Friday, March 23, 2007

Hail the New Pioneers

I attended an amazing, inspiring (if a tad overlong) event last night thanks to my buddy Bruce Poon Tip of GAP Adventures, one of Canada’s most celebrated entrepreneurs (and rightfully so).

It was the New Pioneer Awards at the Toronto Convention Centre, produced by Skills for Change, a wonderful street-level organization in T.O. that helps immigrants and newcomers to Toronto find jobs and economic opportunity.

The awards celebrate achievers in business, the arts, science, service and youth. Despite the glitzy stage design and the glossy professionalism of the whole evening, the stories the awards tell are very human and moving. And they make you wonder what you've done that compares with the trials and the successes these winners have encountered.

Congrats to all the 2007 New Pioneer Awards winners:

Hari Krishnan (Arts): South Indian dances with a Canadian twist;

Beverley Halls (Community Service): overcame deafness and a reckless youth to become an advocate for at-risk kids. (Her a cappella song for her mentors, “The Wind Beneath My Wings,” brought the house down);

Dr. Michael Siu (Science and Technology): expert in mass spectrometry at York University, now working on early detection of endometrial cancer.

Juan Orozco (Skills for Change Graduate): professional engineer from Colombia who fought for professional certification in Ontario and how helps other Latin American engineers navigate Canada’s accreditation maze;

Sadia Rafiquddin (Youth): Pakistani refugee and University of Toronto student committed to international affairs, peace and tolerance – and touted as a future Prime Minister;

Bruce Poon Tip (Entrepreneurship): Trinidadian-born founder of GAP Adventures, one of the world’s largest – and surely the most eco- and culture-sensitive – adventure travel companies.

In a story I've just written to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of PROFIT Magazine, I credit Canada's good fortune in attracting so many talented immigrants as a key driver of Canada's entrepreneurial revolution. And these winners exemplify that spirit and determination.

Read more about these winners here, or click on their names to read their individual writeups from the Toronto Star . But it still won’t be the same as being there.

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