Paul LeJeune Volunteer Service Award

2010 Award: Thomas Novak and Reena Kreindler

What follows is Janice Hamilton and Shimby Zegeye-Gebrehiwot’s presentation of the 2010 Paul LeJeune Volunteer Service Award.

It is a pleasure to present this year’s Paul LeJeune Volunteer Service Award. This is the tenth year that MCIC is recognizing volunteers that have contributed greatly to MCIC.

Before telling you about this year’s winner, we’d like to provide a brief background to this award. The award is named for Paul LeJeune. Paul was a valued member of MCIC’s Overseas Projects Committee from 1992 until his death in 1997. It was in large part due to Paul’s insight and persistence that MCIC’s guiding principles include a strong commitment to the inclusion of people with disabilities.

Paul was a powerful advocate for people with disabilities in Canada and internationally. He maintained a strong vision of what it means to live independently. In addition to his work with MCIC, he volunteered with many other organizations, which you can find in listed on the lilac sheet in your AGM folder.

Paul’s love of life was contagious and his work ethic simple. He used to say, If you want to make a difference, you have to get out there and do it yourself. Besides his numerous involvements and achievements, Paul was devoted to his family and friends, and to all in need no matter what race, religion or social standing.

This year we are recognizing two volunteers that often work as a team. This is also the first year that we are recognizing volunteers that have contributed greatly to our public engagement work with youth. Past winners have been volunteers that have contributed to MCIC’s governance and committee work.

This year’s recipients of the Paul LeJeune Volunteer Service Award are Thomas Novak and Reena Kreindler. Thomas has facilitated the Theatre workshops for MCIC’s Generating Momentum High School Conferences from the first one in March 2002 to the last one in 2007. Reena assisted him from 2003-2007. Thomas also assisted MCIC with the first few Generating Momentum Middle Years conferences. Spring 2006 in Winnipeg, and three in 2007 in Winnipeg and Gimli and three in 2008 in Winnipeg and Morden.

Thomas and Reena took on a very big volunteer commitment for MCIC in the Fall of 2006 when they agreed to work with 8 young African women on our African Theatre Project. They met with the girls every Saturday throughout the fall, to assist them in developing a play on the MDGs in Africa which was presented at the Plenary of the Generating Momentum High School Conference and the Middle Years conferences in Winnipeg and Gimli. If you attended the MCIC AGM in 2007 you would have seen the result of their work in this very room. Given the success of this production, we had requests for presentations of the play which meant Thomas and Reena continued to work with the girls to rehearse prior to each performance. This continued into the 2007-2008 school year. At that time they had to substitute some actors as one had graduated and moved away to go to university in Ontario. I was fortunate to be a sub-in.

Thomas and Reena have generously donated their theatre talents – their knowledge of popular theatre, acting, directing, costuming, not to mention their caring and nurturing to the people they are working with. With our African Theatre Group, these were young girls with no acting experience at all. Many of them started the process as shy young girls and we watched them mature and blossom into confident and focused individuals. Thomas and Reena are involved with the Just Theatre Company, and occasionally produce plays that deal with social issues, often by specific request. I understand from Thomas that he has continued to use theatre in working with “new Canadians”.

Some of you may have read about Thomas in last Saturday’s Winnipeg Free Press. He is very involved in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission taking place at The Forks this week. We are very pleased that he could get away this evening to accept this award.

Each year when we present this award we try to think of a gift that would have meaning to the recipient. We are presenting Thomas and Reena with a Star Blanket, made by Northern Star Worker Co-op. While the Star Blanket has replaced the buffalo robe as a gift of honour, the tradition of generosity and blessing remains. To give a Star Blanket is to show utmost respect, honour, and admiration.

On behalf of the Board of MCIC it is my great honour to present the 2010 Paul LeJeune Volunteer Service Award to Thomas Novak and Reena Kreindler.