Build Community. Act for Peace.
The YMCA is dedicated to strengthening the foundations of community—and peace is fundamental to strong and healthy communities. Peace is important to the YMCA. Many people and organizations do important peace-building work and when YMCA Peace Medallions are awarded, we celebrate others’ contributions to peace, shining a light on peace-building efforts in our communities.
The YMCA appreciates the acts for peace taking place around us. The YMCA Peace Medallion recognizes individuals building peace in their communities and inspiring the lives of others.
The 2015 Peace Medallion recipients
Simrat Heer - 2015 Peace Medallion Recipient
Simrat Heer is a 12th grade high school student at Streetsville Secondary School. Simrat was born in the UK; her family moved to Mississauga, Ontario in 2011. While Simrat is like any grade 12 student, she stands out among most young women her age due to her extraordinarily impactful community work in advocating for change in how young girls treat one another.
Simrat has one goal with the community building work she is engaged in, and that is to end girl on girl bullying. She is doing this by reaching out to community partners, delivering inspiring presentations, and both speaking with and listening to the experience of young women in our community.
Simrat’s efforts in this area have deeply personal roots. At seven years old she experienced the onset of a rare facial disorder called Romberg’s Syndrome. Throughout her school years in the UK she was a victim of horrific bullying by her peers. She has turned this experience into an opportunity to build peace in our community.
Simrat shares the raw and uncomfortable feelings of how ugly bullying is in our world. Simrat forces her audience to question why women/girls engage in such behaviour and how incredibly painful and impactful it is on an individual. Simrat is inspiring in her ability to creatively engage others (particularly young girls who are bullied or who have bullied) to understand the perspective of being a victim of bullying and also how to overcome this adversity, be resilient, and carry on with strength and joy in her life (only further promoting peace).
Simrat’s goal is to reach as many people as possible to spread this message. She is doing so by getting up and speaking in front of a variety of audiences that span a vast array of people: the medical community, mental health community, high school students and educators, regional employees. She is getting people to stop, think, and reflect and thus acting differently.
Kavita Dogra was born in Canada but spent a portion of her childhood growing up in a suburb of New Delhi, India. It was during this time that Kavita was exposed to poverty and social injustices, as well as educational opportunities that empowered women through her mother’s civic engagement. Kavita was inspired to take action on both a global and local scale through volunteerism, co-founding a non-profit organization and initiating an annual event taking place each year on International Women’s Day.
Kavita founded an awareness organization called We Talk Women which provides a platform for open dialogue on topics directly impacting women such as female genital mutilation, trafficking, child marriage, peace and missing Aboriginal women. Kavita organizes events that engage the community through documentary screenings and guest speakers on previously mentioned topics. Kavita has brought attention to a number of issues impacting women locally and globally through her online outreach and events. We Talk Women was born out of participation in a campaign called ‘Join me on the Bridge’. This campaign began in 2010 when women from Congo and Rwanda joined together on a bridge connecting their countries; demanding peace. ‘Join me on the Bridge’ in an effort to show solidarity and the capacity of women to mend bridges of peace and create stronger communities.
Raising awareness and disseminating information does not often have a tangible impact but she has successfully engaged people that were not already engaged in women’s rights issues. They are reading blogs, sharing stats and attending events therefore Kavita has managed to raise their level of consciousness. She has recently started a new program with a local shelter where she works to connect women living there with nature by leading walks. The program is being well received and she hopes to do this at other shelters as well.