Bridging Divides: Reflecting on Ontario NonProfit Appreciation Week 2024

Alfred Lam, Executive Director, Centre for Immigrant and Community Services

Image credit: Bhayana Family Foundation

This week is Ontario’s NonProfit Appreciation Week. Day in and day out, our sector does incredible work: serving the poor, empowering newcomers, caring for the sick, investing in our youth, protecting the vulnerable and advocating for the voiceless, just to name a few things. In recent years, when COVID ripped through our communities, and the cost of living sky-rocketed, the sector put our communities on its shoulder, put its arms around the most vulnerable, joined hands to catch those falling through the cracks, and got us through the darkest days. For my colleagues in the sector, this week, we celebrate and thank you for all that you do. As the week ends, I want to leave you with a different thought, and hopefully encourage you by elevating the importance of your work to a different place.

We live in a frightfully polarized world. It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is:  Be it politics (of course), the economy, business, art and culture, sports, or even the weather(!), we see people entrenched in diabolical opposites. Plenty of social and “mainstream” media personalities gain their notoriety by fanning the flames of division. We have seemingly lost the ability to dialogue, to listen to understand and seek common ground. Instead, we demonize those who see things differently than us. At times, it seems we are more interested in gaining the upper hand over “the other side” than advocating for the issues we care about.

In this divided world, the non-profit sector represents one of the few oases where people can still come together. Regardless of your political convictions or social philosophies, in our sector, we can still agree on ONE conviction which drives the work of ALL we do: That all of us are humans first and foremost, and with that, there are inalienable rights that can NEVER be taken away. 

That is the foundation of ALL our work.  That’s why we work to free people from the grasp of poverty. That’s why we advocate for the rights of newcomers. That’s why we fight to root out racism. That’s why we speak out for victims of violence and abuse. That’s why we refuse to have children go to school hungry. Regardless of the specific parts of the sector that you work in. You work, ALL our work is driven by the same conviction. We. Are. Humans. 

That’s why our sector is becoming more important in this increasingly polarized world. Because there are things that we can agree on, we must agree on regardless of our differences. And as long as there is a place where we can share that conviction, communities become possible. The non-profit sector is where that begins.

Thank you for all you do, my friends!

Also a special thank you to MPP Daisy Wai and the Bhayana Family Foundation for your efforts to champion for and bring awareness to the work done by almost 850,000 workers in the non-profit sector in Ontario, to create communities where all are welcomed, everyone is looked after, and no one is left behind.