Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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Global Citizenship Makes the World a Better Place

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column,  Monday, December 5 / 22

Zack Gross

Back in 1996, I was invited to a meeting in Ottawa of people working in the international assistance sector to discuss how to “amplify” the work we did in the minds of Canadians.  At the time and still today, the Marquis Project, our aid organization based in Brandon, of which I was then Executive Director, was a well-respected actor in “making the world a better place”.  We had global education programs around the province – in schools and community groups – and successful projects overseas, and we ran a fair trade store, Worldly Goods, here in downtown Brandon.

After several days of discussion among aid givers, media and publicity personnel, and funders, we arrived at the key phrase “global citizenship” as the model we wanted to promote to the Canadian public.  Canadians are generally open-minded and generous people.  Many contribute on a regular basis to charities and social movements as donors, members and volunteers, and most are proud of Canada’s role in the world in fighting poverty and in peacekeeping.

Taking the phrase “global citizenship” as a launch point, the Marquis Project began to celebrate local people who demonstrated a commitment to global social improvement with an annual Global Citizenship Award.  A couple of dozen individuals, couples and groups have received this recognition since then, including a student group and their teacher in Minnedosa, the Ten Thousand Villages shop in Brandon, and a number of teachers, professors, agriculturalists, and others activists from Brandon, Virden, and other Westman locations. 

So, then, what is a global citizen?  In a world dealing with famine, the climate crisis, war, and pandemics, it sounds like we really need their help!  The 2022 Global Citizenship Award Recipient, given out in November at Marquis’ Annual Meeting, is Tony Berezowecki.  His definition of a global citizen was a person who “participates in action that envisions one world, one people, where everyone has an equal chance to live and thrive.  A global citizen believes that the actions of one can have a profound effect on defeat poverty, achieve equity, and defend out planet.”

Tony has been a high school teacher and college and university instructor, much of that in Manitoba, over a long career, and a volunteer with groups like the Manitoba Association for World Development (MAWD) that raised money for development projects with its Miles for Millions Marches way back in the late 60s and early 70s.   He also has made a huge contribution to bettering our world through development and civil society work in Africa and Eastern Europe with groups like CUSO, Canada’s Parliamentary Centre, and the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE).

Appropriate to his award and to what is transpiring in Eastern Europe, Tony has worked on behalf of community development groups in Ukraine, building up the social development sector since the collapse of the Soviet Union.  He’s worked with people with disabilities, with youth, as a democratic election monitor, and in towns that we now see on the news every day in their fight to defend their country – Lviv, Odessa, and Kherson.  Now he and many others in Brandon work to support Ukrainians fighting at home and those who’ve come as refugees to our own communities.

Two of us Brandon Sun columnists, myself and David McConkey, first met Tony back in the late 60s, with Tony having just returned from a two-year CUSO teaching position in West Africa, and David and I being university students in Winnipeg volunteering our time to raise funds for development projects in the Caribbean.  Since then, our lives have followed different paths but aimed at the same goal of service to people near and far, and hoping to influence our own Canadian populace to adopt global citizenship as a way of life.

At this time of year, many people show their charitable side by making donations to a variety of causes related to ending disease, hunger, homelessness, and human rights abuses both at home and abroad.  They also donate to lift up the positive forces in our lives – community centres and kids’ sports activities, multiculturalism, the arts, environmental and wildlife organizations and more.  It might be about the holiday spirit and it might be prompted by end-of-year tax deductible receipts.  For the global citizen – and there are many more than just those who have won this award – it is about making a year-round effort motivated by values such as generosity, co-operation and seeking what is right.

Find the cause that is right for you and support it.  Learn about the world, care about what is going on and share what you can.

Zack Gross is Board Chair of
The Marquis Project, a Brandon-based international development organization, and co-author of the new book The Fair Trade Handbook: Building a Better World, Together.

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