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Guyanese receives Canada’s highest civilian award

| By osafo 

Guyana-born banker Winston Shyam Liaquat Kassim was presented with the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honour for lifetime achievement.

Winston Kassim

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, announced new appointment to the Order of Canada, and Kassim will be among other awardees who will be invited to accept their insignia at a ceremony to be held at a later date.
Kassim is Vice Chairman of the International Development and Relief Foundation (IDRF).
The appointment cites Winston Kassim “for his contributions as a community volunteer who played a key role in establishing several community and religious centres that provide outreach services to refugees and immigrants.”
According to a release from the IDRF, Kassim has made significant contributions over 30 years as a dedicated volunteer who has demonstrated exceptional leadership with many regional, national and international charitable and humanitarian organizations.
“In this moment of Mr Kassim’s recognition,” said Dr. Cassim Degani, Chair of IDRF, “We at IDRF are especially proud as he has devoted a considerable amount of time to the sustainability and growth of the IDRF over the past five years.”
Kassim is the first Guyanese to receive the Order of Canada.
Born in Albouystown, Georgetown, Guyana, he is the sixth of seven children of the late Guyana Supt. of Police, Mr. Subaydar Kassim (retired in 1971) and Hajjin Noorun Nisa Kassim. His siblings are all professionals in their own right. His elder brothers are retired Deputy Commissioner of Police, Sultan Feroze Kassim and the late Dr. Sultan Farook Kassim and his sisters are Bibi Fernando, Dolly Dhaniram, Anne Sawh and Ingrid Innes who are all residing in Canada.
He attended St. Patrick’s Anglican School in East Canje, Berbice and completed his primary education at St. George’s Anglican School in Georgtown. He completed his secondary education at Indian Education Trust College in Georgetown and then began his professional career at Barclays Bank while still a teenager.

Related: Mr. & Mrs Kassim were gunned at Pitt Street, New Amsterdam (no image)

Shahabudeen Kassim was mercilessly gunned down after mosque


He rapidly advanced through increasingly senior roles which led him to running various banking operations in Dominica, St. Lucia, and Barbados.
During this time Kassim completed his professional banking exams and by the age of 22 returned to Guyana assuming his new role as Senior Supervisor with Barclays Bank and it was at this time that he began to focus on volunteer work.
It was in 1975 that Mr. Kassim made the move with his wife, Ms. Kameni Cheddie to Canada to seek more opportunities.
Early in his career, Kassim became drawn to volunteerism and he credits his mother for instilling in him his passion for community service.
He volunteered for organizations such as the Junior Achievement of Ontario and United Way.
He was instrumental in the fundraising and establishment of two prominent Greater Toronto Area mosques in 1981, The Sunatul Jamaat of Ontario Canada and the Malton Islamic Association, and continues to be involved in advisory capacities to their community programs.
By the late the 1980s and early 1990s he had assisted in establishing four more community centres for other faith-based groups which offer venues for social events, education and skill building, all paramount to community building.
His impact and influence have created a lasting legacy for these various communities and Canada as a whole.
A well respected banker with a social conscience, Winston Kassim, in complementing this community building effort, also saw the importance of people developing their life skills, so he leveraged his expertise and knowledge in banking to develop and deliver financial seminars to various groups.
During the 1980s he broadened his volunteerism to a more global stage. Along with so many others, Kassim worked with various groups/ individuals to support the release of Nelson Mandela.
Canada, as head of the Commonwealth, led the call for sanctions against the South African apartheid, culminating in the release of Nelson Mandela. Canada’s efforts towards the release of Nelson Mandela propelled it to gain world prominence for its moral position.
As well, Mr. Kassim continued his lobbying and advocacy by working on the committee for the sponsorship of Nelson Mandela as an Honourary Canadian Citizen.
He was a unique player in the Nelson Mandela campaign as he represented a very small minority of Non South Africans from corporate Canada to champion this cause.
In continuing his humanitarianism on a global level, Mr. Kassim has greatly contributed to Canada’s recognition as one of the top philanthropic countries in the world.
Mr. Kassim currently lends much of his time, expertise and passion to IDRF where humanitarian work benefits people in our world community who are the victims of crisis and disasters, or who are struggling against deprivations caused by severe poverty.
Through Kassim’s instrumentality, the IDRF donated $1M towards the fund for victims of the Lusignan massacre and other causes in Guyana.
Mr. Kassim has been associated with IDRF for over 10 years with his active participation spanning the last five years, and Board membership for the last three years with him currently serving as our volunteer Vice-Chair.
In this role, he assists in leading IDRF with our work that is dedicated to empowering the disadvantaged people of the world.
“It is volunteers such as Mr. Kassim who help IDRF positively impact disadvantaged people from all corners of the earth in some 26 countries, including Canada,” said Dr. Degani.
Mr. Kassim is currently Head, Strategic Initiatives, Canadian Banking of RBC and he holds an MBA from Athabasca University.
Despite his increasingly senior roles within the bank, he maintains that his top priority is his wife Kameni, three children Nadina (married to Kiren), Shaun and Sara and grandson Joshua, and his mother, Hajjin Noorun Nisa Kassim.
Mr. Kassim includes his family in many of his community service and volunteer efforts.

Thursday, July 2, 2009