2017 John Gibbard Award Recap

A signing of the hymn, Love Will Guide Us, marked the beginning of the 2017 John Gibbard Award Ceremony, held on United Nations Day at the Unitarian Church in Vancouver. The United Nations Association of Canada, Vancouver branch (UNAC-V) awarded this year’s prize to Ms. Akanksha Thakur, an exeplary case of a young person living the values of the United Nations and making a positive contribution in the their community.

The John Gibbard Memorial Award is presented annually by the UNAC-V Canada in recognition and memory of John Gibbard who was a supporter of the League of Nations from its creation in 1919, in the wake of the First World War. When the league ceased to exist, John Gibbard continued to support the ideals upon which the league had been founded. After the formation of United Nations post war, John Gibbard became an active member of the UNAC and was dedicated to involving youth in the creation of a better world for all.

L to R: George Somerwill (Co-President), Akanksha Thakur (John Gibbard Award Recipient), Rev. Epperson, Greg Neumann (Co-President)

United Nations Day occurs each year on October 24th, and is the ideal time to take a moment to reflect on the principles and documents that are central to the ideals United Nations, including the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the other core treaties, conventions, protocols and covenants that together work to protect and promote the life, dignity, safety and freedom for all human beings.

This year’s award recipient, Ms Thakur is a recent graduate from Simon Fraser University (SFU). Ms Thakur has been instrumental in helping to build an inclusive curriculum and increased intercultural competence in SFU’s English as an additional language and career support programs. Thakur has also taught in public schools in Indonesia and was recently chosen to be Youth Ambassador for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. She is on Board of Directors of Pratham Education Foundation, an NGO dedicated to educating underprivileged children in India. On receiving the award, Akanksha shared with the audience her story of moving to Vancouver from Mumbai, India 10 years earlier and how after expereriencing a racically motivated incident,  ultimately motivated  her to take action to stop racial injustices from occuring. Ms Thakur believes in being an agent of change (as her achievements suggests), and in the importance of living a passionate and non-judgemental life. She thanked UNAC for recognising her accomplishments.

It is with these principles in mind that the UN Association in Canada, Vancouver branch operates; much of what we see in the efforts of Akanksha Thakur reflect the UNAC-V and John Gibbard’s ideals. Congratulations to Ms.Thakur on all of her accomplishments to date!

The event concluded with the hymn, We, the Peoples of The United Nations:

We, The Peoples of The United Nations,

Determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,

To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, the the equal rights of men and women, and of nations large and small,

To promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

And for these ends to practice tolerance and to live together in peace as good neighbours,

To unite our strength to maintain international peace and security,

To insure that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest,

To employ international machinery in the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all people,

Have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.

Thank you to the Unitarian Church and all those present at the event, and to Miss Thakur for her work in the Metro Vancouver area.

Post written by UNAC-V blog writer, Tania Arora.


Tania holds a B.com (Honours), from the University of Delhi, India and is currently pursuing a PGD in Financial Analysis at Douglas College. She has international experience in Russia & Singapore and national experience working with private firms including the Hindustan Times, The Indian Economist, The National Book Trust of India, Ministry of HRD & Make A Difference NGO. She was also associated with AIESEC in Delhi IIT & The Placement Cell of her college. A leader in creativity & innovation with strong leadership, corporate & organizational and communication skills, she is ready to set her feet firmly in Canada and to work with United Nations Association of Canada, Vancouver Branch.

Akanksha Thakur – 2017 Gibbard Award Recipient

Each year, UNA-Vancouver recognizes an outstanding youth or youth group dedicated to achieving the goals of the United Nations. We are pleased to announce that the 2017 John Gibbard Memorial Award for Youth will be awarded to Akanksha Thakur.

Miss Thakur is a recent graduate from Simon Fraser University and was nominated by her supervisor Heather Williams, Language and Culture Curriculum Coordinator, from SFU’s Co-Operative Education department. Williams explains:

Akanksha demonstrates her passion for equity in many ways. She has taught internationally – at a public school in Indonesia; she was recently chosen to be a Youth Ambassador for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation; and is also on the Board of Directors of an NGO named Pratham that is dedicated to educating children in the slums in India.

The Gibbard Award presentation will take place Sunday October 22nd, 2017 at the Unitarian Church (949 49th Ave. W) at 11am (no RSVP needed). We invite the public to come celebrate United Nations Day and honour Miss Thakur for endeavouring to make the world a better and more peaceful place.

Gurkiran Mann: 2016 John Gibbard Recipient

L to R: Greg Neumann (Co-Prez), Patsy George (UNA-Vancouver, Mrs. Mann, Simran Mann, Kiran Mann, George Somerwill (Co-Prez).

The following post was written by Luciana Prado, Website Writer.

On the 23rd of October, the Unitarian Church of Vancouver held a small ceremony during its Sunday service to award Gurkiran Mann the 2016 John Gibbard Award for Youth recognizing her exemplary work representing the spirit of the United Nations and to celebrate UN Sunday. Kiran is currently in her fourth year at UBC pursuing a degree in behavioural neuroscience and physiology in the Health Sciences Department. Kiran is an inspiring young woman who has worked with others in Guatemala, Haiti, and the Phillipines, and co-founded Youth Transforming Society (YTS), a registered non-profit organization that aims to raise awareness of global issues and encourage volunteerism among young people, and where she serves as Director of Special Events.

Before the ceremony, Rev. Steven Epperson explained the important role Unitarians play in promoting social justice locally and globally thorough UN consultative status and the advocacy work of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and its United Nations Office (UU-UNO) He also highlighted the active role Unitarians played in the League of Nations and later creating the United Nations where, through the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), an Advisory Committee on the United Nations was formed thereby enabling their principles and purposes to be included to the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Their involvement also contributed to the creation of the International Criminal Court and continue to provide strong leadership in all aspects of human rights at policy level, from climate justice initiatives to sexual orientation and gender identity issues.

Rev. Epperson.

In order to celebrate UN Day, Rev. Epperson highlighted the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights since its adoption by the General Assembly in 1948 by “enacting dozens of legally binding international agreements on political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights [which] set high standards to which the international community agrees to aspire and achieve, in principle and practice”.   He focused on key aspects of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the importance of protecting the human rights of people with disability in light of a recent Charter challenge to certain provisions in the BC Mental Health Act introduced in September in BC Provincial courts.

Lawyers from the Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) of BC submitted on behalf of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and two individuals being medically treated against their will, and argue that BC’s mental health laws deprive involuntary patients of their Charter rights to equality and to life, liberty, and security of the persons. Rev. Epperson emphasized the fact that the recent provisions “single out a particular class of people and denies them the basic of equality, liberty, and security guaranteed by law to every other person in this Province and this nation”; thus, making BC the only jurisdiction in Canada that provides compulsory treatment.

During her acceptance speech, Kiran talked about her childhood, the importance of raising awareness of local and global humanitarian issues, and volunteering among the youth in the community. She told the audience that her desire to study neuroscience and physiology first arose when her grandfather was diagnosed with early stage of prostate cancer. Kiran’s mother advised her to approach a teacher at her school while her grandpa was undergoing radiation therapy and asked “what do I have to do to become a doctor, because I want to be the one administering the injections to my grandpa.” Since then she has continually worked hard to achieve her dream of becoming a doctor.

By connecting the benefits of volunteering for a better quality of living for all in society, Kiran spoke briefly about the mental and physical aspects of volunteering and the significance a few hours a week can bring to a community. Youth Transforming Society started 6 years ago when Kiran was in grade 10 with 3 co-founders and today the organization has grown to a team of 23 Executive Members and more than 150 volunteers, managing to raise more than $50,000 for special causes and events, such as a ‘YTS Volunteering and Beyond: An Evening of Opportunities’, which serves as a platform for students to connect with organizations. The Holiday Breakfast will be held in December in partnership with the Salvation Army and serves more than 300 homeless individuals in Surrey.

Another interesting initiative by YTS is the Mentorship Program for girls in grades 5 to 7 called “I am” that aims to make the transition from elementary to high school easier by connecting students to female students in their peer high school. The program facilitates the transition of new students by making them feel welcome in a new and intimidating environment. By drawing from Kiran’s own experiences, this program addresses issues related to bullying, self-esteem, nutrition, fitness, and other topics that are essential to improve young girls well- being and ensure they perform well in school.

You can watch Kiran’s speen in full at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=peJa7M4suYY

UNAC- Vancouver Announces 2013 John Gibbard Award Winner

unacto1It is with great pleasure that the United Nations Association in Canada – Vancouver Branch announces the recipient of this year’s John Gibbard Award, Saskia Vaisey.   Saskia is a first year university student at the University of British Columbia whose dedication to promoting awareness of environmental issues both locally and globally is inspiring.

This past summer, Saskia biked 1,700 km from Vancouver to Inuvik with three students to raise awareness about the impact of climate change in the Arctic.   The group held workshops along the way and reached out to youth from summer camps, community centers, and youth centers.  Through blogs, articles and social media, Saskia worked to make North-South connections between youth, inspiring them to think critically about environmental and social issues.

Saskia wasScreen Shot 2013-10-27 at 12.13.01 PM also one of eight fully sponsored North American Youth Ambassadors for i2P’s Botswana Expedition. In Botswana, she ran a 182-km ultra-marathon in four days to raise awareness about the impact of water shortages in developing nations & about defying personal limits.   Saskia’s own story attests to the importance of defying personal limits as she went from battling Lupus five years ago to an ultra-marathoner today.

The selection committee was also impressed with Saskia’s work locally.  She has continued to present to classrooms and speak at community events on issues that she is passionate about.  She also volunteers with the Canadian Parks Society, the Mossom Creek Hatchery and the Catching the Spirit Sociey.

2013 is the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation.  Saskia’s work in promoting discussion around climate change and water shortages highlights the fact that youth are actively involved in attempting to fulfill the ideals of the United Nations and making the world a better place.  The John Gibbard Memorial Award is named after a man who was dedicated to involving youth in the creation of a better world for all.   Saskia Vaisey embodies the ideals of Mr. Gibbard and the UNAC-Vancouver branch is pleased to recognize her inspiring work.

Today we salute Saskia and all the other young people who inspire us to try to make the world a better place. 

The John Gibbard Memorial Award will be presented at the Vancouver Unitarian Church, at 11:00 AM on Sunday, November 3rd.    The Church is located at 949 West 49th Avenue, at 49th and Oak Street in Vancouver and all are welcome.