A student helping Syrian refugees adjust to life in Canada, a professor who uses his skills in computer science to support food security, and a Physical Resources (PR) manager who teaches adults how to read are the winners of this year’s William Winegard Exemplary Volunteer Awards.

Student Yousr El Sharawy, computer science professor Dan Gillis and PR manager Paul Mesman were honoured at a ceremony at the Gryphon Athletics Centre March 29.

Volunteer award winners (from left) Paul Mesman, Yousr El Sharawy and Daniel Gillis with William Winegard

Established in 2007, the awards are presented each year to U of G staff, faculty and students who volunteer in the community by the University of Guelph, the United Way of Guelph Wellington Dufferin and the Volunteer Centre of Guelph/Wellington.

They are named for William Winegard, former U of G president and former Guelph MP who served as Canada’s first minister of science and as parliamentary secretary to the minister of international trade.

“I’m not in the same league in volunteering as most of you. In my experience in Guelph, the volunteers are just fantastic. It makes you feel good to see such dedicated people,” Winegard said in a short speech.

Winegard continues to volunteer today as a reading buddy for local schoolchildren.

“Professor Gillis, Paul and Yousr are dedicated volunteers recognized today for their tremendous community spirit,” said Ken Dardano, executive director of United Way Guelph Wellington Dufferin.

“United Way is pleased to partner with the Volunteer Centre and the University of Guelph to present these outstanding volunteers with this year’s Winegard Awards.”

El Sharawy uses her Arabic-language skills to help refugees as a logistics coordinator and interpreter for a private Syrian refugee sponsorship program.

She co-founded the campus Migrant Justice initiative and works with other campus groups, and volunteers with the Guelph Refugee Sponsorship Forum.

Gillis co-founded Farm to Fork, which aims to improve the quality and quantity of food donated to emergency food systems. He is also a founder of The Seed Community Food Hub, which helps local partners bring people together to access, grow, cook and share healthful food.

He has co-organized the Food Waste Hackathon and the Feeding Nine Billion Challenge, both of which involve multidisciplinary teams of U of G students developing solutions to food problems.

Mesman has been a volunteer tutor at Action Read Community Literacy Centre since 2013.

He meets with learners once a week to help them develop practical skills and to build their confidence and self-esteem.

“Our three recipients have shown how volunteers can turn their passions into lasting contributions benefiting people and organizations in our community,” said Christine Oldfield, executive director of the Volunteer Centre of Guelph/Wellington.