Opening of the Mao Art Gallery in Downsview!

Mao Correa, a local Downsview artist, has really proven that art has no limits. After transforming his 700 foot flat into an art gallery. Every wall and surface from every room on both the interior as well as the exterior of the house is covered with pieces of art.  The gallery is open to the public and showcases his spectacular pieces along with other works from other up and coming artists.

Mao, is a recognized plastic artist, photographer, and graphic designer who was born in Bogota, Columbia. After receiving much recognition for his work in Columbia and Central America, Mao brought his unique style to Canada. Toronto is now where Mao calls home.

Mao uses art to illustrate his internal journey as a new immigrant in Canada.  He does this by, creating pictorial pieces made entirely from recycled materials. Mao states “Mirroring my own experience, and re-signifying my esthetics through the view of diversity, I’m now not only breaking down pre-existing materials, reinterpreting and offering them a new form with a new purpose, but also reintegrating my soul to a new country”

Visiting Mao’s Art Gallery truly is like watching the story of his life narrated by the pieces on every wall and surface of his home, with every piece offering new insight to his experiences in Canada.  The gallery is the only newcomer artist-led gallery in Downsview area, and attracts a wide diversity of artists in the community.

Mao has been an active leader in the art community. In 2015 Mao was the recipient for the RBC Arts Access Fund and the 2015 Finalist, for the Neilson Park Creative Centres 23 annual Juried Exhibition in Toronto. Mao is an advocate for for other immigrant artists struggling to showcase their art work here in Canada. The Gallery hosts art work from other artists in order to promote their work. The gallery also provides art classes for those who are interested. Mao has truly gone above and beyond for his community and is Downsview Advocate’s ‘Community Spotlight Leader’ of the month.

Mao’s art and listings for upcoming shows can be viewed on his website at

What it really means to be a Respite Worker

Working with children who have disabilities comes with its struggles and its rewards. There are many struggles, and the rewards are often intangible. In consequence of poor funding, long waitlists and lack of community resources available to families in need, hardships are unavoidable. This is only further encouraged, by a government that does not assign an economic value to domestic labour. This means families are responsible 100% for the care of their loved ones in need.

What about individuals that lack the funds to provide the proper support for their families? In most cases, families are left fighting to gain access to adequate funding -when funding becomes available.

Often, funding is limited and restrictive. The result is, more financial strain on families. Family members must leave their jobs to stay at home. There is also a higher expectation on health care workers to “bridge the gap,” with no financial compensation increase for extra time given. Ultimately, people do not get into this line of work for the money. So what is the reward if it isn’t monetary?

As a mother I want the best my son and it is my belief that every person deserves the best quality care possible, both at home and away. It is the same level of love and dedication I have at home, that I must provide for all of my clients I service. The reward is being able to build these healthy and supportive relationships with my clients and knowing that I made difference in a person’s life by giving my time selflessly.

The relief that families feel is noticeable when the right supports are put into place. That’s when I know, I’m doing my job to the best of my ability.

As a respite worker, you become an integral part of your client’s family and their daily life.  The client is reliant on the services provided by the respite worker for physical support (in order to be as independent as possible) and the family is reliant on the services for emotional support. A respite worker is as connected to the client they serve, as the family that surrounds them

May is Cerebral Palsy Awareness month and Ontario is currently experiencing a large shortage of respite workers. Many families in need of care are left waiting 6 months to a year or longer for services. If you’re looking for a new rewarding career. Give respite care a try. From personal experience, it will change not only your life, but the lives of those touched by the services you provide.

One Community, One Voice: A local leaders journey in uniting her community

A leader is a person who recognizes the needs of their community, and motivates, inspires and empowers a group of people to unite in order to make changes in a community. A leader does this, by advocating on behalf of those who are without a voice, and also by giving the people of their community the opportunity to actively participate and influence decisions that affect them.

Amanda Coombs, is our community spotlight leader of the month. She is a Tenant Rep, who advocates on behalf of the people who live at 4400 Jane St. Amanda was elected tenant rep after only 6 months of residency. Since she was elected, Amanda has gone above and beyond to be the voice of her community. Shortly after being elected, Amanda acquired funding and opened the once closed gym in her building, and began teaching fitness and healthy living classes. She also began assisting residents with obtaining employment by posting jobs on the buildings community bulletin board.

Amanda made it her responsibility to advocate and protect the basic rights of the people living in her building by assisting the residents in her building who are facing eviction in writing letters of appeal on their behalf. Amanda has also started an organization called Peoples Pantry, which focuses on providing fresh produce and educating people about healthier lifestyle choices. The residents of 4400 Jane St. know that when it really counts Amanda will come through for them.

Noticing the barriers between getting a good quality education and having access to employment opportunities, Amanda, started her own non-profit called “Back 2 Basickz.” Back 2 Basickz is a not for profit organization that helps youth get their GED, while also assisting them in securing employment in their field of interest. Amanda has done all of this by actively applying for grants and canvasing for donations and she does it all on a voluntary basis.

She also volunteers at the local soup kitchen, facilitating community workshops and assisting in children’s programs.
Amanda cites her son as an inspiration for the work she does in her community and her work reflects her commitment to ensuring that every child is given an equal opportunity to be successful. When Amanda’s term as tenant rep concludes, she plans to run for MP.

We acknowledge Amanda for all of her contributions to our community and we wish her luck in all her future pursuits.