SANDRA M STANWAY
Friday was a special night for a couple of residents from the region who were formally introduced as the Grasslands FCSS 2018 Junior Citizen of the Year and the Citizen of the Year.
Brooks’ Ahmed Kassem was named the 2018 Citizen of the Year for his work making the region an inclusive and welcoming home for everyone from every country in the world.
He celebrated his evening with his wife and three children.
Kassem arrived in Canada over 20 years ago and moved to Brooks about 17 years ago.
Running a radio and TV show, Kassem is recognized for his ability to bridge gaps for newcomers to the community, province and country.
“He believes it’s not his job to solve the problems for the newcomer but help design the process, improve the communication and build the knowledge so the individual newcomer can find the solution,” said Kassem’s nominator Reg Radke.
Radke described Kassem as a visionary, a man of action who strives to empower newcomers and an ambassador.
Kassem’s long list of involvement includes
• Organizing and starting a local radio show
• TV talk show with a wide range of guests while involving youth in the production
• Strong community supporter, founding director of Newell Expo
• Organized the Unsung Heroes Banquet, key organizer in Taste of Nations
• Involved in a program in conjunction with Medicine Hat College studying post traumatic syndrome in newcomers
• Helps highlight the talents of new Canadians through standalone shows or in conjunction with other programs such as the Brooks Kinsmen Rodeo.
“Ahmed has devoted much of his life in the community to his passion of building a diverse and welcoming community,” said Radke.
“He’s an extraordinary volunteer in our community. He’s an ambassador for our community and he’s a model of integration and engagement.”
Brooks mayor Barry Morishita read the congratulations from the city.
“Your commitment to volunteering and helping others is remarkable. Many people have had their lives enriched because of your passion,” he said.
“I am very humbled to be the person who has been singled out from thousands of volunteers and selfless people who do great things every day in our region,” said Kassem.
He said it’s the value of Global Village, a program Kassem runs, to put others before yourself.
“Our vision is to empower our community through education, especially new Canadians so that everyone might do their part for the common good of all. Sometimes we like to play the victim card,” he said.
Through volunteering people are removed from isolation while gaining improved physical and mental health.
He said volunteering is a juggling act balancing the family, work and community activities.
“I wish to thank my family for their tolerance and support,” he said.
Like Ahmed, Bassano’s 18-year-old Daniel Baek, who was named the Jr. Citizen also juggles school and volunteering.
Baek, a Grade 12 student at Bassano School, was honoured with support from his parents, sister and friends.
Baek was described by his long time friend and nominator, Linda Andres, as a “well-rounded kid” who balances everything easily.
It was said by Andres and through the nomination support letters that Baek has a wide range of school friends, eight of whom attended the banquet, he was top student in his grade for the last five years, he’s student council president and an athlete in many disciplines including running.
He comes from a musical family and taught himself guitar and ukulele, he performs with the church and school choirs as well as organizing food drives.
Among his accomplishments:
• Bassano pool lifeguard – holds a Bronze Cross, Bronze Medallion, National Lifeguard Service certification
• Involved with community activities from carolling to facepainting and lending a hand at the local craft fair
• Attended regional Skills Canada competition in video editing
• Videotapes Brooks Bandits home games
• Enjoys spending time in the mountains with his family.
Reading the county’s congratulations letter reeve Molly Douglass said she has known Baek “since he was a little gaffer.”
“Your level of energy and empathy contributes to improve the lives of everyone you encounter. At a young age you have already realized the concept of collaboration and cooperation and all the benefits of employing those life long strategies.”
Bassano mayor Jackie Peterson also congratulated Baek.
“You really should be very proud of yourself and how you’ve given of yourself,” she said.
Thanking everyone including family and friends, Baek said he needs improvement but is fortunate to be surrounded by great people.
“I have been guided and supported throughout my life by my parents who encourage me and have always steered me to the right path,” he said.
Baek graduates in June with a long term goal as a physician, possibly in pediatrics.
Tabitha Hutchinson and Marion Freimuth presented Baek with a gift on behalf of Terry’s Restaurant.