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Changing the world in their own ways

Ali Schwabe | Fulcrum Staff

In honour of our list issue, we’re listing five U of O students and alumni who are effecting meaningful change on our campus and around the world. These individuals aren’t in it for fame or fortune, they simply want to make a difference in the best way they can. We’re impressed, and can’t wait to see what they do next.

Paul Leduc
In 2010, Paul Leduc was seeking therapy to deal with a history of childhood sexual abuse. He was attending college in Sudbury after completing an undergraduate degree at the University of Ottawa in social sciences, but as a student, couldn’t afford therapy. When a therapist named Jack agreed to provide Leduc with pro-bono sessions until he could receive a formal diagnosis and apply for a provincial bursary to cover additional therapy, his life changed.

“I don’t know where I’d be right now if I didn’t receive that money or if I hadn’t met my old therapist,” said Leduc.

Today, Leduc is back at the U of O finishing up his third year in health sciences—and he’s building a charity organization called The Canadian Society for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse.

“That’s the best part for me, paying it forward; that’s the whole point of doing what we’re doing,” said Leduc. “Before I received funding, my therapist was doing it pro-bono for me—to have a complete stranger give me a gift I could never have asked for, that’s really where that comes from. The inspiration for [the charity] really comes from him.”

The 23-year-old is president and co-founder of the organization, which is currently under review to receive charitable status.

“Our mandate and eventual main focus will be to try to fund therapy for other men,” said Leduc.

He also hopes the organization will help raise awareness about male sexual abuse, a topic that rarely gets media attention.

“Just the discussion that a man can be sexually abused—that was never talked about in school, that’s something that never came up. The men were the abusers. And we know that’s the case most often, but the role of man as ‘victim’ is not something that’s ever talked about,” he explained.

Leduc doesn’t consider himself to be a victim.

“The connation of the word ‘victim’ is something we stay away from,” he said. “When somebody does call me a victim of sexual abuse, I’m pretty quick to correct them because I consider myself a survivor of abuse.”

While waiting for his organization to receive charitable status, Leduc is keeping busy with plenty of other projects. He speaks publicly about his experiences and is working to create a buddy system to improve the experiences of men going through the court system as survivors of sexual abuse cases.

“This past summer I was in court and I was the Crown’s star witness,” he described. Although he chose to face the process alonehe didn’t want his mother hearing the details of the abusehe hopes future witnesses won’t have to face court the way  he did. “My mother wasn’t there, no friends, no family, no nothing. In the room I had the Crown, and the police detective as my friends. And then there was the defence, my abuser, and his family,” he described.

“Being somebody who has gone through court, with this buddy system I would go and sit in through someone else’s testimony, because it’d be nice to have a friendly face looking back at you.”

Leduc has already found a way to move forward from the abuse he survived as a child: sharing his story, creating an organization to raise awareness, and supporting men who might have nowhere else to turn. We’re looking forward to seeing where he goes next.

Jonathan Rausseo
The biggest move Jonathan Rausseo has made on our campus? Convincing the university to create the position he currently fills: campus sustainability manager. Rausseo modestly credits the role, rather than himself, as a huge factor in the improvements the U of O has made toward being a green, environmentally sustainable campus.

“I’m happy with the university’s performance in terms of sustainability. Not in the sense that I’ve done anything. I think my greatest role on campus is to be that person that’s always standing there always mildly judging so that people are always like, ‘Oh. Oh, better carry my reusable mug around,’” Rausseo said. “So, when I sit in on a bunch of meetings, someone will always look over at me and then say, ‘We should do that environmental thing.’ Because it’s somebody’s job now—it’s my job. So they go, ‘Oh yeah, we have to acknowledge that.’”

The list of accomplishments Rausseo has had a hand in is extensive. From banning water bottles on campus to designing a new recycling bin system, to implementing a furniture reuse program that saves the U of O almost $1 million every year, he’s making campus green one step at a time.

Rausseo is not one to give up.

“I started the U-Pass initiative when I was a student here and we just carried it on for like a decade until it finally got implemented,” he said.

He’s also thrilled with the free store, located at 647 King Edward Ave., a project whose feasibility was once in doubt.

“That was just one of those things that started as a ridiculous idea,” said Rausseo. “Get a store and give everything away for free? Yeah right. But we got that actually going this year, and people like it, and it’s successful—that’s awesome.”

Rausseo’s efforts have paid off: The U of O was declared the 14th most sustainable university in the world this year by the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking.

What’s next for Rausseo? Bridging the gap between what is done and what can be done.

“We have solutions for [environmental problems] and we’ve had solutions to all the problems since the ‘70s. What I have to do—the reason I go around talking to people—is because we have the solutions already,” he explained. “Our recycling system is at 60 per cent diversion. But we have the ability to recycle more than 95 per cent. So the intervening space is just telling people they can do it. Showing them they can do this and then making sure the system is designed in just the right way that’ll make them want to do it.”

What keeps him motivated?

“I’m the kind of person who just wants to do something,” he said. “If you’re sitting in class all day, as all of us do as students, or as all of us used to do as students, you can’t help but hear about a whole bunch of these issues and problems. And after a while you just say to yourself, I could just go do something and I could take care of that problem. I want to change the world in one way, and I can.”

Kimberly Orchard
After spending the summer of 2010 volunteering at an orphanage in Ghana, Kimberly Orchard was inspired by the dedication of children she worked  withthey strived to get high grades despite difficult living conditions. Orchard came back to Canada having decided to continue supporting education for youth in Africa. Upon her return to the U of O campus, the fourth-year psychology major discovered the Canadian Mathare Education Trust uOttawa (CMETrust), a club dedicated to advancing education in Kenya by providing secondary school scholarships to students from the Mathare Valley Slum, Nairobi, and raising awareness in Canada about education and poverty in urban Kenya. Two years later, she’s president of the club, working to educate Canadians and raise funds in creative ways.

She says her biggest accomplishment in the 2012–2013 academic year has been fundraising.

“I am proud to say that this year, CMETrust has raised four scholarships for students living in the Mathare Valley,” she said in an email to the Fulcrum. “We raised this money by holding really fun events on campus, including a dodgeball tournament, a trivia night, and a Brazilian Carnival party.”

The four students will have the opportunity to leave the slum to attend rural boarding schools outside of Nairobi. There, they will learn about basic agricultural practices, play various outdoor sports, and have the opportunity to focus on their academics in a clean, safe learning environment.

Orchard also spends time working as an after-school counsellor for the City of Ottawa; she strives to make a difference in the lives of youth on both a local and international level. She’s also focused on the sustainability and future of the club. In June 2012, CMETrust uOttawa spent an evening with CMETrusts’s Kenyan field representatives Benedict Kiage and Titus Kuria, who were visiting Canada, to ensure the organization is meeting real needs in Kenya and the Mathare Slum and to discuss its future. Orchard has worked to ensure that awareness and motivation continue to be a big focus of the club.

“We raise awareness about our cause through our events and CMETrust uOttawa’s amazing club members,” she explained. “We also share knowledge within the club, by holding Inspiration Stations at every meeting, where a club member shares why they volunteer for CMETrust. I think this helps us stay connected to our cause, and keeps us motivated.”

What keeps Orchard committed?

“It’s really intrinsically motivating, because I have so much fun fundraising with the other volunteers,” she said. “I get to take a break from my studies to plan a fun event with a great group of people, while contributing to a cause I believe is important.”

Allan Rock
Allan Rock, the U of O’s 29th president and vice-chancellor, received both his undergraduate degree in arts and his law degree from our university. During his time as a student he was a mover and shaker; he was as the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa’s president in 1969, and his activism didn’t stop there. Rock has worked as minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, minister of health, minster of infrastructure, and minister of industry, spearheading initiatives such as the creation of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, which promotes research in the humanities and social sciences.

Rock sees one of his and Canada’s most significant contributions to international relations as the set of principles called the Responsibility to Protect that were accepted at the 2005 World Summit.

“When I became ambassador to the UN, Canada’s first priority was really to promote and advocate a set of principles called the Responsibility to Protect, which really grew out of the catastrophes in Rwanda … the cleansing, genocide, mass atrocity,” Rock explained. “The set of principles was intended as a way for the world to respond more effectively when mass atrocities are threatened. So a lot of my work when I was at the UN was promoting this, and Canada succeeded in getting it accepted unanimously at the 2005 World Summit. Since then, it has been gaining strength. It’s been applied very effectively in a couple of cases; Libya is probably the most obvious.”

He continues promoting Responsibility to Protect today.

“I was in New York [March 18], working on issues of the Security Council trying to promote the application of the Responsibility to Protect, which I think has been a major Canadian contribution to international relations.”

Here at the U of O, one of the projects Rock is most proud of is the opening of the Centre for Global and Community Engagement.

“When I arrived here in 2008, I had a vision of the University of Ottawa as a place where, more than any other university in the country, we would have students and faculty and staff who are committed to community service, volunteering, and serving others,” said Rock. “I’m really proud of the fact that students here are stepping up, are volunteering. We’re sending students overseas on a regular basis now. More and more, the coursework involves Community Service Learning, which is terrific, because students and the people they serve both benefit directly.”

Rock’s pride stems from his belief that working for others is essential to leading a meaningful life.

“Among the few things I’ve learned in life, I’ve learned that real fulfilment and real happiness in your work derives mostly from the sense that you’re doing something not just for yourself but for others. That feeling of satisfaction is a very, very big part of the meaning of life,” he said. “Without being too grandiose, I think that setting up a system—putting in place an infrastructure that supports individuals who want to help other people—is a way of letting them fulfill their potential. It’s a key part of education.”

Josee TheTallest
When Josee TheTallest left Dieppe, N.B. for the University of Ottawa, she felt alone.

“I’m Acadian, I’m queer, I’m disabled, I come from a low-income family, I’m francophone. Feeling so isolated in New Brunswick was really hard for me,” she said.

Fortunately, she found a home in both the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) and the Women’s Resource Centre (WRC), and today the fourth-year women’s studies and social work student is working to create that home for others who feel like she used to. One of her main projects in the 2012–2013 academic year was organizing the alternative 101 week, Alt 101.

“OPIRG is a really beautiful organization. My job there was to organize the Alt 101 week,” TheTallest explained. “I did all planning for the week—events every day, all day; I organized all the training for the volunteer guides; all the food, T-shirts; I did all the promo for it; tabling at different events; and I did all the recruiting for people to come to Alt 101.”

She felt rewarded by the work she put into the event.

“It was a very, very, very busy summer, but I think it was totally worth it; it was a beautiful experience to really get to work with students,” she explained. “Alt is about creating a space for progressive conversations. Not everyone’s interested in politics and organizing and looking critically at our social structures, but I think people who are interested in learning more need to be given tools. These kinds of communities are really important to build together. Alt does that for all the weird people who don’t fit in, or who didn’t feel like they really belonged in some of the student body 101 weeks, which, it’s okay if you don’t.”

TheTallest is already looking ahead to next year’s event, which she hopes will be scheduled a few weeks after the start of school, so students have the opportunity to take part in both the federated bodies’ activities and Alt’s. In the meantime, she’s busy working as the WRC’s community relations coordinator at the WRC to advance the centre’s mission to work for a university and society free from oppression.

TheTallest’s list of duties is long, from training and coordinating volunteers to managing social media, but it’s students who really keep her motivated.

“My committee does all the talking with students. If we’re not in the centre, we’re out flyering, we’re tabling , we’re mobilizing one-on-one, we’re at conferences, we’re making sure that we’re talking to students about having free condoms and lube and letting them know, ‘We’re here for you,’” TheTallest said. “It’s so exciting. I’m a student, I care about students, and I want students to access services. What more could you want?”

She’s excited about a childcare campaign, a decolonized-campus campaign, and a Consent is Sexy campaign; but she’s most excited about creating communities, one conversation at a time.

“I wanted to make change, and the thing that has made me the most passionate is having conversations,” said TheTallest. “We’re all working to feel a sense of belonging and a sense of community. I think, at the end of the day, that’s what we all want. We want to be able to love and care for each other in good ways.”