Raymond Ngarboui was a single father with no English proficiency when he came to Winnipeg from Chad 10 years ago.
Ever since, Ngarboui has been tireless not only in his efforts to learn English, study at the post-secondary level and find meaningful work, but also in his volunteer efforts helping newcomers integrate into Canadian society.
Ngarboui started Rainbow Community Gardens in 2008. He teaches new immigrants, refugee families and single mothers how to grow vegetables.
The project started with 16 families from seven nationalities, and has grown to involve 288 families of 26 different nationalities. They grow crops on nine sites across southern Manitoba.
"When I see refugees and new immigrants — who cannot afford nutritious food from the store — growing vegetables to eat… that makes me proud," Ngarboui, 43, said. "It’s about giving back to the community members who are in need, just as I received from other people when I was in need."
Ngarboui is one of more than 30 volunteers who will be recognized tomorrow evening at the 34th Annual Volunteer Awards.
The awards, to be presented at the RBC Convention Centre by Volunteer Manitoba and Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries, recognize exceptional volunteers from across the province.
Ngarboui also volunteers his time with the United Way Speakers’ Bureau and sits on numerous community boards. He said he feels honoured to be receiving the Premier Volunteer Service Award.
"It comes from the bottom of my heart (when I) give back to community members and people in need, so I was not expecting anything," he said.
Angelika Stoesz, who is receiving the Association of Manitoba Municipalities Community Leadership Award for her work co-ordinating the Rhineland Area Food Bank, has similar feelings.
"I was quite taken aback and surprised by the whole thing," said Stoesz, 64, who lives an hour south of Winnipeg in Altona. "It’s an award I will accept for all our volunteers. One person can’t do it (alone). It’s quite humbling."
Stoesz co-founded the food bank, which opened its doors 20 years ago on the first Monday in May 1997. Two clients used the food bank that day.
Today, it serves 40 to 50 clients from Altona, Gretna, Plum Coulee and Rosenfeld, as well as those living in the surrounding rural areas. Stoesz, who works with a team of 40 volunteers to run the food bank, can hardly believe she’s been at it for two decades.
"The time goes by and you don’t even realize it," she said, adding that working with people keeps her going. "I enjoy meeting the (clients), and I work with a wonderful bunch of volunteers."
It is an honour to recognize and celebrate the award recipients, Diane Bazin, board president of Volunteer Manitoba, said in a release.
"Manitoba’s volunteers continue to lead by example, inspiring others to get involved and transforming their communities," Bazin said. "The impact being made by volunteers is what makes Manitoba one of the leading provinces when it comes to community engagement — something we can all take pride in."
For more information about the awards, including a list of this year’s winners, visit volunteermanitoba.ca/awards.
If you know a special volunteer, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.