YWCA Hamilton held its Women of Distinction gala on Thursday The virtual event was attended by over 800 households and more than 1,000 individuals. The event celebrated the accomplishments of 97 nominees.
The women of distinction awards went to the following recipients:
Honorary Woman of Distinction
For her courage, resilience and dedication to the empowerment of women. Born in Hamilton and raised in Aleppo, Syria, Abrar is a mental health counsellor with a passion for empowering marginalized youth and women. When the civil war broke out, Abrar remained in Syria to volunteer and work with SOS, UNICEF, and UNHCR to provide children with trauma-informed mental health care. In 2017, the situation became extremely dire, so she returned to Hamilton. Broken, but not defeated, Abrar channeled all her energy towards mental health care in Hamilton and beyond. Over the years, Abrar has made an impact through her roles at Thrive Child and Youth Trauma Services, Wesley, and the Hatts Off group home. During the pandemic, Abrar launched her own virtual counselling platform and national mental health campaign to support women, children and youth impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Olivia Mancini brings her passion, dedication, and expertise to six positions across various organizations providing housing, addiction, and harm reduction supports to Hamiltonians. Olivia is a Harm Reduction Worker at the AIDS Network, an Addiction Attendant at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Men’s Addiction Services, a Withdrawal Management Worker at St. Leonard’s, a Research Assistant at McMaster University for the school of Social Work, an Outreach Worker at Wesley Day Centre, and a Case Manager at Salvation Army Booth Centre. When she’s not on the frontline, Olivia is a strong advocate for harm reduction, affordable housing, the right to housing, and trauma-informed care. Olivia is also a Bachelor of Social Work post-degree candidate studying at McMaster University.
Christina Mulder has been the Director of Programs and Partnerships for Open Doors at St. Christopher’s for three years. She oversees the development of new programs, as well as the adaptation of approximately a dozen others. With a small staff team and a large contingent of volunteers, she delivers programs to a diverse group of people, supporting their well-being and navigating them through challenging times. The joy of feeding people has always been at her core and in her current role, she is able to focus on providing dignified, equitable access to healthy and delicious food for the community. With Christina’s dedication and commitment to her values and the community she serves, Open Doors food programming has thrived under her leadership.
Health Care Hero
Dr. Elizabeth Richardson
Dr. Elizabeth Richardson is Hamilton’s Medical Officer of Health (MOH), having held the role for over 25 years. She is a graduate from Western Medical School and completed her Master’s of Health Sciences, Community Health & Epidemiology, and her residency in Public Health & Preventative Medicine at the University of Toronto. As the MOH, she provides public health expertise to support health surveillance, and also leads community health planning, research and program development. For more than two decades, she has ensured Hamiltonians are cared for through her focus on population health, health integration and disease control initiatives. Now more than ever, as the pandemic continues, Elizabeth’s role is essential to protecting the wellbeing of our community and saving lives.
Andrea Pohl has dedicated her life to supporting our most valued and vulnerable residents – our seniors. She can be described as passionate, authentic, inspiring, and a true champion for her staff and residents, As Halton Region’s Services for Senior Director, Andrea is responsible for providing a range of services that meet the needs of the Region’s three accredited long-term care homes, their 572 residents, three Adult Day programs and four assisted living sites that enable older adults to maintain their independence. She holds an MBA from Athabasca University, a BA from Carlton University, and a Long Term Care Management diploma from the Canadian Healthcare Association. Andrea has extensive experience in long term care and has worked for several homes over a span of more than 25 years.
Andriana Lukich is the Director, Digital Solutions at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. She holds a HBSc Kinesiology and an MBA from McMaster University, a PMP certification and is Prosci Change Management certified. Throughout her decade of healthcare experience, she has held multiple roles all focused on leading change initiatives and supporting staff through transformational projects. The digital projects she has championed include enabling virtual care between patients and providers; rapidly developing a COVID-19 screening tool for staff, patients and visitors; creating a city-wide patient self-scheduling tool to support booking of COVID-19 tests; and supporting the implementation of COVID-19 Assessment Centres. Andriana’s commitment to digital transformation has attracted support and spurred innovation across Canada.
Lisa Lunski, coordinator for the Friday Night Community at Wellington Square United Church in downtown Burlington, has been an active community leader for decades. Lisa has spent the last ten years growing a community that fosters positive relationships and decreases isolation for those most vulnerable, while also providing a hot meal once a week. Leveraging her relationships built within the community, Lisa advocates for affordable housing, food security and positive social change. During the pandemic, Lisa has adapted and inspired a team of 50 volunteers to coordinate a Meal Bag Program, which continues the vision of the Friday Night Community, despite the COVID-19 constraints. Lisa is a true community champion at heart and embodies a “nobody left behind” philosophy.
Lisa Nussey is the Program Director for HAMSMaRT and the Co-coordinator for Keeping Six. Lisa relentlessly defends the rights, dignity, and humanity of people who use drugs (PWUDs). Lisa represents the voice for PWUDs at many stakeholder tables, attempting to manage and overcome the drug epidemic, while respecting PWUDs’ right to self-determination. Throughout the pandemic, Lisa has been committed to mobilizing mutual aid projects to support PWUDs and those experiencing homelessness. Lisa is a profound example of what it means to be a fierce agent of change and a true model of what one person can achieve through influential leadership, selfless dedication, and passionate advocacy efforts that have enriched the lives of people in the community.
Julia Hanna began her journey into the restaurant world at the age of 26 when she opened her first restaurant, Café Galleria in Downtown Oakville. She has gone on to conceptualize, open and sell seven restaurants in Oakville. Her latest restaurant venture in North Oakville is Ritorno, which is a return to Julia’s Italian roots. Ritorno invites guests to bring photos of their mothers and grandmothers to place on the Nonna Wall, in celebration of these remarkable women. Julia’s most passionate undertaking is her not-for-profit initiatives. In 2013, she launched HealthyFam, helping children, families and seniors build a foundation for healthy living. Julia was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and is also a Paul Harris Fellow recipient in recognition of her commitment to healthy living in Canada. Julia’s lifelong philosophy has always been “Family is whoever sits around the dinner table.”
Joëlle Kabisoso is a Congolese born Canadian and graduate of Western University. She is the founder of Sisters In Sync (SIS), a non-profit organization with a mission to support girls and women in education, mental health, financial literacy and day-to-day challenges. Joëlle started SIS as a response to her own experience as a sexual assault survivor and her commitment to supporting individuals with lived experiences of abuse. For her advocacy work, Joëlle has received many awards and recognition, such as CIBWE Top 100 Black Women to Watch in Canada, Afropolitan Canada’s “2020 Leadership Award”, Regroupement Affaires Femmes “2020 New Generation Award” amongst others.
Ashwini Selvakumaran is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto. She has lived in Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Yemen, New York and Canada. Ashwini’s valuable lived experiences solidified her passion to mobilize youth into tangible action and become a lifelong advocate for social justice.
For the past five years, Ashwini has been a Youth Ambassador for Plan International Canada. In this role, she utilizes her voice to represent women and youth across Canada. Recently, she was named the Young Director on the Iroquoia Bruce Trails Board by G(irls)20 and is the Chair of the Halton Newcomer Youth Steering Committee. Ashwini is also the author of “COVID-19 Perspectives – a book detailing the impact of COVID-19 on the global student community.
Colleen brings over 28 years of experience to her current role as CEO, having previously held executive positions with Canadian Diabetes Association, Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Ontario Centres of Excellence.
Under her leadership, Burlington Foundation’s impact on the Halton Region community continues to grow through meaningful granting, increased assets under management, and important community facilitation.
In 2014, Colleen led the $2.7M Burlington Flood Disaster Relief Program, a critical response to a record rainfall of 191mm in 8hours that caused extraordinary flooding to homes and infrastructure.