While most university students are thinking about whether they can afford a night on the town, Erin Ward was figuring out how she could be giving back to her community.
Ward was a founding member of the Young Philanthropists’ Network, a group of 18-35-year-olds who pool their time and resources to contribute to an endowment fund at The Winnipeg Foundation, and make grants to the community.
“I think it’s always been a part of who I am,” Ward says of her philanthropic ambitions. “It’s just the nature of how I was raised. Even in school, that was the mentality, to be a part of your community, to help out your community.”
Ward, 24, was recently recognized with a Caring Canadian Award. Created by the Governor General in 1995, these awards recognize individuals who volunteer their time to help others, building a smarter and more caring nation. Ward was given the award by Gov. Gen. David Johnston at a Winnipeg ceremony in June.
“She is an excellent example of the philanthropic spirit and appreciates the importance of volunteerism to a healthy community. The fact that she has achieved this level of socially responsible understanding at such a young age is truly remarkable,” says Joanna Fultz, who was one of Ward’s nominators. Fultz , youth engagement and grants coordinator at The Winnipeg Foundation, has known Ward for a number of years.
Ward has been actively engaged with the Foundation in many capacities.
During high school, Ward was a Youth in Philanthropy (YiP) participant while attending St. Mary’s Academy. YiP committees engage students to learn about philanthropy by making $5,000 worth of grants to local charitable organizations. After graduation in 2007, Ward participated in the Foundation’s Summer Internship Program (SIP) with a placement at the Manitoba Children’s Museum. This program is for YiP members who demonstrate a keen interest in the non-profit sector, and in volunteerism.
“Her mentors were extremely complimentary about her integrity, diligence, and motivation as demonstrated in her work ethic and perseverance, compassion and enthusiasm, and her overall presence at their organization,” Fultz says.
Following SIP, Ward wanted to do more, hence creation of the Young Philanthropists’ Network (YPN). As a founding member of YPN, she has shown integral leadership as a community liaison responsible for relationship building, committee organization, decision-making, fundraising, and helping to facilitate the grantmaking process, Fultz says.
“She has proved an exceptional leader in her fairness, courtesy for others, and ability to work within diverse settings,” Fultz says. “The impact of her engagement in community will be felt for years to come.”
Ward is also a member on the Foundation’s Nourishing Potential Advisory Committee, deciding on the allocation of grants for after-school nutrition programs.
She recently completed degrees in Education and Human Ecology at the University of Manitoba, and is currently teaching full-time. Now that she is a teacher, Ward is attempting to encourage her students with values similar to her own.
“Even moving forward in to teaching, I’m trying to instill [philanthropic values] in my students – to get them to see how they fit in to their community and the greater community, whether that’s local or global.”
Although she is honoured to be recognized with such a prestigious award, Ward aspires to do more.
“It was really weird to get [the award], one because I’m so young, and two because I’ve got so much more to do,” she says. “It’s nice to be honoured, but I carry on. I’ve got lots of work to do.”
Click here for more information about the Caring Canadian Awards.
This is part of a series on the recent Caring Canadian Award winners from Winnipeg. Click here to read about other recipients.