Ponoka County Reeve Gordon Svenningsen asked the question what it really means to be a volunteer. And the answer is embodied by this year’s two prestigious recipients.
The Morna Chorney Heart and Soul Award was given to Jimmy Rawji. The award for Rawji was a planned surprise and he was shocked after the Chorney family announced his name.
Rawji says people kept making a “fuss”, asking if he was attending the ceremony. His son, Jamil, even went as far to ask if he was changing his clothes but he never realized what the fuss was about.
Rawji, who was a beloved teacher for many years and continues to substitute in his retired years, moved to the Bluffton area from East Africa.
He says it was there he learned about volunteering and the fire was lit within him. “I couldn’t have done it alone . . . I learned it from all of you.”
Rawji told many stories of his time in Bluffton and the people there who made it their goal to welcome him into the community. “They took me Christmas shopping. They taught me how to wear long johns,” he said with a laugh.
There was also a woman who Rawji made special efforts to comfort. She had cancer in her leg and was hospitalized.
She wouldn’t eat for the staff and it was Rawji who convinced her to keep fighting.
The woman would eat only if he made her Campbell’s soup. “What a simple request,” he said, astounded that something so effortless could brighten her day.
This story of kindness won’t come as a surprise to those who know Rawji. Attendees of the ceremony and others in the community have only kind words about his selfless character.
“He volunteers as much as anyone can. He doesn’t even realize the good he does,” said Janice Mackie, coordinator of volunteer services at the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury. “He’s an amazing, amazing man.”
Although the award was given to him, Rawji humbly denied it was solely his, it was the result of an entire community’s kindness. He said volunteering is his way of repaying that kindness.