Giving without expecting anything in return is a habit for Narine Dat Sookram.
In primary school in Guyana where he was born and raised before migrating to Kitchener in 1993, Sookram mobilized young people to volunteer at a rural community temple he attended.
As a high schooler, he volunteered as an assistant priest leading religious services, provided his peers with drinking water at school and established a youth group to enable the members to learn, grow and support their community.
Sookram’s obsession with volunteering continued in his adopted homeland.
The Mohawk College graduate founded the Active Vision Charity Association to promote Indo-Caribbean culture in Canada and help newcomers assimilate into a new society. For nearly two decades, the organization has helped immigrants shape their resumes and cover letters and offered job hunting advice. It also provides driving lessons and tips on how to apply for a driver’s license and Sookram can always be counted on to offer transportation to seniors and other area residents who don’t have access to vehicles.
Last week, Sookram was among 40 Ontarians who were honoured for their selflessness with the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award.
Established 19 years ago by then Governor General Romeo LeBlanc, the award celebrates ordinary Canadians who do extraordinary deeds to help those in need.
“This award is important to me because it says that the hard work that I have been doing for over two decades now is making an impact not only locally but nationally,” he said. “The good thing about this award is that it’s mainstream and I am glad that I can be a role model for others.”
Sookram also hosts a weekly community radio show, Caribbean Spice, on Sound 100.3 FM Radio to promote West Indian music, produces the annual Caribbean Dreams concert for young upcoming artists to showcase their artistic talent and mentors immigrant women to become successful independent entrepreneurs.
“I like to mentor and counsel because that gives me a sense of purpose knowing that I have made a difference in someone’s life,” he said.
Outgoing Lieutenant Governor David Onley made the presentation to Sookram and the other recipients at Queen’s Park.
“Without a doubt, my most uplifting experience since I have been in this office for the past six-and-a-half years is often centred around meeting people like yourselves, people from all walks of life, backgrounds and ages who care enough to reach out and help people,” said Onley. “This office has a long and rich tradition of ties with volunteerism and volunteer organizations. I have continued to make the most of every chance that I get to affirm those volunteering efforts.”
Named one of Canada’s Top 25 Immigrants last year, Sookram is the recipient of several community awards, including the June Callwood Outstanding Achievement Award for Voluntarism, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Alliance of Guyanese Community Organizations Award.
An emerging poet, he was recognized with the Pakaraima Award five years ago for Home Away from Home.