YMCA Peace Week: November 19 to 25, 2023
YMCA Peace Week is a time when we celebrate the presence of peace in our communities, and reflect on the peace-building work that happens all year both inside and outside the YMCA.
Peace is the ongoing work of building and rebuilding conditions of fairness, inclusion, empathy, security, and respect for diversity. When Canadians embody the values of PEACE (Participation, Empathy, Advocacy, Community, Empowerment) through our daily actions, we can build a better Canada.
YMCA Peace Week calls for people to Build Community, Act for Peace.
When we act for peace, together we build stronger and healthier communities.
"We cannot expect to live in a world of peace if we are unable to live in peace with those close to us - even those who differ from us..."
- YMCA Statement of Peace
YMCA of Southwestern Ontario Peace Medals
Each year, the YMCA of Southwestern Ontario honours local Peacemakers across the region with a YMCA Peace Medal.
YMCA Peace Medals are presented to individuals or groups who, without any special resources, status, wealth or position, demonstrate a commitment to the values of PEACE through contributions made within their local, national, or global community.
Since 1987, more than 1,900 individuals and groups across Canada have been recognized for their peacebuilding work with YMCA Peace Medals. When we award YMCA Peace Medals, we celebrate others' contributions to peace.
Recipients will receive a YMCA Peace Medal and have a chance to tell their story and bring awareness to their work or cause in individual profiles that will be shared online.
2022 YMCA Peace Medal Recipients
519Pursuit is a grassroots organization founded in 2017 that supports people in London facing poverty and homelessness through a friendship-based approach, to build lasting connections with positive impact. Volunteers participate in community outreach at weekday lunchtimes, meeting friends on the sidewalk or in parks to engage in meaningful conversations, connecting them to services, and providing survival gear, care packages, and seasonal clothing. Community collaboration is key to their efforts with local businesses and individuals supporting drives for socks and supplies. Through their partnerships with the London Food Bank, RBC Place London, and Y.O.U. Made It Café, volunteers are also delivering 80 to 100 lunches daily!
With a focus on developing friendships, 519Pursuit is cultivating an inclusive community. By building trust and connection, people experiencing extreme poverty can hit the reset button - feeling re-energized and inspired to overcome challenges and reach their full potential.
"I started volunteering with 519Pursuit doing outreach one day a week. I am moved and inspired every time I go out and connect with friends who are homeless and living on the street. Listening to their stories has touched me; they are so appreciative... and I have heard from friends how 519Pursuit has helped and saved them."
Alex Leonard is an engaged citizen who uses his voice to amplify important causes and empower others to get actively involved. He is an excellent example of someone who lives the values of PEACE, by bringing people together, encouraging them to explore new experiences and act for positive change. Alex is the director of the award-winning documentary 'Humans and Elephants' which follows 8 years of studying the relationship and conflicts between the species to understand peaceful resolutions. This film was a passion project made possible by collaboration with other artists who volunteered their time to help his vision come to life.
Alex is also committed to the fight against climate change as a Co-Founder of the Pollinator Pathways Project and an ambassador for Ontario Green Screen. He is the founder of AL Media, an environmentally friendly media production company helping brands talk about sustainability. Most recently, Alex was deeply disturbed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and wanted to help. In response, he has been coordinating an art exhibit, Ukrainian Landscapes, where 100% of the proceeds are for humanitarian work in Ukraine. Again, by building partnerships with print shops and the Ukrainian Museum of Canada, he made a project possible by uniting people around a cause.
Alex plans to continue developing his artistic skills in mural painting and video production, working to raise awareness around important environmental issues that impact communities across Canada.
"When he listens to others, he actively listens... always tries to make people feel welcome, putting aside his own needs to help his friends."
Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre
(Indigenous Primary Health Care Centres are located across the Southwest region of Ontario in London, Chippewas of the Thames, Windsor, Owen Sound, and Wellington Waterloo. a Satellite Clinic is at Four Counties Hospital-Newbury, AND SOAHAC also provides services to the First Nation communities in the region. In September of 2022, SOAHAC opened London's First Indigenous-led Child and Family Centre.)
Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre (SOAHAC) focuses on the restoration and rebalancing of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being of Indigenous people, families, and communities across our region. The organization serves over 35,000 First Nation, Métis, and Inuit individuals (both on and off reserve) with the founding belief that access to Indigenous culture is a key part of healthcare treatment, and has the power to help heal generational trauma. Providing access to culturally-based (and culturally-safe) care is critical to addressing gaps and inequities in the healthcare system and transforming health outcomes for Indigenous peoples.
SOAHAC's work is grounded in the Seven Grandfathers' Teachings - humility, bravery, honesty, wisdom, truth, respect, and love. These values are woven holistically into their diverse programs and services, ranging from traditional healing, mental health and addictions services, primary health care, and more. Their work extends to advocacy for greater resources for Indigenous peoples at all government levels, and increased community education.
Recent achievements include a 2021 culturally-aware COVID-19 vaccination awareness campaign in partnership with Indigenous-serving organizations across the region, with on-site medicines and healers to ensure more Indigenous people could make informed decisions to keep themselves and their families safer. In the fall of last year, they opened the Nshwaasnanong Child Care & Family Centre (a first of its kind in London), bringing generations of families together to reconnect to language, culture, and sacred teachings. It was developed in partnership with the City of London and the Journey Together Indigenous Planning Committee.
"In all its work, SOAHAC recognizes the values of collaboration, authenticity and equity of access, amplifying a diversity of voices to help create healthier, safer and more engaged communities - all hallmarks of creating a more peaceful society."
2021 YMCA Peace Medal Recipients
Nolan Petch (Woodstock)
Brian Schoonjans of Miracle Max's Minions (Lambton County)
Kevin Allen of Sarnia Blessings (Sarnia)
Myles Vanni (Sarnia)
Ginny Trepanier of Grace Café (St. Thomas)
The Inn of Windsor (Windsor)
2020 YMCA Peace Medal Recipients
Camilla McGill (Sarnia)
Community Meal (Ingersoll)
Ella Bice (Parkhill)
Habitat for Humanity Windsor-Essex
Lindsay Kirkland (Sarnia)
Nicole MacKechnie of Sweet Love Eats (Goderich)
Patrick Armstrong (Goderich)
The London Shoebox Project
Windsor Residence for Young Men