Local resident wins award for volunteer work

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Khandijah Khan-Potter, is a local recipient of an award that recognizes women who help others in their community. Photo by Judith van Berkom.

Khadijah Khan-Potter, Kitchissippi resident and recent recipient of Ontario’s 2014 Leading Women, Leading Girls, Building Communities Awards, wholeheartedly embraces opportunities to build community and help those who are disadvantaged.

The award celebrates leadership in women and girls who work at improving the lives of others in their community. Khan-Potter, who was nominated for the award by Janelle Vandergrift from the Somerset Community Centre, was also endorsed by four other women.

Vandergrift sees Khan-Potter as someone who cares about equality and diversity, particularly the underrepresentation of low-income people, including ethnic minorities.

“She is passionate about the importance of women’s involvement in civic life and, as a woman of colour herself, she is keen to ensure women from all ethnic backgrounds are represented,” says Vandergrift.

Khan-Potter, who came to Canada from the Philippines in 2001, spent many years of her youth in Laos where she attended an international school. When the situation in Laos became politically unstable, her family moved back to the Philippines where Khan-Potter completed her education in Communications.

In Canada, Khan-Potter worked as a court reporter for seven years. Later, she wanted to go into the legal administration field, but there was no work available. Instead, she attended Algonquin College, completing the Water and Waste Management Program in 2008. It was at this point that she discovered how much she enjoyed working with people and building community.

Khan-Potter only started volunteering a year ago. She began stocking shelves at the Parkdale Food Centre (PFC) in May 2013, gradually advancing into administration, data entry, greeting clients, and representing PFC at various community events. She is currently the site coordinator for Ottawa Good Food Box at the PFC. She also takes care of people who sponsor families in need.

As her whirlwind year as a volunteer evolved, Khan-Potter took leadership courses through Centretown Community Centre, was introduced to Community Development at the Somerset Community Centre and later to CAWI (City of All Women Initiative), an organization which encourages gender equality.

Currently working as a volunteer facilitator of focus groups for the City of Ottawa, Khan-Potter is now fighting barriers to voter participation. She is a member of Creating the Change We Want Community Development Group, a group that works to improve voter turnout. She also works with ethnic groups and homeless people who, she says, can be “unaware of how politics work.”

In her professional life, Khan-Potter works part-time in graphic design, photo enhancement, and website design.

Khan-Potter’s role models include Karen Secord, coordinator of the PFC, who she describes as a “visionary.” She admires and is currently volunteering with Katherine Hobbs, whom she says just “goes, goes, goes. How can they accomplish so much?” she wonders.

When asked how she became involved with, and was recognized by, so many community organizations in the city her answer is simple: “I just go for it,” she says.

Vandergrift is a little less modest, and describes Khan-Potter as a “role model to other women in overcoming challenges and contributing to her community.”

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