Giving Compass’ Take:
• West Indian Canadians strive to use philanthropy to honor their dual identity and invest in young people from the same community.
• How is community-based philanthropy essential and impactful?
• Read about the National Day of Philanthropy in Canadian culture.
The Toronto chapter of the University of the West Indies (UWI) celebrated its 10th anniversary in April with an old-school black-tie gala. Women had colours on their gowns that only a seasoned interior decorator could identify. Men rocked custom-made footwear that, if sold second-hand on eBay, would cover a recent grad’s student debt.
Beneath the custom tuxedos and gowns are people who broke down barriers to move themselves from modest means to success. They were not thinking about the next generation when they immigrated to Canada, but after arriving they honoured their struggles by lessening those of current students.
“It is my hope that by supporting UWI, I can make it possible for at least one student to walk across the stage in cap and gown and fulfil their true potential,” says McMaster University graduate, UWI patron and mutual funds mogul Michael Lee-Chin. “I am forever grateful to my homeland of Jamaica, because it gave me the fuel and the fervour to make my place in this world.”
That fervour and fuel was necessary in Canada, where quality of life is good by many standards of measure. But by imperial design, this country did not have the prosperity of patrons of the UWI gala in mind. Their success was hard won with the same tools of adaptation that birthed the West Indies.
Many patrons did not benefit from intergenerational wealth. What they have, they built. They are descendants of people who had turned a region of colonial servitude (annexed First Nations, African slavery, Asian indentured servitude) into a legitimate space to call home – the West Indies.
Next year these patrons of duel identity, forged of heritage and citizenship, will again gather for the UWI gala and other events, not to celebrate their wealth, but to invest in community prosperity.
Read the full article about philanthropy for West-Indian Canadians by Alyson Renaldo at Everything Toronto.
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