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Blog: Being a volunteer means being the change

Monday, April 24, 2017   (0 Comments)
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By Ankita Ohri

My first taste of volunteerism began with a special needs family support group in Dubai. At 16 years old, it was an unforgettable experience and clearly whetted an appetite to keep giving back and connecting to a community. I soon found myself organizing networking events, educational workshops at my university, the Schulich School of Business at York University to help connect students with successful professionals in the workforce. After working for a few years in Toronto, I was looking for a new outlet to make an impact. I wanted to join an organization with a strong vision that reflected the values I was passionate about – and I found that when I joined Ascend Canada’s Member Program and Events Team in January 2016. I wanted to be part of a change – no, be the change – in a greater movement that would impact the lives of many diverse talented professionals. 

Being an active member of Ascend since that time has been an immensely rewarding experience. I started small by organizing two mid-size mentoring events in May 2016. Being new to the team, I was anxious to lead two events, however, these opportunities helped me push my boundaries. I seized the opportunity to lead, exercise my judgment and run all aspects of the events with the support of my peers on the events team. This experience also allowed me to work with executives from different industries, build my brand and grow my network. The recognition of delivering a top notch event and collaborating with various stakeholders was rewarding and energizing.

Bringing in a fresh perspective to the team, we identified specific areas where we could collaborate better amongst our work-streams to reduce key person dependencies, manage workloads; and de-briefed on action items. It was fulfilling to see these action items come to life this year where we worked closely with our  colleagues  in Marketing, Operations, and Sponsorship,  to plan for our marquee event, the annual Ascend Awards gala that was held on April 4th.  

I was excited to be part of the lead organizing team for the gala. After months of extensive planning, collaboration and hard work, it was rewarding to sit in the audience and for a moment, take it all in. We were in the presence of distinguished and proven leaders such as John Chen, Executive Chairman & CEO of Blackberry and Janice Fukakusa, recently retired CAO & CFO of RBC. Both are true examples of leaders who constantly innovated to differentiate to achieve results and are avid champions of diversity and inclusion. Observing their authenticity when they spoke and hearing the appreciation of their honesty and openness from our guests that evening was a testament to the value that Ascend brings to the forefront. It was inspiring to learn about the accomplishments of those who won awards and their aspirations to continue to contribute to the community. The event proved a great opportunity to showcase the impact and power that Ascend is creating in the marketplace to our Ascend sponsors and business leaders. It makes me proud to be part of such as great organization. The success of the event  would  not have been possible  without the support of the dedicated volunteers involved in the organization of the gala.

I have learned a great deal from senior executives and peers who are part of the Ascend community and feel very proud to be part of such a great organization that exists to help members develop their skills and expand their network to assist them in advancing into future leadership positions.

It’s a great week to talk about volunteering as we celebrate National Volunteer Week (April 23-29) in Canada. One piece of advice for those who have never volunteered and are thinking about getting more involved, either in  Ascend or somewhere else: Find an organization that matches your passion and just get started. The key is to find something you love to do and enjoy doing for others. Organizations are always looking for volunteers and you'll learn about those opportunities if you open that door and step on through!

 Ankita Ohri is Manager, Data Risk Management CoE, Internal Audit at TD. If you’re interested in volunteering with the Ascend, reach out to her at

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Ascend Canada was founded in 2012 to enhance the presence, visibility and influence of current and future Pan-Asian business leaders. Today, with the support of our more than 3,000 members and numerous corporate partners, our objectives are to develop the full potential of our members by leveraging our networks and providing programs and events that inspire, as well as educate. 

Vision: To have a diverse and inclusive Canada where pan-Asian talent can achieve its full potential.

Mission: Partner and progress with Canadian Organizations to develop and advance pan-Asian talent.

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