Cat Ross signs off each of her electronic messages with this quote:
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do something I can do.” -Helen Keller
Cat has consistently proven that she will continue to take on personal challenges and accomplish philanthropic deeds — because she can. She has been dubbed the “philanthropic guru” by her friends, family, and colleagues; a character trait entrenched at a very young age.
Cat was raised in a philanthropic family and learned early in life that giving of oneself benefits many. In grade school, Cat volunteered in the life-skills program to help educational assistants working with students living with exceptionalities. This experience was a catalyst for future good deeds. An empathy-filled, young Cat Ross took on volunteer efforts with organizations and groups such as; the Christmas Cheerboard, Winnipeg Harvest, the Manitoba School Improvement Program, United Way, Run for a Cure, Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Grey Cup Parade, the Alliance for Breast Cancer Information & Support, CancerCare Manitoba, Song for Africa, Eat So They Can Campaign, the Little Travellers, Siloam Mission, and finally Nine Circles Community Health Centre, an organization that would spark an opportunity that would take her to the remote outskirts of Nairobi, in a place called Kibera — a community riddled with orphaned children left behind by AIDS-afflicted parents.
Cat’s selflessness is far-reaching, and her passion for making a difference extends to every corner of her life. Not only has she given her volunteered time and efforts to local organizations and groups, through working at various humanitarian jobs in Winnipeg, including; The Weekend to end Breast Cancer, the Community Respite Service, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, UNICEF Canada, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, Big Brother Big Sisters of Winnipeg, and The Children's Wish Foundation, the Manitoba Lung Association, and the Winnipeg Humane Society, Cat has demonstrated her relentless willingness to give back to the community. The agencies that have benefited from Cat’s kindness are widespread; her generosity is limitless.
In 2005, Cat decided she wanted to turn her humanitarian efforts global. She organized her first Kenya Mission Benefit Concert, a concert featuring local bands who were so easily captivated by her energy that they continue to support Cat in her mission today. Cat captures the attention of many people, from radio, entertainment, and schools to continuous charities and global volunteer agencies. She enthusiastically shares her passion, thus infecting others with her “can-do” attitude. Her inaugural fundraising project provided her with the resources to launch her first distribution trip to Kenya. Once in Kenya, Cat worked in four HIV/AIDS clinics in the Kibera and surrounding slums, monitoring nutrition and medication intake as well as administering massages and stretching exercises. Upon her return to Canada, Cat caught the attention of several schools and organizations and was regularly requested to provide speaking engagements. She has spoken with local media and organizations, and at elementary and secondary schools, universities, and conferences. She has been featured through many media outlets, in which she described her work in Kenya as “a life-altering experience, that ignites my passion to support those in need whenever and however I can.”
To round off her impressive list of non-stop commitments, Cat founded The Kenya Initiative for Development & Sustainability Inc., also called K.I.D.S. Initiative, in April 2010. She assembled a group of professionals who, like Cat, are passionate about bettering the future of children globally while inspiring children locally by participating in service learning projects and educational activities. In January 2013 their organization was officially registered as a charity through the Canada Revenue Agency. Cat now travels to Kenya every year to oversee the distribution of funds and materials supporting income generating projects into the core programs that K.I.D.S. Initiative supports until sustainable status is reached. Cat’s commitment to providing aid to those in need will likely continue for a very long time.
Some people give through a one-time bequest. Others choose to give during their lifetime in order to see the impact of their contribution and to share in the joy and rewards of giving. For as long as Cat lives, she will continue to build relationships with beneficiaries and partner agencies, and she will continue to inspire her family, friends, staff, and community to improve the lives of those in need. Why? Because she can.
Geoff is married with two children, Zach and Abby. He has been successfully selling real estate since 1991 with his wife Regan joining him in 2007. Geoff & Regan are very active in their community and were born with the innate need to give back to others. They have both played integral parts on many boards throughout the years and have supported numerous organizations both through their financial support and giving back their time. Geoff & Regan traveled to the field in Kenya in 2016 to first hand witness the projects that K.I.D.S. have been supporting. Seeing how little can do so much in Kenya has renewed their support of the organization. Geoff is happy to be involved with K.I.D.S. since it's inception and in supporting Cat Ross with her goals.
FRANCESKA ST. HILAIRE
GRANT WRITING COMMITTEE
She is currently working in the insurance industry, and studying at the University of Manitoba working towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Business that she hopes to use with her passion for life, and energy to make the world a better place. Hungry for life and adventure, Franceska sought to learn about different cultures, religions and lifestyles. During a trip to Uganda, Africa, she was confronted with the harsh realities of third world living, starvation, poverty, sickness and disease and the stigmas associated. A second trip to industrialized Japan, highlighted the socio-economic differences between the various Countries, and solidified a desire to fight for equality, social programming, and inter-community collaboration efforts.These experiences led her to get involved locally with Unicef, United Way, Siloam Mission, Christmas Cheer Board, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Winnipeg Harvest. Most recently, she become involved with K.I.D.S where she is excited to make a difference globally, and fight for those are unable to fight for themselves.
GRANT WRITING COMMITTEE
Alessia Guzzi is currently an Environmental Science student at the University of Manitoba. Her passion for aiding those in need stemmed from her junior high and high school years while participating in the St. Mary’s Academy Human Rights Team and the Youth in Philanthropy club. Getting involved introduced her to the inequality faced by many people locally and globally. Alessia became acquainted with the non-profit sector through The Winnipeg Foundation’s Youth in Philanthropy and Summer Internship Programs, and has been motivated to stay involved with non-profit organizations to support the remarkable work that is being done. She aspires to be a part of the solution to global poverty by supporting the implementation of sustainable projects. Getting involved with this organization gave her the opportunity to support a cause she is passionate about. Alessia is excited to be a part of creating change in Kenya with K.I.D.S. Initiative.
SOCIAL & DIGITAL MEDIA COORDINATOR
Laila’s upbringing revolved around generosity and giving. Her parents were active participants in their community, and naturally so was Laila. With her exposure to the inequalities of her birth country, Pakistan, she developed a mature mindset at a young age and desire to aid those in need regardless of who or where. She believes that kind actions have a rippling effect, and that many small gestures can collectively amount to great change. Laila joined the board after learning about KIDS Initiative’s efforts, and hopes to help KIDS with their mission. She is a graduate from The Asper School of Business with a double major in Supply Chain Logistics and Human Resource Management, currently working as a Talent Sourcing Specialist at a recruitment agency. Laila is also a youth mentor for various organizations in Winnipeg including, Newcomer Employment Education Development Services (N.E.E.D.S. Inc.), as well as a previous volunteer with Winnipeg Mennonite Seniors Care (W.M.S.C. Inc).
Kara is currently studying Biosystems Engineering with a focus on health and environmental sustainability to learn how she can make a difference in people’s lives through the implementation of innovative, sustainable solutions. However, Kara’s aspirations in sustainable development were sparked in grade school from her work with many committees and initiatives, including social justice and fair trade groups. She has been privileged to study and travel abroad in countries with a range of socioeconomic statuses giving her a unique worldview and global mindset. Her involvement in K.I.D.S. provides her the opportunity to broaden the scope of her focus to an international setting. She enjoys being involved in supporting sustainable development plans, and sees true value in raising awareness within her community about the issues faced by the schools, camps, and clinics K.I.D.S. supports.
Angel is a Chartered Professional Accountant with 20+ years experience in private industry, provincial government and health. She is also a professional photographer specializing in travel and landscapes. Her volunteer resume includes 8 years on the executive, including President and Treasurer, for the YWCA Thompson along with many other organizations during her years living in Northern Manitoba. Angel has a strong connection to Kenya, having traveled there in 2017 to volunteer at an orphanage. She fell in love with the people and country and is currently planning a return trip. She is a strong advocate for improving the lives of others through collaboration and sustainable projects making KIDS Initiative an ideal fit for her skills and passion for a better world, one step at a time.