For Narine Dat Sookram, volunteering is much more than a passion. It’s practically in his blood and almost a full-time job.
Growing up near Number 63 beach in rural Guyana, Sookram – at age 14 – established a youth group to enable members to learn, grow and support their community.
His obsession to serve people and communities continued when he migrated to Kitchener in 1993. He founded the Active Vision Charity Association to promote Indo-Caribbean culture in Canada and help newcomers assimilate into a new society.
For the past 17 years, Sookram and his organization have helped new immigrants shape their resumes and cover letters and offered advice on job hunting. The organization also provides driving lessons and tips on how to apply for a drivers license and he can always be counted on to provide transportation for seniors and others area residents who don’t have access to vehicles.
“I like to help people so volunteering comes easily to me,” said Sookram who was presented with a June Callwood Outstanding Achievement Award for Voluntarism last Friday at the One King West Hotel in downtown Toronto.
Through his organization, Sookram provides Guyanese schools with text books and other school supplies and he hosts a weekly 45-minute radio show on CKMS 100.3 FM on Mondays. The musical show features soca, chutney and Indian classical sounds.
A home inspector, Sookram is also an emerging poet. He is the recipient of the 2009 Pakaraima award for Home Away from Home. Last year, the Alliance of Guyanese Community Organizations recognized him with an award for community service.
Ontario’s Minister of Citizenship & Immigration Dr. Eric Hoskins made the presentation to Sookram. Eleven other individuals and eight groups were also recognized with awards.
“It’s such an honour to be here with such an outstanding group of people who are passionate about making their communities, our province and our country a better place to live in,” said Hoskins. “Your spirit of service and your conviction to strengthening the foundation of our society recalls the values and commitment of late journalist and author June Callwood.
“You noticed a problem and decided to act. Sitting back and doing nothing was not an option. You decided to be part of the solution and to do so in the most unselfish way by volunteering your time and your brain power.”
Hoskins said the stories of Sookram and the other recipients are inspirational and their contributions are remarkable.
“All of the recipients honour the legacy of June Callwood, a humanitarian who was one of Canada’s best known social activists and one who is remembered as Canada’s conscience for her support of countless causes, including poverty reduction, health and wellness and freedom of expression.”
The well-known journalist, author and activist passed away four years ago.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Ontario Volunteer Service Awards that recognize thousands of residents who generously donate their time.
A total of 48 ceremonies will take place across the province this month, honouring countless dedicated and devoted volunteers.