Meet our Ambassadors
It’s no exaggeration to say that Habitat for Humanity has changed Marc Caron’s life. Since he started volunteering with the non-profit in 2002, Marc has helped build Habitat homes in his own backyard, Canada’s north and seven countries around the world.
As one of our new Habitat GO Ambassadors, he first became involved as a volunteer with our Family Selection Committee. Marc went on to serve two terms on our Board of Directors and he volunteered to help build homes in the Ottawa area. Then Marc went on his first Global Village (GV) trip with Habitat for Humanity to Iqaluit in 2009 and he was hooked!
After participating in a GV Team Leadership Training session in El Salvador in 2010, he has since then led teams on the following GV builds: Honduras in 2011, Nicaragua in 2012, Whitehorse in 2013, Chile in 2014, Guatemala in 2015, Costa Rica in 2016 and Fiji in 2017.
When asked if he has a favourite Habitat memory, Marc says it’s hard to pick just one.
“Each build has its own specific highlight, but in all cases it comes down to the people you are working with, whether it is your fellow volunteers, Habitat personnel or the family members you are building with,” he says. “Habitat is a unique experience and is far more fulfilling than simply writing a donation cheque to a charitable organization.”
Marc began his professional career as a civil engineer and he ended up working in the high tech sector, but he missed being hands-on with the building process.
“That’s what brought me to Habitat,” says Marc. “While working in high tech, I would get my company and clients involved in various builds in Ottawa and GV builds abroad and many of these team members have gone on to join Habitat GO committees or local builds.”
He’s now enjoying retirement, which gives him more time to get the word out about Habitat GO through his role as an Ambassador. He says that he always tells people who might be interested in helping Habitat GO that they should try it out and see how good it feels.
“One of the consistent feedbacks I get from my team members on GV trips is that it has been a life-changing experience,” says Marc. “We are on a mission to help others, but in a lot of cases the families we are building with are helping us as well.”
Habitat for Humanity was an organization that Melissa Baird had wanted to get involved with for many years. She finally decided the time was right in 2012 after meeting Habitat GO’s CEO at a networking event and learning about the different volunteer opportunities that were available.
“After talking to Alexis, I knew that the Family Selection Committee would be a good fit,” says Melissa. “Giving back to the community is a core value of mine and Habitat has given me the opportunity to do so.”
As a chiropractor who works at the Glebe Chiropractic Clinic, Melissa is a people person who was looking for new experiences and leadership opportunities. After a few years, she became the Chair of our Family Selection Committee in 2016.
“Volunteering with Habitat GO has allowed me to meet more people, but also expand my knowledge,” she says. “Most of the Family Selection Committee members have either a financial or housing-related background so I had a steeper learning curve, but I was able learn a lot to the point where I was comfortable chairing the committee.”
Melissa is quick to answer when asked about what is the biggest highlight of her time with Habitat GO.
“It’s definitely seeing families who work so hard being so excited about owning their own home,” she says. “Every time you see a family get approved in the family selection process and then finally buy their home and move into it, it’s very rewarding.”
Melissa has decided to become a Habitat GO Ambassador now that she’s ended her term on the Family Selection Committee. What she enjoys about Habitat GO is that there are so many ways to make a difference in the lives of Habitat GO’s future homeowners, from fundraising and special events to financial support and volunteering on the build, in the office, the ReStores or on a committee.
“I would suggest that anyone wanting to get involved with Habitat GO meets with an Ambassador, contact the office or sit in on a committee meeting to see what might be of interest to them.”
While most of our Ambassadors are long-time Habitat GO volunteers, Jody Anderson is new to the organization.
She was looking for a way to give back to her community, especially in a way that could help local Indigenous families. Habitat GO began its first urban Indigenous Build in 2013 and it will complete its third later this year.
Jody is proud Métis woman who was born and raised in Sioux Lookout, Ontario and she now lives in Ottawa with her family. Jody has worked at AFOA Canada (formerly the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association of Canada) for the past 12 years and she currently serves as its Public Relations Manager.
“To me it is important to give back to the community that supports you and this is just one way,” she says, adding that she has been inspired after learning about how Habitat for Humanity has made a difference in our local community and across Canada. “If I can become a part of this life-changing project, I would humbled to do so.”
When asked why someone should get involved with Habitat GO as a volunteer, she is quick to answer.
“Don’t think about it, just do it,” she says. “In the spirit of giving and gifting opportunities, this is an organization that changes lives in a HUGE way.”
Volunteering has been an important part of Dana Burgess’s life since she was a teenager. That’s why helping to launch Habitat GO’s Youth Build program in 2015 meant so much to her.
“I really enjoyed seeing so many talented and passionate young leaders in the community come together for an amazing cause,” she says.
As the Chair of the Youth Build Committee, Dana worked tirelessly with an intrepid group of students to identify opportunities for young people between the ages between 16-24 to get involved with Habitat GO through construction experiences, awareness campaigns and/or fundraising initiatives.
The Youth Build, which is now in its third year, has since raised more than $55,000 for Habitat GO and attracted a wide range of young people, from local high students and recent graduates to post-secondary students from Algonquin College, the University of Ottawa and Carleton University.
Dana was able to successfully utilize her business expertise to help make the Youth Build as success and now she is using those skills as one of our Ambassadors. A large part of her professional career is building networks and awareness of the local business environment as the Manager of Advisory Services at the Ottawa offices of EY, a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services.
Dana says that it’s wonderful that there are so many different ways you can get involved at Habitat GO.
“If you’re looking to do some physical labour or work outdoors, you can volunteer on the build site,” says Dana. “If strategic thinking or fundraising is more your strength, you can join a committee.
Some people may be concerned that they don’t have enough time in their schedule to start volunteering, but Dana is a great example of someone who makes it work.
“Habitat GO has been able to provide me with a volunteer opportunity which is adaptable to the amount of time I have to dedicate. If you’re able to find a position that suits your interest area, strengths, lifestyle and the amount of time you have available, you will find you will enjoy it that much more!”