I recently heard the news that our very own Razia Rashed, as an ETHP advisor, was one of the recipients of the IHPME’s 2022 Cathy Fooks Award for Research and Leadership Excellence in Patient and Caregiver Engagement. As a youth Ambassador myself, who had been introduced to the important role of Community Ambassadors by her and currently working as a Youth Ambassador for the Vaccine Engagement & the Safer & Vital Communities at TNO, I was elated to hear the news. I wanted to take this opportunity to ask her some questions via Zoom, so I could capture what Razia could share with young people like myself, and I get to give readers a glimpse of the amazing leader and role model that she is.
What does this recognition mean to you and your role in the community?
I was actually very surprised when I got the email about being the recipient of the 2022 Cathy Fooks Award. However, I must say I could not have achieved this recognition without the numerous efforts of all the volunteers, community ambassadors and service providers who have walked by my side to help me achieve the position I have reached today. The recognition itself means a lot to me and I think we are all very proud of what we have accomplished since the beginning of the pandemic.
We have developed excellent and unique relationships through various collaborations, integrations and consultations with service providers, community members and stakeholders. These relationships allow us to provide excellent levels of services to patients, caregivers, and community members. Once again, I am very grateful for the recognition. It is very encouraging, but my role in the community stays the same. I still see myself as a community worker and community member, and I’ll continue to do what I do and serve the Taylor Massey area.
What would you say these last two years have been like for the people of the community? Could you share your thoughts with us?
These past two years have been chaotic for everyone however, as time has progressed, we’re slowly but surely reaching normality again. Our role- and I’m talking specifically community ambassadors, over the pandemic, when everyone was staying home, included going door-to-door, being out in the community, disseminating information and providing information through brochures and flyers. Come rain/shine, snow/sleet or COVID-19, we bravely kept going. We assisted with the vaccine rollout by providing our support to the clinics, the healthcare workers and to the service providers.
We managed lines and gave tickets during vaccine clinics. We were able to listen to our neighbours and community members to learn about the barriers people faced to getting the vaccine. We assisted those in the community who needed the vaccine right away and those who were homebound by arranging clinics for these individuals. When members of the community had COVID and had to isolate, we facilitated the referrals to various service providers that had support available for community residents; these included delivering food/ grocery gift cards, medications, diapers, baby food, PPE etc.
What advice would you give to someone like me, a young student starting out in the world and a resident of Taylor Massey?
You have been doing a wonderful job, Mayesha I must say it’s my privilege to work with you, such a young individual with so much positivity! Proud to have you on our team of ambassadors. I would always recommend that youth get involved with the community, be innovative and tell us how we should collaborate with service providers and stakeholders. I have always been a strong proponent of empowering the youth and providing them with what they need to take control of their future. We need to equip them with the right tools to help them make decisions for their future.
When the youth get involved in their community, building capacity within the community they live in or even with other communities, that means we involve youth in a positive manner. This boosts their self-confidence, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. An individual feels so content knowing that they can do something for the community, to give back in any way they can and through these opportunities by volunteering or being a Community Ambassador. You get to make real positive changes in the lives of different individuals in your community.
Making those connections with community members where people will reach out to you and say, “Hey, I need this” or “The way you helped me really was meaningful” is a great accomplishment at the end of the day. The youth in our community are very innovative, they are very smart, but sometimes they just need a little push. Sometimes they need just a bit more motivation, and then they flourish and continue to reach their best potential.
Special thank you to guest contributors Mayesha Chowdhury (Community Ambassador) and Razia Rashed (Community Ambassador Lead)