Updated: Dec 22, 2020

Text written By Greggory Clark, Hingman Leung, Apartment613, and United Way East Ontario on June 13, 2020

Since the pandemic hit Ottawa, Gwen Madiba has dedicated countless hours to assisting vulnerable people in our community. She launched the International Students Emergency Relief Fund to assist students in need. Not only did she rally the community to grow this fund, but she actively advocated to MPs and other members of government on behalf of international students. This advocacy led to the government’s inclusion of international students in its emergency response. Gwen also developed a food program to ensure international students would have access to free food during the pandemic.

Six days a week, Gwen volunteers to deliver Meals For Hope to seniors, people living with disabilities, people with underlying medical conditions, and families who do not have a home kitchen while they await housing. She coordinated with the Catholic Centre for Immigrants, IKEA, and the Ottawa Police Hoopstars to ensure that more than 100 families in need had access to food and home supplies. On top of volunteering, she single-handedly fundraised $10,000 so Meals For Hope could continue its important work, and helped recruit volunteers who can speak 12 different languages, ensuring the organization can reach out to newcomers. She also delivers weekly meals to frontline staff at l’Hôpital Montfort.

That’s not all. One weekend, Gwen rallied Ottawans to show support to a single mother and her three sons (aged 9, 15, and 19) who have been experiencing serious hardship. When Gwen met the family while delivering food, she was touched by the story of newcomers who had overcome so much adversity—even before COVID-19—and now faced even more challenges due to the pandemic. In the span of 48 hours, Gwen was able to collect over 100 home items for the family, including food, a brand-new bed for the boys, a brand-new queen-size bed for their mother, a new living room sofa, kitchen table, toys, sports equipment for the boys, cutlery, plates, and kitchenware. Supported by a community of giving people through the COVID-19 Community Care Ottawa Facebook group, she touched this family in a way that they will never forget, and made everyone who donated feel very much a part of this journey.

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