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.
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.
BOARD SECRETARY, 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.
BOARD DIRECTOR, VOLUNTEER 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).
FRANCESKA ST. HILAIRE
BOARD DIRECTOR, 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.
BOARD DIRECTOR, GRANT WRITING COMMITTEE
Ari was raised into a middle-class family in India. Growing up, the income gap between the rich and the poor was quite apparent. As a kid he noticed disparity among his classmates and friends. Some kids came from nothing and some came from extreme wealth. He was intrigued by how the poor seemed happy and content, and the rich were driven by greed.
Introduced to volunteering at a young age by his family as a summer experiment, Ari was hesitant at first, but later fell in love with the feeling of togetherness and the idea of being part of a community that believed in the greater good.
Ever since he has sought out organizations and groups comprising of selfless individuals who dedicate their time and energy to help others in need. Ari has worked with local charities like United way, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, Engineers Without Borders and Boys and Girls Club during his 8 years in Canada. He felt that he was ready to make an international impact by working with an organization that reaches beyond borders. This was when he met Cat and the K.I.D.S. organization who convinced him that his professional and volunteering experience could be translated into making a real difference in the local Kenyan communities.
He is excited for his new role as a member to the board of directors and is looking forward to working with his new team. In his spare time, he loves to travel, cook and is currently training to run his first marathon.
He has lived in 6 countries and traveled to 35. As a materials engineer, his job has taken him to many countries, and he has cherished experiences which have contributed towards his personal growth. His dream is to travel to 100 countries before he turns 50, and to visit Kenya someday and meet people in the communities in which K.I.D.S.supports.
BOARD DIRECTOR, EVENT COMMITTEE
Keith is married with two kids. He started working at a family business in 1995 and in 2006 became a partner and now owner.
He enjoys playing different sports (hockey, soccer, sponge hockey and golf), spending time with his family and he loves to travel.
Keith is passionate about helping people who may not have the means to help themselves and especially kids in any way he can. He learned about K.I.D.S. through Founder, Cat Ross and liked what she, along with K.I.D.S Initiative, does and has done in Kenya and wanted to be a part of the great work they are accomplishing.
If anyone asks why Terry Fox said it best, “The answer is to always try and help others”.
BOARD DIRECTOR, GRANT WRITING COMMITTEE
Maria is an experienced researcher and analyst with a Masters degree in social policy from the University of Oxford, where she focused her studies on children and youth orphaned by HIV-AIDS in South Africa. She is dedicated to the development of collaborative, sustainable, and evidence-informed programs that work upstream to improve the lives of children, families, and their communities. She has lived in six different countries in Europe and South America and is an avid traveller. Maria has volunteered and worked in Winnipeg’s non-profit sector for ten years holding leadership positions at United Way and RaY Inc.