Inspiration for the impact you choose to make

By | 9 minute read | March 10, 2020

IBMers have always strived to be essential and to make a difference. With the launch of, it’s easier than ever for each of us to have positive social impact.

The words “positive social impact” can sound a bit intimidating, as if anything less than curing a disease or ending a war is not positive enough to have a meaningful impact, however that is certainly not the case.

We know that positive social impact comes in many different shapes and sizes. It’s private or public. It’s quiet or boisterous. It’s tiny or massive – and everything in between.

As we invite you all to join us on and discover your own path to positive social impact, please look below for snapshots of what a few IBM volunteers in Canada are doing. Their impact is as varied and wide as you can imagine, reflecting what matters to them and their communities—shining examples of social impact in all forms.

Whatever way you choose to make a positive social impact, it will have meaning. Let the new IBM Volunteer Portal on help you get started, find a volunteer opportunity, and log your volunteer hours to possibly earn an IBM grant for your organization if you’re an IBM employee or retiree.

The impact you choose to have will make a difference, and that’s what counts.

Profiles in volunteerism from IBM Canada

For inspiration, find out what some IBM volunteers are doing, both below and in the video, then join us on the new and IBM Volunteer Portal.

IBM volunteer: Angela O’Malley, Bedford, Nova Scotia

Organization: IWK Health Centre Charitable Foundation

Service: Enhancing and promoting the health care of children, women, and families

Angela has volunteered with IWK Health Centre Charitable Foundation, through Extra Life, for the past five years. She was inspired when she learned about Extra Life and how they use gaming to help children in hospitals to “escape,” while serving as a fundraising mechanism in support of local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. An entire community has evolved around gaming for fundraising, spurring many events throughout Atlantic Canada.

Angela is most proud of how far their community has grown since its inception. Through their efforts, IWK Health Centre is benefiting from new thermal blankets for the entire NICU unit. She now leads the Extra Life group for IWK Health Centre, focusing on creating more events in Nova Scotia and raising awareness.

“Knowing that we are helping children get the best possible care, so they can heal quickly and get back to just being kids, is very rewarding.”
– Angela O’Malley

IBM volunteer: Lindsay Evans, Fredericton, New Brunswick

Organization: Autism Connections Fredericton

Service: Helping people and families deal with issues related to autism spectrum disorder

Prior to joining IBM, Lindsay was an educator with a passion for working with children and adults with special needs. She left teaching to become her son’s full-time caregiver when he was diagnosed as a person with autism spectrum disorder. During that time, she volunteered with Autism Connections Fredericton, working with local families to help them navigate support systems, eventually becoming director of the organization.

When Lindsay’s son started elementary school, she decided to return to work and came to IBM. Since then she has organized fundraising events and activities in support of Q1Labs Children’s Charity, a homegrown initiative for local children in need.

“It’s just amazing to be able to work in an environment that functions as a community, giving back to their community. Each year we receive handwritten cards from parents, grandparents, children and entire classrooms, thanking the “IBM Elves” for their help. It’s such a blessing to be able to bring a smile to someone’s face. I am so incredibly proud to be a part of this team and this community.”
– Lindsay Evans

IBM volunteer: Ben Chung, Montreal, Quebec

Organization: Documentary Organization of Canada

Service: Enabling and advocating documentary film storytelling

Since 2018, Ben Chung​ has served on the board of the non-profit organization Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC), where he is currently the secretary of the Board of Directors. Prior to joining IBM, Ben spent many years working in the non-profit sector and this volunteer opportunity has been a rewarding way to use his skills and knowledge to contribute to a great cause.

His proudest accomplishment at DOC is leading the creation of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policy that was ratified in 2019; it will ensure DOC continues to represent all independent documentary creators across Canada.

“The most striking moment for me was listening to one filmmaker talk about his 10-year long project that has continuously evolved over time; he spoke with such passion, energy, and dedication! This type of long-term commitment and ability to continuously adapt and dig deeper for those untold stories is what the world needs more of today. I’m happy to be a part of an organization that makes this type of work possible for Canadians from all walks of life.”
- Ben Chung

IBM volunteer: Jacynthe Larochelle, Bromont, Quebec

Organization: Fondation Ma Vie En Main

Service: Supporting and developing workplace skills for people with mental health issues

Jacynthe Larochelle​ has been a member of the Board of Directors with the Fondation Ma Vie En Main since 2011. After volunteering at her children’s schools, she wanted to remain involved with people in her community who are vulnerable and have difficulty finding their way in life. Through her volunteering, she better understands the challenges people living with mental health issues face. The charity’s focus is to accompany and support them in developing their self-esteem and reclaim control of their lives.

“This volunteer activity allows me to get out of my comfort zone and share my energy, leadership, creativity while growing my network. It is very rewarding to see the candidates succeed in [projects] to raise funds for the purchase of materials and equipment, ultimately allowing them to work on a regular basis. I am extremely proud and grateful to IBM for the Community Grant program which has helped me give even more to the organization and help impact the lives of these people.”
- Jacynthe Larochelle

IBM volunteer: Duong Nguyen, Ottawa, Ontario

Organization: Scouts Canada

Service: Mentoring young people and role modeling

Duong first got involved with Scouts Canada in 2013 as a Scout Leader or Scouter when his children transitioned from Cubs to Scouts. As a Scouter, he’s responsible for creating interesting activities for the kids so that they can experience the outdoors, learn ways to overcome personal challenges and actively contribute to support their local community, such as helping during Canada Day, collecting and sorting food donations, and a park clean-up day.

“I enjoy teaching young people new skills and seeing them grow. I often find that I’m also learning new skills along with the youth. Working with young people can be challenging and exhausting but seeing the excitement as they experience new adventures is worth it.”
– Duong Nguyen

IBM volunteer: Joan Haggarty, Markham, Ontario

Organization: IBM STEM4Girls Teen Tech Club

Service: Motivating girls to pursue STEM education and careers

Inspired by her own positive childhood experiences, Joan has been volunteering with STEM-focused initiatives since joining IBM in 1997. In 2003, she began helping at the Toronto Exploring Interests in Technology and Engineering (EXITE) camp and her involvement grew to managing the program from 2008 to 2017, as well participation in numerous STEM events.

In 2017, Joan launched the IBM STEM4Girls Teen Tech Club as an opportunity for IBM to encourage girls to explore STEM outside of the school curriculum. The club meets at the IBM Toronto Lab, where 25-30 teen girls and IBM women learn about and explore STEM topics together, as well as share experiences and challenges. Joan leads a team of IBM mentors, volunteers, and visiting scientists, to create and lead club activities.

“My passion in work and in life is to help, empower and connect people. I love seeing kids who are enthusiastic and curious about what they are doing and the world around them. STEM4Girls also gives adult mentors and volunteers a chance to network and build their own technical and leadership skills.”
- Joan Haggarty

IBM volunteer: Niroshan Subramaniam, Markham, Ontario

Organization: The CivicAction Leadership Foundation

Service: Building effective, modern, and diverse communities

Niroshan’s roots in volunteering began in 2012 with CivicAction engagements in Toronto. Driven to get involved, his passion to help organizations has benefited the MS Society of Canada, Canadian Cancer Society, Human Services Planning Board of York Region, YMCA – Greater Toronto Area, and local youth groups in community churches. His efforts include fundraising, providing technology solutions, and organizing programs that young people and their development as future leaders.

In 2019, Niroshan became a DiverseCity Fellow, representing IBM and his community to advance affordable housing for seniors in long-term care, re-branding disability through achievement, and supporting youth.

“I am excited about the opportunity to represent IBM and impact our communities through the DiverseCity Fellows program. I have some great ideas I want to execute on.”
-Niroshan Subramaniam

IBM volunteer: Brent Southall, Hamilton, Ontario

Organization: Niagara Safety Village

Service: Teaching safety to children and others

Brent has volunteered with local charities throughout his 18 years at IBM; most recently he’s donated his time at Niagara

Safety Village. The importance of community safety and giving back are part of Brent’s values, having grown in a policing family. Niagara safety village mimics an actual community, using buildings, roads, traffic signage and lights to teach road safety, policing and community safety. Volunteers in the program help children navigate the streets on scooters and bikes. Brent also assists police officers at Niagara Safety Village with cyber security, cyber bullying education and IT consulting. His volunteerism earned an IBM Community Grant for the organization.

“My passion grew for community safety and educating children when my little girl was born in 2012. My wife and I are teaching the importance of how to safely navigate online as well.”
– Brent Southall

IBM volunteer: Kitty Ha, Calgary, Alberta

Organization: FIRST Robotics Society—Western Canada

Service: Coaching and mentoring students in STEM through robotics

Kitty joined First Robotics Society in Calgary in 2016 because she appreciates how the organization combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science, technology and business concepts, for a well-rounded learning experience for students. She’s been a competition judge, promoting teamwork and collaboration as students not only build robots, but create a business case and demonstrate how they will have a social impact in their community.

“I plan to remain involved in the years to come because I can see the impact First Robotics has on these students. It’s amazing to see the growth and confidence that they gain from one year to the next. Watching them work together, with focus and genuine excitement, is very rewarding.”
- Kitty Ha

IBM volunteer: John Ouilette, Victoria, British Columbia

Organization: Lifetime Networks

Service: Helping people with disabilities

Following a personal experience that changed his views towards people with disabilities, John has served on the board of Lifetime Networks for 15 years as president, vice president and treasurer. During that period, the organization’s budget grew from CDN 25,000 to over CDN 2 million per year.

“It is gratifying to know that hundreds of new friendships and personal connections have been made through our clients’ participation in Lifetime Networks programs. People have an increased sense of belonging, higher self-worth, and experience less loneliness.”
– John Ouilette

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