Tonight we tale a brief pause from our non-stop fight against HIV to congratulate key players and reflect on their individual and our collective efforts. Ontario has a rich history of outstanding work and personal sacrifice in this fight. Whether working in a laboratory or on the streets, in a board room or at a podium, providing a helping hand or listening ear, volunteering, mentoring or peforming, together we are stronger and together we are making a difference.
Ontario AIDS Network
This year’s event was held at One King West, Toronto. It is always fascinating to see our peers and colleagues dressed up and the location served them well - a classy high-ceilinged space that was once a banking hall. And a podium straight out of Hollywood!
The short but fun ceremony featured the always bubbly Marvelous Muchenje-Marisa receiving the Person with HIV Leadership Award, the clearly thrilled Lynn Cashubec receiving the Caring Hands Award and a beaming Dr. Josephine Pui-Hing Wong receiving the Community Partners Award.
In her acceptance speech at the shining crystal podium, Marvelous (above), a well-known face originally from Zimbabwe who is currently the Community Health Coordinator at Women’s Health in Women’s Hands in Torointo called up her husband to join her. She recalled how she used to get knots in her stomach when joining the group but how she now needs and loves it. She recalled 15 years living with HIV and expressed her gratitude for being able to do what she does. Those who know Marvelous know she is aptly named indeed.
In a lively acceptance speech Lynn Cashubec (above left), Coordinator of Volunteer and Peer Engagement at the AIDS Committee of Kitchener Waterloo and Area (ACCKWA) recalled winning a scholarship to go the International AIDS Conference in 2006 and how that experience changed her life. “It made me open to people I never knew before - and there are some freaking incredible people in this world.” She said she was astonished at receiving the award. “I thought you either have to be living with HIV and be doing astounding work, or if you’re not living with HIV, like me, you have to be like next to God.” She paid tribute to colleague Yvette Perrault and also to Former Ontario Network ED Rick Kennedy for giving her the title “PHA at Heart.”
The petite Dr. Josephine Pui-HIng Wong (right) who has worked in the field for twenty years charmed the audience by acknowledging with gratitude “the wisdom, solidarity, love and genuine connection that many in this room have generously bestowed upon me. I have learned to connect with happiness and joy in moments of despair because i have witnessed the courage and resilience of so many men and women living with HIV, I have learned to count my blessings and know that my life has been enriched by the work I do with you.” she said before encouraging her friends and colleagues to join her on stage.
The evening, the 20th annual such event in the Ontario AIDS Network’s history, was sponsored by Gilead and the BMO Financial Group.
Photos by Bob Leahy