Essay submitted by Peri Venkatesh and Patrice Yamada
Winnipeg Foundation Donors and Legacy Circle Members
“Community” – the word conjures up a sense of shared space, values and beliefs.
Having resided in Winnipeg for so many decades, we certainly understand the power of community – a supportive, safe environment, a place to call home and a feeling of belonging. This sense of community has always inspired us to pursue a meaningful life where everyone can thrive. To us, the intangible things like family, friendships, joyful activities, a decent living and optimism have nurtured our spirits.
Winnipeg is an unusual city. It is rooted in the rough-and-tumble era of expansionism and immigration – the juxtaposition of colonialism and Indigenous heritage. These common beginnings still make us who we are, but we are much more than that. There is wealth and success as well as poverty and hopelessness in Winnipeg. For this reason, we are well situated to bring those two ends of the spectrum more closely aligned around a common theme – caring and respect.
We find ourselves in the midst of one of the most challenging times for humankind and our beloved planet. Never before in our lifetime, have we been faced with such great societal change. Disparate beliefs about what is “truth,” what we “ought to do” – all these demands challenge us to discover new ways to understand and respect one another’s inherent worth. The simple act of kindness can bridge those distinct viewpoints and focus on what makes us all human – the commonalities, not the differences.
The question for The Winnipeg Foundation and those it serves is twofold: What do we believe? What do we hold to be true?
When our basic beliefs are challenged, we need to regroup and come together around shared values. The Winnipeg Foundation is good: upright, virtuous, fair. The Winnipeg Foundation is forever: our core values are the same as when the second gift – three, $5 gold coins – first came into our coffers. But the overriding question now is: how do we sustain those values when uncertainty surrounds us?
As we look to the future, we need to find some means to nurture the sense of community – that Winnipeg is a caring, decent place to live and flourish. We may not agree on every detail, but we need to be able to share our individual gifts – our “personal wealth.” It is not so much about money, but what we value in our hearts. Everyone deserves to be respected, to have dignity and to be included as part of the community. When one person succeeds, we all are a part of that success story. Through resilience, optimism and sharing, we can achieve many great things TOGETHER. We can be successful TOGETHER.
Our journey to philanthropy is rooted in the gratitude we feel to the Winnipeg community for opening its doors and creating so many opportunities for us. We have been successful and lead happy lives through the generosity of Winnipeggers; people caring and supporting us has enabled us to achieve and prosper. These values of caring and sharing are ones that we are proud to uphold.
When we look at the diverse projects that The Winnipeg Foundation has supported, it gives us pride and hope for the future. Every aspect of our human experience has been touched by the philanthropy of The Foundation’s donors. Projects that impact lives, that acknowledge our treaty obligations, that make our community safer, that welcome newcomers and support elders aging in place; these are the hallmarks of a community that shares and thrives. We know that The Winnipeg Foundation will continue to be an advocate for those whose voices have been quiet. And, based on its long history, we trust that The Winnipeg Foundation will continue to instill hope in our community.
Peri Venkatesh immigrated from India to Winnipeg in 1971. As a nurse educator in the diploma and baccalaureate nursing education programs for more than 35 years, he has inspired and supported countless registered nurses. He has volunteered at Harvest Manitoba (formerly Winnipeg Harvest) and has been active on the boards of the University of Manitoba Alumni Association as well as the Misericordia Health Centre.
Patrice Yamada was born and raised in Winnipeg. Having spent her career in health care, she now volunteers at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and tutors with Frontier College at Kaakiyow li moond likol Adult Learning Centre.