#OneEastToronto – Meet Razia Rashed

Photo of Razia Rashed smiling with orange border.

#OneEastToronto shares the faces of East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP), a group of more than 100 community, primary care, home care, hospital and social services organizations in East Toronto working together with community members to better connect local care and services.

In this special edition of #OneEastToronto, we’re sharing the stories of the people who play an important role in ensuring community health ambassadors have the tools they need to connect local residents with health, social and community services.

Meet Razia Rashed, Community Health Ambassador Lead, The Neighbourhood Organization (TNO).

“I was born in Bangladesh and came to Canada at the age of 15. I am now raising my own children here. I often share my experiences with my teenage son, about how my life was in the late ’90s as a newcomer and teenager, especially as a woman of colour and now as an individual with a disability.

Due to my lived experiences, I am able to give back and contribute to my community and empower others. I currently wear multiple hats: I am a community ambassador lead at TNO, I co-chair the Taylor-Massey Resident Wellness Council, and I am involved with school councils and connect regularly with local elected officials addressing community needs.

I previously worked in public health and have volunteered in my community to connect people to relevant community resources. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I was invited to join the Taylor-Massey and Oakridge Community Response Team, a grassroots group consisting of local residents and various social services agency partners dedicated to supporting health promotion in our community.

This eventually led to my recruitment as a community health ambassador lead for TNO. As part of this role, I need to be knowledgeable and have up-to-date information so that I can train fellow ambassadors. It’s also important to be mindful, equitable and transparent to help build a strong ambassador team. At times, our ambassadors have dealt with tough situations, such as threats and aggressive behaviours and working outdoors during cold and harsh weather conditions.

Throughout the pandemic, our ambassadors’ safety was my priority. We came up with both conventional and out-of-the-box solutions to ensure their needs were met. For example, providing outreach safety trainings, implementing a ‘buddy-system’, providing string bags to ambassadors so they did not have to carry bundles of flyers when doing outreach, and providing Presto cards so they could easily move around via transit instead of waiting in the cold.

My strength is that I am able to connect with people and make them feel heard. I am able to see and understand the different challenges people experience. I also believe in taking action to create change. In addition, I have amazing leaders at TNO, including Ravi Subramaniam and Karma Lhamo. They give me space to lead but also lend their time and guidance when I need support.

Community members trust me. They open up and ask me for resources, like food insecurity services, employment supports and clothing banks, to address their social determinants of health. People refer to me as ‘Ms. Google’ because I am able to filter through the many available options and find resources that may be the best fit for what someone is looking for.

A community member once reached out to me because they needed support for a family member who was diagnosed with autism. After consulting with the family, I recognized they could benefit from settlement support, advocacy support and system navigation to access supports for individuals with autism. I provided a warm referral to Health Access Taylor-Massey. The family was connected to a resource navigator and social worker and they were able to receive the support they needed.

The work community health ambassadors do is important because we are able to foster connections and work with our community. We are equipped with skills, knowledge and resources and it is a great opportunity for our city to continue to integrate this model to benefit the larger community.”

Get to know Razia more through a quick Q&A!

  • What’s your favourite season? The temperature is usually perfect – not too hot or too cold. And I love the colours of the leaves during fall.
  • What’s your go to song on your playlist right now? “Unstoppable” by Sia. The messaging of being unstoppable resonates with me. When a challenge comes up in my life, I don’t stop until I reach my destination.
  • What have you read or watched recently that you enjoyed? I recently watched The Super Mario Bros. Movie with my daughter. We had a lot of fun. It’s been busy recently and I wanted to prioritize that time with her.
  • What’s one thing you’re grateful for? My family. I love them and they love me. They support me in everything I do. It’s really a blessing from god.
  • What’s a personal achievement you are proud of? When I walk out of my door, people know who I am and approach me to say hi or ask me questions. It’s a great feeling to know that my community feels they can come to me and trust that I can support them with resources to meet their needs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *