Our Story: A 30 Year Journey for Global Social Justice

To commemorate and celebrate OCIC’s 30th Anniversary, we collected member testimonials capturing memorable experiences with OCIC. Testimonials were collected from organizational, network/institutional and associate members, international partners, past staff and volunteers.

Share your memorable moment here.



We started as an informal grouping of people committed to working in international development and educating Canadians about international development… there were about 17 Global Education Centers in Ontario, and they were a really strong part of OCIC’s beginnings. Once we incorporated we grew in terms of membership. Later, we added individual memberships which I think has been a bonus to the individuals joining OCIC, and to OCIC.

When OCIC grew to manage CIDA funds and oversaw the funding for maybe 40 organizations, that too was a real growth spurt, and we learned management administration as well as how to critically consider what goes into successful and effective international development projects. Even though we are no longer administering these funds, that gave us a foundation for what goes into strong international development work. Then I’ve seen a strong and strategic focus on capacity building and on cooperating across the country with other Councils that emerged in the last 10 to 15 years. I think that’s been a boon both to the Inter-Council Network, and to OCIC.

One memorable moment is when we actually became an organization. I was there for that, and we were all in a very celebratory mood because we had been a little committee of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, and now we felt like we were an organization that could go forward and frame our own working together to really improve things in Ontario and internationally,  with our international partners.

Susan James, Founding OCIC Board Director & Member


.. I was new to the position of Board Chair, and we had a session at a retreat where we hammered together a strategic plan.. there was something about that that was very meaningful for me, because it meant we were laying down tracks toward a really big picture. The fact that we were able to get together and hammer out the Development Principles that we wanted every development agency to bring..  it was a really important weekend — to establish structure around who we thought we were, and how we were going to do it.

.. the initiative that I felt was really significant was a board development initiative. It was around creating a committee structure for the Board, with Board roles, and training for Board members around the shared responsibility. I felt like that was strength-building because it enabled the organization to do what it did. It was after that that they started 10 Days of Global Development, and programs like that.. We were laying the groundwork for a Carver-style Board, so it was seed planting and it was really important.

.. I appreciate the youth focus that OCIC now has, and I think it honours well the current changes in the world. We need our idealistic youth, and we need to be challenging energy into really productive positive social change.. Some of the youth I am around or I see are either apathetic or very inward-looking, kind of individually-focused, and not systemically or globally focused. So I think that what OCIC is doing, and the influence on agency programming and dev ed, or public engagement (we used to call it development education),  all that outreaching to youth and other populations, I find heartening.

Gwen Schauerte, Past President, OCIC Board of Directors


… One of my earliest memories of OCIC was back in.. 2005 maybe. I had just started volunteering with OCIC and all I remember is being in the old office on Mary Street..  this tiny office.. and we had stuff lined up along the hallway that we were filling into packages.. it was a really fun kind of team-building experience to go through. That was when I got hooked into OCIC.. and was involved as a volunteer and then a Board Member for a good 10 years after that.

I have very fond memories of interactions with all Board Members during that time.. we’d have the Board Retreat every September and that was always fun.. Being out of the city for two and a half to three days.. I still remember sitting on the porch.. kind of riffing on what OCIC could be in the future.. it was such a nice environment to be able to think big. It is interesting to see how seeds planted there eventually kind of came to be, years later.

Kristine Vanderplas, Past OCIC Volunteer & Board Director


I started volunteering at OCIC about 13 years ago.. My sister was the first volunteer that Kim had, and at the time OCIC only had one functioning computer. They had a heap of garbage computers that they needed to be turned into something functional, so I was brought in to “Frankenstein” them together into a working network of computers for the interns. I help out with AGMs sometimes if they’re going to be doing teleconferencing or anything technical like that. But almost all my interactions are when something has gone horribly wrong (with the computers).. hehehe.

Rob Vanderplas, OCIC IT Volunteer Extraordinaire


I first came across OCIC through Development and Peace, so that would be about 12 years ago. It was International Development Week. I had never heard of International Development Week, and I came to the job and people were like, “International Development Week is coming up and we’ve got to do something.. we always do something with OCIC, and we’ve got to promote it.” I’ve learned all about International Development Week, and it continues to go on and is a great initiative and a great program of OCIC.

Luke Stocking, OCIC Member


I see OCIC as family; the family of NGOs, and those that are interested in international development in Ontario.. I think the thing about OCIC is that it’s the catalyst for the community — its the call-out — the time to gather. So people see it as the convenor of the international development community in Ontario. And there’s always some politics, but the politics are down played. So it’s a safe place to to talk about what you’re doing and how things might shape the future.

There are a couple of significant events I remember. First, moving International Development Week from sort of a haphazard “we’ve got to do this”, or, “let’s do this so that we can keep ourselves alive and in CIDA’s radar”, to having control. Developing it the way OCIC wants to do it. Developing our own theme. OCIC would develop what we want International Development Week to be, and we would consult with our member agencies, and it would begin to be a participatory week in which everybody could participate.. It becomes a sustainable forum in a way that other events can happen during the year, so you’re building on it and there’s a meeting of the community’s needs.

A memorable encounter would centre around Betty Makoni, the founder of the Girl-Child Network of Zimbabwe. Defence for Children International had brought Betty to Canada in November of 2005 to be part of a high level conference at the International Development Research Centre in Ottawa, because the Canadian Government was going to sever all ties with Zimbabwe because Robert Mugabe was in bad stead. We were trying to shift government thinking away from bi-lateral aid, government to government, to supporting civil society. So we brought five Zimbabwean civil society actors to Canada. Oxfam, DCI and Amnesty International were some of the big players there. So we were able to convince Betty to come back to Canada for the 2006 World AIDS conference held here in Toronto, but the Conference was expensive… the fees to attend the days were high. So Kim, who had met Betty in 2005, said, ‘we could hold a Breakfast Meeting and we won’t charge anything, and you can give us the situation on HIV and girls in Zimbabwe.”

So Betty said yes, and there were probably 60 or 70 folks there at this breakfast.. many of the OCIC member agencies. Betty was giving a very brutal description on HIV and AIDS and impact on children. I remember, I think I was sitting in between Kim and Kristie Vanderplas, and there was one point where Betty was describing something particularly brutal that had happened in her office, and half the room was crying… So I think the impact in the whole room, rather than just one or two people, stands out. Just the emotion of that, and the commitment from the feeling of people in that room, all those OCIC members — that this is something that we have to address.

Bill Sparks, Past President, OCIC Board of Directors


The one (event) that was most personally impactful was the first time that I did Theatre of the Oppressed Training. OCIC had a trainer who was doing that, and I actually wasn’t planning to go and Kim said to me, “you should take this, I think you’d like it”. So I did go, and it was great. It was a chance to really embody and experience power, and what that means in the way that I use power in my life was kind of unpacked for me and in a different way than just reading about it would be.

Matt Legge, Past Board Director


Just thinking of all the incredible women who work there and have worked there.. it’s a team of basically amazing badass-behind-the-scenes women who just get things done and aren’t there for the glory.

Sahar Golshan, Past OCIC Staff


… I always find the AGMs to be the most exciting thing that we do. A couple of years ago we invited the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario to come, and we were very excited when she accepted our invitation. What was even more exciting was that when she came she told us that she was familiar with OCIC and that she had been following our work. So it was very exciting for all of us on the Board of Directors and the Council and all of the members of the Council to know that all of the hard work that the members had been doing, all of the hard work that the staff had been doing, wasn’t just flying away… that it did have an impact and that there were people outside who were not directly involved in the development sector who were cognizant of what we were doing and who are appreciative of it… For  me that was a really big deal.

Mitra Manouchehrian, President, OCIC Board of Directors


Two years ago we had a training on monitoring and evaluation and it was very interesting —  though people know about monitoring and evaluation, the type of conversation, the type of discussion, the type of knowledge that each member brings to the table enhanced the collaboration in different ways; it enhanced this environment of results-based management.

Fidaa Shehada, OCIC Board Director


I really enjoy Transformations. I think that it’s a fantastic medium using a digital exhibit to reach Canadians that really achieves photojournalism at its best..  and (is) something that I think development has a challenge in doing… We really strive to tell stories well, and to tell stories from the field, and I think Transformations does that in a phenomenal way. And then to present it at public forums like the Toronto Public Libraries is really bringing it to people in Ontario.

Jennifer Naidoo, OCIC Board Director


Right after Transformations came out about Nepal, there was an award for that, and it was really cool because we were able to do a quick Facebook link with Shobha Shrestha, the Executive Director of WPD Nepal, at the time the award was being given to OCIC. Kim made sure the award was a partnership — that it was not only about OCIC, but about everyone involved, which included Shobha and World Accord and all of the people from the communities.

David Barth, Transformations 2016 Partner & OCIC Member


I wish the best for OCIC. They have a tremendous staff.. (They are) very dedicated and very friendly and supportive every time I’m on the phone, and down there in Toronto. They even get grants to pay our travel down there and back, so they have good support systems in place and good staff doing it, so I really appreciate them.

Ray Dunn, OCIC Member


When I first got involved with OCIC as a member, and then a year or two years later as a Board Member, OCIC had this very small and committed team led by Kim Gibbons, and was focused at that point on public engagement and doing a lot of great public-facing work within the community and the province, showcasing the work of some of the members of the Council. I think what has been tremendous to watch the last 12-15 years is how OCIC has really turned into itself to look at who the members are, and has become an organization that is driven by the membership. So it’s not an organization that is serving members, but rather an organization that is advancing our common cause, and that’s been really exciting to watch.

Starting with three to four strategic plans ago there was a subtle shift, where all the language in the strategic plan became about members. And there was nothing in the strategic plan that didn’t consider how the membership was going to participate in that activity, to now being such a dynamic organization with members collaborating, networking and coming together on so many different levels through so many different kinds of programming; it’s really been quite inspiring.

Claire Holloway-Wadwahni, Past President, OCIC Board of Directors


I think my favourite story.. was (when I was) working as a Special Projects Intern with the team.. It was a summer internship, and my birthday lies over the summer. I remember one day I came into the office, just a regular day for me, and it came up somehow that it was my birthday.. and then we all went out for ice cream and Lisa brought me cupcakes which was really sweet, even though she wasn’t at work that day. And everyone was just really nice, and we had a fun time. So.. I think the team is super supportive and great.. so that’s my personal fond memory of OCIC.

Helen Ketema, Past OCIC Staff


What is really exciting for me right now is to see Canada’s Feminist International Development Policy and what kind of role OCIC will take on behalf of SMOs, and how it is going to represent them in Global Affairs, and to see how this policy is going to shape up in upcoming years. That will be something really interesting to watch.

Shubha Sandil, OCIC Board Director


I appreciate the access that OCIC gives to different communities. I have become a part of the Diaspora Engagement Group, and just to see that there are going to be different communities that are part of this greater initiative, and that everyone’s voice is at the table, is something I appreciate the most about OCIC.

Fana Mekonen, OCIC Board Director


In the next 30 years I think OCIC is going to be playing an increasingly critical role. We know that with the Sustainable Development Goals and whatever comes next from that, our world is becoming more and more interconnected. This is something that OCIC has been talking about for the last 30 years. We really are a global community, and we have to work internationally and within Canada to achieve the kinds of global equity goals that we want. I think in the next 30 years OCIC is going to continue to bring people together from diverse groups and backgrounds to work towards the Sustainable Development Goals and beyond. OCIC is a natural convenor of people, of thoughts, of ideas, and I know that they are only going to continue to do that in the decades to come.

Jessica Ferne, OCIC Board Director


OCIC and the Global Changemakers program has had an impact on me so far, in the sense that it was great to be in a space where it is so encouraging to collaborate, and also a space where we can learn from each other. A lot of the times in international development you can end up feeling like you’re in an echo chamber, but I think this has helped to bridge the gap between people from different sectors, different experiences, and in different points in their lives. I’ve met some really great people… all my of my Global Changemaker buddies, and also people within the sector. It’s been a very positive and enriching experience. I’m hoping to keep involved and keep coming to these events. I think it’s important to fraternize, meet new people, have some fun, and you know, change the world!

Felicitaciones OCIC! Congratulations on your 30th Anniversary! Thank you for being you, and being great! And to everyone who’s been involved all over the years, a huge thank you!

Yamari Martin-Halsall, OCIC Global Changemaker Youth Ambassador


My favorite thing about being a part of OCIC’s program is the ability to work with people from so many different sectors. They really brought together a great selection of youth working on different projects, and we were able to collaborate in creating an incredible Human Library Event. Being a part of this process has impacted me in such a significant way. It’s taught me so much about working with people from different sectors and creating an impact in our community. Congratulations OCIC on your 30th Anniversary!   

Sabrina Lau, OCIC Global Changemaker Youth Ambassador


I think being a part of the Global Changemaker program has given (me) so much insight about what people across Canada are doing, and I’m super excited to collaborate and work with OCIC in the future again.

Neha Malhotra, OCIC Global Changemaker Youth Ambassador


What I really appreciate about being a part of the program is (that) it wasn’t a one time ordeal. We also had the opportunity to work with each other, the other Global Changemakers. I really appreciate the opportunity to have been able to connect, to put together an amazing event. I think OCIC made the program very youth-centred and focused on our strengths and letting us have the platform and highlighting some of the issues that we cared about in our own work. I’m very much appreciative of that.

Linda Bui, OCIC Global Changemaker Youth Ambassador


I think for me, OCIC is about support, and that’s how I’ve always felt.. not only about Kimberly and Lisa, and others and yourself, and the Global Changemakers and the people I’ve met along the way, and all the food that I’ve ate, and the Development Drinks that I’ve been to, and the awards that I’ve seen presented, and the iAM magazines that I’ve read, there’s just so much because it’s 30 years!

David Peck, OCIC Member


My best memory from my time at OCIC was helping implement the ICN National Online Public Engagement Conference. When we first started we did know what it would look like, but with the leadership of Sarah Power we pulled off a really great event that connected regional hubs all over Canada. The national moment where everyone got to say hello was pretty amazing…

OCIC gave me many opportunities — like the Global Hive project, and the Global Citizen Forum focused on the State of the World’s Youth — that really built my capacity and is one of the main reason I got my current position at Cuso International. I can’t say enough about OCIC and the great work they do for their members. And from working at OCIC I can truly say that I know what is means to work using anti-oppression principles.

Jen Muldoon, Past OCIC Staff


It was the biggest day of my career at OCIC, and it also happened to be my birthday. I was based at the OCIC office for three years while I was National Coordinator of the Inter-Council Network. The day in question was when we launched The Global Hive, an online toolkit that highlighted good practice in public engagement. The launch of the website and the series of webinars that accompanied it marked the culmination of three years of participatory research and collaboration with hundreds of practitioners. I had so much support from the OCIC staff and community leading up to the big day. We held the webinar from an OCIC members’ board room, and when it was done I made my way back to the OCIC office exhausted, but thrilled that everything had gone smoothly. I had completely forgotten that it was my birthday, but my colleagues hadn’t. I returned to delicious treats, friendly faces and a celebration of my birthday and of our accomplishments. I was so touched that everyone had taken the time to celebrate and to unwind after such a chaotic day.

That for me summarizes what it was like to share an office and a mission with OCIC staff for three years, and I know they extend the same kindness to their members and community. I will always remember it as one of the warmest, friendliest and most supportive places to work.

Over the next 30 years, we will see the agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals unfold, and usher in a new agenda in 2030. I am excited to see OCIC playing a leadership role in that process and ensuring that members and the global perspectives that members represent are a part of those agendas.

Sarah Power, Former ICN National Coordinator hosted by OCIC


At my first Board Orientation meeting, the President of the Board, Ikem, took time and extra effort in doing the orientation activities with me, which I greatly appreciated. Being new and blind, I felt very welcomed and included in  the meeting.

Yin Brown, Past OCIC Board Director


OCIC has grown exponentially throughout the years, both in size, but mostly in terms of its impact on civil society here in Ontario, and with our partners across the world. I have been fortunate to witness an organization mature and keep doing so while being relentlessly introspective, making sure that it was heading in the right direction. I am most excited about the foundation that we will be building from as a community as a result of the work that OCIC and its partners are able to do today.

Ikem Opara, Past President, OCIC Board of Directors


.. Whether it’s capacity building or it is around the notions of intersectionality, for instance, bringing together the ideas of global development with local development.. we see forms of colonialism at the international scale as well as the domestic scale here in Canada, (experienced by) our indigenous peoples. To recognize that there is overlap in that sort of oppression and therefore what we’re doing today is a corrective mechanism to undo some of that injustice.. that is really what development should be about.. OCIC is in a unique position to present that intersectionality and to present that overlap.. to help people think about that.. to help people step out of their day-to-day where they may be thinking about funding or thinking about how they manage operations, and get them to think more holistically and more strategically. We have big visions in enabling that in the next 30 years as you will see as part of the strategic plan. and that’s what I’m most excited about.

Fahad Ahmad, OCIC Board Director