Cat Ross signs off each of her electronic messages with a quote by Helen Keller: “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.” 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 decided in Grade 8 that she was going to do a project on HIV/AIDS to broaden her knowledge about people living with the effects of a disease that once carried a deep-rooted stigma. She never forgot the lessons learned while researching about HIV/AIDS and decided to embark on 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. 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 Eat So They Can Campaign, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, Big Brother Big Sisters of Winnipeg, and The Children's Wish Foundation, Cat has demonstrated her relentless willingness to give back to the community. Her desire to help those living with the effects of HIV or AIDS also permeated her professional development; as an adult, she was invaluable in supporting and providing companionship to clients living with HIV or AIDS at Nine Circles Community Health Centre. 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 slum, 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 the passion to support those in need whenever and however you 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 into the five 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.
Ginger Gill is a biologist working for an environmental consulting company. She is responsible for managing aquatic-based projects and has been given opportunities to travel and work throughout many remote areas of Manitoba by boat, float plane, and helicopter. Ginger earned both a B.Sc. and M.Sc. at the University of Manitoba in Entomology. Her enthusiasm for all things living (including bugs!) has been a part of her make-up since childhood. Her volunteer experience and interest in being a small part of a larger solution has led her to K.I.D.S. Initiative, a cause in which she is genuinely excited to share and participate.
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.
FRANCESKA ST. HILAIRE
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.
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.
James has been working in the Insurance Industry since 2014 providing Insurance solutions for businesses and organizations. He moved from Kenya at a young age and has been fortunate enough to be able to visit back as an adult. Inspired in high school by some great role models, he learned the significance of charitable work and giving back to the local and global community. His desire to give back to his native country, in particular, motivated James to get involved with K.I.D.S. Initiative. James is enthusiastic to help in the organization’s purpose to support Kenyans suffering inequalities in the areas of health, education, and economic empowerment. He currently also volunteers at the United Way of Winnipeg and has numerous past volunteer experiences including at the Health Science Centre Foundation, Tuxedo Villa Extendicare retirement home, and the Children’s Museum.
Kimberly is a graduate from the Business Administration program at Red River College with a major in marketing. She has also taken International Development courses at the University of Winnipeg. She aspires to utilize her marketing background to work in the non-profit sector developing marketing campaigns. She also currently volunteers with The Dream Factory, which has given her a better understanding of the large impact a local organization can really have on its community. Kimberly’s interest in global development stemmed from her childhood growing up in Guyana, a developing country. In high school, she was part of a group called The Kenya Connection Project, which was a partner of KIDS Initiative. Through this partnership she learnt about the importance of sustainable development in Kenya and was interested in being a part of KIDS Initiative ever since. She has always been passionate about helping others and contributing to local and global organizations. In the past, she has volunteered with Red River College, Amnesty International and Cancer Care Manitoba.
A Social Worker in Child & Family Services for over two years. She is passionate about helping children, youth and families achieve their own goals to create a better future for themselves. Her interests in charitable work began in High School when she became involved in various groups such as; Activists Club, Save the Children and Youth in Philanthropy. Through these groups, she became inspired to raise awareness locally in order to create positive change in the community and globally. Lara has volunteered for various organizations such Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Oxfam International and was involved in PEERS: Students Helping Students at University of Manitoba. She joined K.I.D.S Initiative in order to advocate for children, youth and families living in poverty. Lara is looking forward to becoming involved with a program that assists people and communities in becoming self-sufficient.
A capable young man with a great capacity for leadership and a passion for public service. His resume of accomplishments began in Jamaica as the founder of Toybox Charity Foundation. Partnering with the Government of Jamaica, he opened the Sunshine Childcare Facility providing dispute resolution over 45 young girls experiencing significant childhood trauma.
Since his relocation to Manitoba, Neil’s passion for philanthropy continues to be the focal point of his life. Currently, he is an employee with the Provincial Government. Notably, he was a part of the Syrian Refugee Emergency Rescue (SRER) initiative. His meaningful contributions aided in the smooth transition and resettlement of 1500 Syrian refugees in Manitoba.
Neil is the president of his local church Youth Drama Ministry. To date, he has written and produced two successful Easter drama productions. Additionally, he works with several community organizations and NGO’s. His volunteer experiences include the Newcomers Employment and Education Development Services (NEEDS), Manitoba Legal Aid Clinic, Siloam Mission, St. Amant Centre and United Way.
He is a strong advocate for disenfranchised youth. For instance, by encouraging two at-risk young men to further their education, Neil was instrumental to their acceptance into University. His current course of study is Canadian Labor Law at the University of Manitoba.
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).