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OISE PhD student appointed chair of federal committee for awards in volunteering

December 3, 2019

By Perry King

“I feel strongly that everyone should be involved in giving back to their community. It does not matter what it looks like, you just have to do something,” says PhD student Amani Hitimani (photo by Perry King). 

Amani Hitimana firmly believes that volunteering is imperative to improving society.

Hitimana, a PhD student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), has been active as a volunteer for some time. He has undertaken community work with Shalom for All Nations, worked to support persons with disabilities at Christian Horizons and is a board member and chair of the government relations committee for the Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN).

He strives to improve the quality of life for those unable to advocate for themselves, particularly in the areas of housing, employment, accessibility, advocacy and inclusion.

“I firmly believe that volunteering is imperative to improving society. From a young age, I developed the passion for community engagement,” he said.

And now Hitimana will use those experiences as the newly appointed chair of the national advisory committee for Canada’s Volunteer Awards. Selected from thousands of nominations, the chair is elected by the members of the National Advisory Committee and reports directly to the federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

His appointment, a one-year term which eligible a one-time renewal, began Nov. 20.

“It is an immense honor and a privilege to be appointed to lead the national advisory committee to support the promotion of the Canada’s Volunteer Awards program through stakeholders across Canada,” said Hitimana, a PhD student in adult education and community development.

Hitimana will provide leadership to a team of 12 community engagement experts with the goal of recognizing achievements by Canadians to find new ways of making a difference in their communities. He will also make suggestions regarding the transformation of the Canada Volunteer Awards’ Program. “I will be looking at how to reach rural areas where there is a lot of community work but fewer nominations and how we can track the impact they continue to have after the formal recognition. I'll also be reviewing the value of each award to continue attracting exceptional nominations,” he said.

At the 2016 International AIDS Conference, Hitimana participated as a panelist alongside Bill Gates (photo courtesy of Amani Hitimana). 

Prior to his graduate studies at the University of Toronto, Hitimana founded a student club, named La Trompette, at the University of Rwanda. The group aims to fight HIV/AIDS infection rates. That work conferred Hitimana the opportunity to be invited as a panelist and presenter at several international HIV/AIDS conferences in Brazil, Thailand and Toronto.

At one such conference, the 16th International AIDS conference held in Toronto in 2006, he participated as a panelist alongside Bill Gates and Bill Clinton.

“I am always burned with the desire to give back to the community, partly because I grew up in extreme poverty and witnessed first-hand how the power of volunteerism in bonding the community coming together resolved even the most wicked problems they faced.

“I feel strongly that everyone should be involved in giving back to their community. It does not matter what it looks like, you just have to do something.”

As a researcher, Hitimana and his graduate supervisor Peter Sawchuk, is addressing the employment factors that are the best predictors of high organization-based self-esteem (OBSE) among persons with disabilities in the workforce. His work is the first study of its kind to link OBSE with job factors among employees with disabilities.

Hitimana and Sawchuk presented the framework of this research to the 11th Researching Work and Learning Conference which took place in Giessen, Germany in July 2019.

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