By RON FANFAIR
What better way to celebrate your 60th birthday than with members of your community?
In fact, the Community Award bestowed on lawyer and university lecturer, Dhaman Kissoon, at a gala celebration recently to mark Guyana’s 50th independence anniversary was the ideal gift.
Guyana severed ties with Britain on May 26, 1966.
In 2000, Kissoon started an annual golf tournament to memorialize his father – Sugrim Kissoon – who passed away in 1979. Funds accrued have been donated to SickKids Hospital Foundation, Guyana Help the Kids, the Three Rivers Foundation, the West Demerara hospital neonatal unit, an orphanage in India and religious organizations.
“It was in the country of my birth that I learned the value of giving back to community,” said Kissoon who migrated to Canada 41 years ago. “So to be celebrated among my country people for my years of volunteer work is significant, particularly when this is happening a day after I reached a milestone birthday.”
Playing school cricket at Bourda, once considered the mecca of the sport in Guyana, is Kissoon’s fondest memory of growing up in his birth country. He was an all-rounder with Toronto & District Cricket Association club Cavaliers and an Ontario Cricket Association selector before immersing himself in law and teaching.
In addition to maintaining a successful private practice, Kissoon – a former Toronto Police South Asian Consultative Committee co-chair – has been an adjunct professor at Queen’s University for the last 26 years.
Retired Toronto District School Board educator, Pat Moore who taught in Lesotho and New York, was recognized for scholastic contributions that also extended to the community where she has assisted in the educational development of thousands of young people through her engagement with Black Heritage programs since migrating in 1969.
“My parents were educators, so I have been doing some form of teaching since I was nine years old,” said the Bishops’ High School Alumni Association of Toronto co-founder and Malvern Onyx Lions Club member. “I just love children and teaching.”
Dr. Vivian Rambihar’s favourite memory of his childhood days in Guyana was commuting by bicycle between his rural Beterverwagting residence and Queen’s College with the Atlantic Ocean at his side.
Recognized globally for his pioneering health promotion ideas and practice, the cardiologist was honoured with an Academic Excellence Award.
“Awards usually reflect recognition for work done,” said Dr. Rambihar who after graduating and teaching math for a year at his Guyanese alma mater, attained his Bachelor of Science degree in two years at the University of Toronto (U of T) and graduated from McMaster University Medical School, where he completed internal medicine and cardiology training followed by sub-specialist training at Toronto General Hospital.
“This award is most welcomed because it’s coming from my birth country mainly for the work I have done to improve the health of people from Guyana and the Caribbean living in the Diaspora.”
Rambihar’s three children have followed in his footsteps.
Dr. Sherryn Rambihar, the eldest, is a cardiologist at Women’s College Hospital where her sister – Dr. Vanessa Rambihar – is a family physician. Youngest child, Dr. Nadira Rambihar, is a sports medicine physician.
The family patriarch collaborated with Vanessa and Sherryn to write a paper, “Race, Ethnicity, and Heart Disease: A Challenge for Cardiology in the 21st Century”, that was published in the special 50th anniversary issue of the American Heart Journal in January 2010.
Other award winners were Kwame Mason who wrote, directed and produced Soul on Ice: Past, Present & Future, which won the People’s Choice Award for a Feature Film at the 2015 Edmonton International Film Festival; Atlas Cargo founder, Ken Singh who donated $1 million to the Humber River Hospital Redevelopment Project; Violet Smith who is a senior administrator with Guyana Goldfields that’s registered with the Toronto Stock Exchange; retired provincial court judge, Vibert Lampkin who co-founded the Frontiersmen of America Guyana chapter and the Guyana Theatre Players of Canada; The Family Worship Centre founder and senior pastor, Bishop Joseph Fisher; Humber River Hospital chief of staff, Dr. Narendra Singh; Dr. Budhendranauth Singh who founded the Voice of the Vedas Cultural Sabha Inc. in Richmond Hill in 1977, oversaw the creation of a dialysis clinic in Guyana and built a Museum of Hindu Civilization and World Peace and a memorial for fallen Canadian soldiers; banking executive, Janet Ferouz; Trent University professor, Dr. Suresh Narine who is among the world’s foremost authorities in the ground-breaking field of biomaterials; Eon D’Ornellas who represented Guyana in cycling at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics and York University Master’s in Development Studies student, Pere DeRoy.
Guyana Christian Charities Canada Inc. and the Senior Guyanese Friendship Association were the recipients of Community Service Awards.
Businessmen Peter Pitamber and Norman Sue, Guyana Christian Charities and Caribbean North Charities founding member, Joan DeBarros and educators, Dr. Rudy Grant and Dr. Wolseley (Percy) Anderson were posthumously honoured.
The owner of a Scarborough bakery, Sue succumbed to multiple myeloma three years ago while Pitamber – the owner of Calypso Hut – and two family members died of carbon monoxide poisoning at their Brampton home in March 2014.
DeBarros, who migrated with her husband in 1963, was an active community volunteer before passing away at a Pickering nursing home in January 2015 at age 86.
Dr. Grant, who died six years ago, and Dr. Anderson pioneered inter-disciplinary studies at the university and co-researched studies for the Ontario Ministry of Education in 1975 on the challenges that Caribbean immigrants faced in adjusting in the school system in a new country.
The resulting report, “The New Newcomers”, was used as resource material by teachers and researchers across Canada.
In the 1970s while conducting a sociological experiment, Anderson and Grant found that Black children rejected Black dolls in favour of White ones. That sent off alarm bells in the community and forced the Black Heritage Association – the name was changed in 1992 to the African-Canadian Heritage Association – to discuss the implications of the disturbing findings and come up with a response to address the lack of positive self-acceptance on the part of Black children.
Anderson, who passed away in May 2015 at age 84, impacted the lives of thousands of students in Canada, Jamaica, England, Kenya and Guyana, where he lived, studied and worked for four decades.
His academic and professional activities revolved around education and social change, race and ethnic relations, diversity in a global village context and strategies and techniques of planning for the development and effective utilization of human resources.
He also had an interest in Canadian-Caribbean relations pertaining to immigration trends and this led him to examine the patterns of adjustment and settlement challenges for Caribbean immigrants as they sought to integrate into their new environment.