Most people might perceive not having a hip, knee or ankle a major setback.
But, when Chinyere Eni’s left leg was amputated because of bone cancer nearly three decades ago, she did not despair. Of the 11 children at the time receiving treatment at The Hospital for Sick Children for the malignant bone tumor, she was one of the only two who survived.
Eni has used this good fortune over the years to volunteer with the War Amputations of Canada Child Amputee program and the Canadian Cancer Society. While at the University of British Columbia where she graduated with a Sociology degree, she co-founded the Oasis Student Association and the Afro-Canadian Adoption Group geared to families who adopted children of African heritage.
Her extensive volunteerism caught the attention of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) which hired her 13 years ago. She moved to the Greater Toronto Area in 2000 and managed the new branch at Queen’s Quay terminal which opened six years ago. In her new role, Eni recruited people with disabilities to work as tellers.
Last Saturday, Eni was recognized for her courage, determination and leadership with the Changing Lives Award at the second annual International Women Achievers gala in Mississauga.
“I consider this quite an honour,” said Eni who is the bank’s national director of Public Sector and Aboriginal Markets. “I have a supportive family who told me very early that the world was not going to adjust to me because I have a disability and that I should never use it as an excuse to be treated differently.”
An MBA graduate from the University of Toronto Rotman’s School of Management, Eni – who uses a prosthetic leg – has participated over the past five years in the annual Ride to Conquer two-day bike event that covers nearly 200 kilometres and raises funds for Princess Margaret Hospital.
“I enjoy this ride on my three-wheeled cycle raising money for cancer research, counselling young amputees and visiting hospitals to interact with individuals who have lost limbs,” said Eni whose was born to a Nigerian father and Cree mother.
Like Eni, media practitioner Karlene Nation has also overcome adversity.
She came to Canada from Jamaica in 1976 as a 17-year-old single mother, completed high school and worked as a waitress at night to put herself through the University of Toronto (Mississauga campus) where she graduated in 1983 with a political science degree. She was also unemployed for lengthy periods while struggling to make ends meet before landing a job with television station, CTV.
Nation, who has permanent double vision after doctors removed a brain tumor in 1998, was presented with the Diversity Award.
“In my role as CTV News diversity producer for the past 10 years, I have done my best to boost the coverage of diverse communities across the country,” said Nation who ran for city council in the 2010 municipal elections and was a Progressive Conservative party candidate in last year’s provincial elections. “What we consider diverse coverage is now really main stream and I am really proud of that. I have an innate curiosity about people, their cultures and experiences and I enjoy meeting people of all backgrounds and getting the chance to tell their stories.”
Jamaican-born Canadian artist, Tiana Robinson, was the proud recipient of the Entrepreneurship Award.
The C.W. Jeffery’s Collegiate Institute graduate and York University second-year Bachelor of Design student has an interest in modern batik art.
“I am very excited by this honour because it says to me I am heading in the right direction,” said Robinson.
Praise Cathedral Worship Centre’s First Lady and Clarendon College graduate, Dorett Walker, was presented with the Community Leadership Award; Nursing Healthcare Inc. chief executive Delores Lawrence received the Woman in Business Award; Black Business and Professional Association president Pauline Christian was the recipient of the Role Model Award, and Reel World Film Festival founder Tonya Lee Williams was presented with the Arts & Culture Award.
Other winners were Elaine Chin, Victoria Dwira, Sanna Khan, Hodan Jama, Edna Toth, Susan Hay, Dolly Wade, Sangah Woo, Blair Brown, Annia Mbulu, Ekaette Akpabio, Jannette Scott and her daughter, Cleoni Crawford.
Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and reggae singer Marcia Griffiths, who did not attend the event, were recognized with Community Development and Lifetime Achievement Awards respectively.
Peel region community worker Princess Boucher, who ran for Brampton City council in 2010, started the awards program to honour women achievers and showcase their accomplishments.
“They are all role models that girls and young women should aspire to emulate,” said the single mother and event planner who migrated from Jamaica at age 10.
By RON FANFAIR