Reaching Out to Every Person in Ottawa: How One Volunteer is Changing the Way Multicultural Communities View and Manage Cancer

By Cancer Foundation on September 12 / 2016

[Cancer Coaching, News, Uncategorized]Comments

The presentation at a local mosque is over and Yousif Makkawi, a Community Ambassador with The Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation’s Outreach Program, stays behind to greet the attendees. The things they tell him mean the world to the kind-hearted volunteer: “I know this person with cancer. I’m going to call him and tell him to go for Cancer Coaching,” says one man. “I’m going to use these cancer prevention ideas in my house with my family,” promises a young mother.

“It happens at every event,” says Yousif. “Three or four individuals approach me after the presentation and tell me how the information will make a difference in their life. Many are surprised to learn that free, culturally-sensitive Cancer Coaching is available to them here in the community.”

Promoting the Cancer Coaching Program among culturally and linguistically diverse community groups in Ottawa was a recent goal of the Cancer Foundation. Thanks to the generosity of donors and grant support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, volunteers like Yousif were able to reach out to these communities to help dispel fear and common myths about the disease.

“You can be infected by someone else…you get cancer, you die…cancer is always painful…These are some of the common myths we expose,” Yousif explains. “The outreach program helps people see cancer potentially as any other disease. It changes the way people think about cancer. And, it lets them know they can get help if they or someone around them is diagnosed. That’s the message we deliver.”

Between May and December 2015, Yousif personally delivered our message to hundreds of people in the Muslim, Arabic-speaking and Sudanese communities. Meanwhile, his fellow Ambassadors were building relationships in many other communities in Ottawa as well. In addition to organizing and hosting presentations, these dedicated volunteers attended cultural events across the region, manning booths and tables, handing out flyers and sharing information.

“Hundreds of people came by to listen and take a brochure,” says Yousif. “I believe this awareness has made a difference in these communities. They can do more to protect themselves because they have a better understanding of cancer. They discovered how and where to get help.”

As a result of the hard work and commitment of Community Ambassadors like Yousif, there has been a significant increase in the number of culturally and linguistically diverse clients accessing the Cancer Coaching Program. Once inside our doors, people of all cultures have access to brochures and videos in their own language, a Multi-Faith and Meditation Room, and our Understanding Cancer Workshop, developed specifically to address the needs of individuals within these communities.

“I want to thank everyone who donates to the Cancer Foundation and helps provide these important services,” says Yousif. “Your donations are being felt and making a difference right now. They’re affecting lives directly on a daily basis.”

We were very proud to present Yousif with the Outstanding Volunteer Award 2016 on April 12th for his commitment and dedication to improving lives in our community.


Cancer Foundation President and CEO Linda Eagen thanks Yousif at a volunteer appreciation event.

If you believe you or someone you know would benefit from learning more about the Cancer Coaching services offered at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, you can call 613-247-3527 to register or learn more:

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