Ever since her son was diagnosed with sickle cell anaemia 33 years ago, Unita Louis has lobbied for the appropriate care to address the challenges sickle cell sufferers face.
The St. Lucian-born Ottawa resident successfully petitioned for the building of critical pathways that allow patients in crisis to receive prompt treatment and she founded a parent support group that raises awareness, promotes education and provides access to resources and family assistance.
She has also collaborated with other organizations to add sickle cell disease and thalassemia to the new born screening program.
Sickle cell disease is a life-threatening and hereditary blood disorder that causes malformation of red blood cells that become distorted when they transmit oxygen through the body, while thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder in which the body is unable to process normal functioning haemoglobin.
Louis was among seven outstanding citizens recognized for their advocacy and community service with a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in the senate chamber at Parliament Hill last Saturday.
Senator Donald Meredith organized the event.
“The individuals being honoured today have gone against the current of selfishness to respond to the needs of the communities they live in and serve,” said Meredith. “They come from all walks of life, colours and creeds, but what unites them is the assertiveness to step forward and make the world a better place…I stand proud to present to you on behalf of our Governor General and our government this token of our great appreciation for your hard work and service. You are not only examples to us all of what it means to be generous and selfless human beings, but what it means to be Canadian.”
A medal to mark Queen Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne six decades ago was also presented to Kenyan-born community worker, trained translator and media personality, Sarah Onyango.
Onyango hosts the monthly African cultural program “Fontonfrom,” on Rogers TV Cable 22 – Ottawa as well as the weekly radio programs, “Black on Black” and “Afrika Revisited” on CHUO 89.1FM (University of Ottawa community radio), and is a contributor to The Spectrum community newspaper.
Onyango graduated with an undergraduate degree from the University of Ottawa and a Master’s in Linguistics from the Université de Franche-Comté (Besançon).