Two Russell youth who started a fundraiser to help reunite immigrant families in their hometown are the 2012 winners of the Rural Youth Achievement Award presented last week in Brandon at Capturing Opportunities.
Ayla Hamilton, 13 and her brother Van Hamilton, eight, were recognized for their extraordinary effort to start a “Kids Helping Kids” initiative that saw local children, youth and adults in Russell take up the cause of helping to raise cash to help Filipino parents in the community separated from their children after making the move to Canada.
The pair received a standing ovation and several in the audience were visibly moved by Ayla’s short speech.
“This is what you do when you live where we live,” she said. “What the kids are doing is just living out the spirit of small-town Manitoba.”
The pair has dedicated their $1,000 cash award to the project and said they plan to create a scrapbook to present to each reunited family that includes all the records of donations and events that supported Kids Helping Kids.
“This award will go in it,” said Ayla.
The Rural Youth Award and three others are presented each year at Capturing Opportunities, a business and community forum, to honour significant achievements in community development and innovation.
“This year’s winners were chosen from an impressive group of industrious people who are dedicated to progress, innovation and community service,” said Manitoba Agriculture Food and Rural Initiatives Minister Ron Kostyshyn who presented the awards.
“Each of these recipients continues to set an excellent example for others to follow as we work together for a stronger, more vibrant Manitoba.”
Others honoured during the evening included Peter Dueck of Arborg who was presented with an Outstanding Community Leadership Award for his generous support for community projects benefiting local youth, seniors and the larger community.
Dueck has donated land to build a 16-unit (now completed) seniors’ housing project and also bought and restored a vacant building for a local community centre, plus has served on numerous boards dedicated to community enhancement and development. Dueck is also co-president of Vidir Machine, a major manufacturer and employer in the region.
The Economic Development Innovation Award for community involvement by an organization or municipality was presented to Asessippi Parkland Economic Development for its achievement in maximizing regional resources through tax-sharing agreements.
The Economic Development Innovation Award for community involvement by a business was presented to Okno Manufacturing of Arborg, which was instrumental in launching an initiative to pave gravel roads in the district, while also working with First Nation communities to provide job training and recruitment to address regional labour needs and helping to assist settling new Canadians in the area.
All four category winners received a commemorative glass trophy and $1,000 which they are contributing to a community group of their choice. Dueck is dedicating his to the Arborg-Bifrost Community Development Corporation. Okno Manufacturing’s prize money will go to Teen Challenge in Winnipeg. Asessippi Parklands will be turning their $1,000 to the area’s Habitat for Humanity chapter that’s helping to deal with a local housing shortage in Russell.