of my grandparents on my work from home desk to remind me of all that they and my parents did in Guyana, South America to create a pathway for me to live the charmed life that I do here in Canada.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

This one year secondment as the Senior Manager of Equity and Anti-Racism at UWGT has taught me that I want to get more into working with non-profits to advance their equity and reconciliation practices. So, my favourite part of this job has been finding my calling.

What does diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to you?

Based on research and interactions I have had with racialized people working in the non-profit sector (particularly Indigenous peoples), I’ve started using the language of justice and liberation instead of DEI. To me, justice and liberation speak to a world where being racialized, 2SLGBTQ etc. means that you have lots of access to the resources, opportunities and income to live your best life. That your social identity is no longer a barrier.

How does your organization champion diversity, equity, and inclusion in its work in the community?

UWGT working to advance on equity and reconciliation in the following ways: The board is looking at our governance policies and composition from an equity lens; Each department has established equity/reconciliation goals that they must deliver on over the next three years; a consultant has been hired to deliver mandatory Equity 101 and 201 training to all UWGT staff; we’re working with United Ways across Canada to develop an equity framework for Canadian United Ways to aspire to.

Do you have any advice for the rest of the non-profit sector on how to move the dial on anti-racism?

I recommend that non-profits review their governance, human resources, procurement, programmatic policies to identify if equity and reconciliation show up as a cross-cutting theme. Then, I’d suggest that staff at levels and the board reflect on the findings from this policy review and talk through/prioritize three ways they can deepen their operationalization of equity and reconciliation practices in their work. These three priorities can be embedded into the operational plan, implemented and reflected on quarterly to track progress. Overall, non-profits need to know the equity and reconciliation work is a long game – no shortcuts! A budget and staffing for this is ideal.

From the Heart: Words about and from our Award Winners

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"Those of us who are lucky enough to work with her know that she’s the definition of irreplaceable. She’s the epitome of dedication. She is the quintessential unsung hero. In nominating her for this award we hope that she finally gets her time in the spotlight."
"Before I entered Women Moving Forward, I was confused about how I was going to achieve goals in my life. While in the program, I realized that all the teachers never gave up on me. They always believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. They gave me a drive to keep moving forward and never look back."
"His compassionate heart is the pulse of the organization."
"The program challenges all the negative stereotypes and helps to generate an awareness of the positive roles Black men contribute to society. . . We have seen fathers go from not saying anything to getting the resources they need to help their children’s development. . . It’s important that programs such as More Than a Haircut be recognized for their great community partnership work."
"She is the glue that keeps our organization running smoothly. Her smile and positive attitude help keep team spirits up in the face of any challenge."
"When we think of dedication, we think immediately of the unsung heroes of the non-profit sector. The people who work outside of the spotlight, whose contributions to an organization’s success are significant, but often overlooked. These people provide the solid foundation that every organization needs to achieve a meaningful impact."

Have you been helped by a human service champion? We would love to hear about it.

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