150 Profiles: Karim Ladak

As we mark the 150th anniversary of confederation, The Philanthropist is profiling Canadians from across the non-profit sector and putting a face to 150 individuals who work or volunteer in Canada’s social sector.

Name: Karim G. R. Ladak

Current role in the sector: Passionate volunteer

Years working and/or volunteering in the non-profit sector:  40+ years.

What was your first job in the sector or a defining moment?

My volunteer efforts began in 1975 but what propelled my desire to volunteer was when I came out as a gay man in 1982.  This was the first of three “defining moments”.  I was immediately drawn to helping others deal with their sexuality.  I became a peer counsellor and later a member of several boards including the Lesbian and Gay Community Appeal and The Toronto Counselling Centre for Lesbians and Gays. Around 1987 I met South Asian people passionate about the same cause, leading to the formation of Khush – South Asian Lebian and Gay Association, Desh Pardesh festival and the Alliance of South Asian AIDS Prevention. My third moment was my engagement with mainstream organizations.  I chaired the Coalition of Agencies Serving South Asians, participated in the United Way and then joined the Aga Khan Social Welfare Board first as Vice Chair, then Chair. This was like a full time job and I loved each minute.

Describe your desk/workspace.

My workspace is wherever my passion lies.  Sometimes at my laptop in my Distillery District home looking at the lake and the Toronto skyline.  This is the most relaxing for me and I can work away without tiring.  Alternatively, it is when I travel and meet other like-minded activists and then continue to connect virtually.  Finally, in volunteer settings or meetings, networking, nurturing ideas and building innovative solutions for causes I care about.

What are you reading or following that has expanded your understanding of the non-profit sector?

While was an avid reader as a child, but now I learn best through the people I meet and my own life experiences. I read about governance models and about the specifics of a cause before I take on a new opportunity. I find that the approaches and interventions need to be nuanced and adjusted based on the culture of the organization and the beneficiaries. I used to join an organization intending to share my own knowledge and ideas, but now I seek organizations where I can further my knowledge and learn from others.  I find mentorship to be a powerful tool.  Both mentoring and being a mentee.  Reciprocity and mutual respect matter, regardless of age, race or faith.

What do you think our sector needs to be thinking about?

Travel is a powerful way to learn about the world, about our similarities and our differences. It helps break boundaries, bridge the divides, it helps nurture a greater understanding of people and cultures of the world. My aspiration is that we see the world as one global humanity.  I post my travel journals online with a hope that they bridge a better understanding of ourselves and those with who we share this beautiful planet. These reflections are also captured in my upcoming book, The Cosmopolitan Nomad, A Globetrotter’s Story, coming in  September 2017.

Do you know someone we should profile as part of this series? Email us at philanthropistprofiles@gmail.com


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