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: Marsha Brown
Current role in the sector: Community engagement liaison and philanthropist.
Years working and/or volunteering in the nonprofit sector: 25+ years.
What was your first job in the sector or a defining moment?
During my 2nd year at Ryerson University in the School of Social Work, my practicum was with Toronto Community Housing. Overcome with anxiety, I travelled from Scarborough to St. James Town to John Garland, Etobicoke, a community experiencing high levels of violence at the time. I was tasked with facilitating an employability program for youth who had never worked, but had been offered summer camp employment with Toronto Community Housing. Despite being outside my comfort zone, I was encouraged by the high level of enthusiasm the youth displayed. This experience paved the way for my long career at Toronto Community Housing and ignited my passion for working with youth.
Describe your desk/workspace.
While on my way home from work in May 2012, I was involved in an automobile accident which transformed my life. Injuries from the collision impaired my ability to continue working at the YWCA Toronto. Devastated by my new reality, I took my passion for philanthropy to my dining room table, using my laptop when I can and working from my Blackberry. My mantra is, “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” by Mahatma Gandhi. I’m an active member of the Junior League, People Bridge Charitable Foundation, Pace, The Jean Augustine Centre, Lifelong Leadership Institute and Co-chair of the Ryerson School of Social Work Alumni Committee.
What are you reading or following that has expanded your understanding of the non-profit sector?
During my successful career at the YWCA Toronto, I was an active volunteer for the Week Without Violence Campaign, sharing my story as a survivor of spousal abuse with CBC, CTV and Global News. I’ve participated in conferences and facilitated workshops for Toronto Community Housing, Legal Aid Ontario and Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association. I remain engaged with the non-profit sector through social media feeds including Because I’m a Girl, Canadian Women’s Foundation, Barbara Schlifer Clinic, WomanACT, Hincks-Dellcrest, United Way, United Nations, Change for Cause, Toronto Foundation, Canadian Club Toronto, YWCA and I immerse myself in political rallies and sector events.
What do you think our sector needs to be thinking about?
As a woman of colour and an immigrant, I have experienced discrimination, hence my commitment to social justice advocacy. My passion is fuelled by the knowledge that my work is making a difference in the lives of individuals from diverse backgrounds en route to becoming successful contributors to society. I have aligned myself with philanthropic organizations that are like-minded in their efforts to facilitate access to resources for disenfranchised individuals.
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