Mary-Jo Dionne is a recent YWCA Women of Distinction Awards winner, in a photo posted to

Mary-Jo Dionne is a recent YWCA Women of Distinction Awards winner, in a photo posted to


6 Surrey-area women are finalists for YWCA Women of Distinction Awards, with voting on now

Gala event May 26 at Vancouver’s JW Marriott Parq Hotel

Six Surrey-area women have been named finalists for YWCA Women of Distinction Awards, with winners in 12 categories to be announced during a gala event May 26 at Vancouver’s JW Marriott Parq Hotel.

In total, 75 Metro Vancouver-area women are nominated for “outstanding activities and achievements (that) contribute to the well-being and future of our community.”

This is the 39th year for the awards, presented by Scotiabank. Since 1984, YWCA Metro Vancouver has paid tribute to more than 340 award recipients and 2,025 nominees.

This year’s nominees list includes six women who live and/or work in Surrey, including Kristin Cheung (Community Arts Council of Vancouver, in the Arts, Culture & Design category), Patience Magagula (Afro-Canadian Positive Network of BC, Community Champion category), Dr. Jennifer Marchbank (SFU, Education, Training & Development), Raveena Oberoi (Just Cakes Bakeshop, Entrepreneurship & Innovation), Jillian Glennie (UNITI, Non-Profit) and Hebah Hussaina (Science World, Young Woman of Distinction).

Their biographies are posted to, with all of the others.


The nominees are eligible for the Connecting the Community Award. Nominees will select a YWCA advocacy area in which they are interested and use social media channels to promote votes.

Until April 13, the public can cast votes online, and the nominee with the most votes will receive the Connecting the Community Award. Scotiabank will donate $10,000 to the YWCA program area of the winner’s choice.

Elsewhere, Jody Wilson-Raybould has been announced as keynote speaker during this year’s Surrey Women in Business Awards, presented by Prospera Credit Union on Friday, May 13.

A lawyer, Wilson-Raybould has served as MP for Vancouver Granville, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence. Her traditional name, Puglaas, means “woman born to noble people.”

The May 13 awards luncheon will held at Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel, and tickets for the event are available on

• READ MORE: Surrey Women in Business award finalists named ahead of May event, in 6 categories.

Biographies of Surrey-area nominees for YWCA Women of Distinction Awards:

Kristin Cheung (Arts, Culture & Design category)

Kristin is Executive Director of Community Arts Council of Vancouver. She also co-founded “The Future is you and me” as a free community mentorship program for women of colour in the arts in Metro Vancouver. It is the only program of its kind in Canada that is inclusive of all forms of art. She has brought together over 100 women of colour mentors and mentees in the cultural sector and has helped support programs including MAGES: Marginalized genders Accessing and Generating Evolving Systems (FKA FEMMES), a series of digital skills workshops to create works of interactive fiction. Kristin recently mentored individuals to develop “Making Space” a visual-arts focused BIPOC peer mentorship collective. Kristin understands the structural and systemic barriers that racialized artists face and builds systems that overcome these barriers.

Patience Magagula (Community Champion category)

Patience co-founded the Afro-Canadian Positive Network (ACPNet) in 2009 soon after arriving as a refugee in Canada, and, like many, learning she was HIV-positive through immigration medical screening. She taught herself to use a computer and began applying for grants to fund programming for ACPNet, building a network from scratch with major agencies and organizations to bring her vision forward of leaving no one behind. Now as Executive Director, Patience provides peer support, health education and advocacy for HIV-positive people of African descent in Metro Vancouver. She speaks publicly about her HIV status to challenge stigma, raise understanding and emphasize the necessity and success of continued treatment. Patience is determined to end new infections and deaths by HIV, and carries the message that “Stigma kills more than HIV”.

Dr. Jennifer Marchbank (Education, Training & Development category)

Jen is a Professor in the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies department at Simon Fraser University. She creates unique ways to engage, empower and teach LGBQT2S+ youth through intergenerational oral history podcasts, involvement in activism, advocacy and education. Ten years ago, she co-founded Youth for a Change (Y4AC), an activist/education group for LGBQT2S+ youth, and is a leader and facilitator for members aged 12–22. Her passion for helping others does not stop at youth as Jen also concentrates on elder research within the LBGT community, particularly in end-of-life conversations at the SFU Gerontology Research Center. She co-authored “Raising Awareness and Addressing Elder Abuse in the LGBT Community: An Intergenerational Arts Project “(2018) with youth and seniors working together to produce the first Canadian materials on LGBT elder abuse.

Raveena Oberoi (Entrepreneurship & Innovation category)

Just Cakes Bakeshop and the Jar Bar Founder Raveena is a pastry chef and entrepreneur who challenges the bounds of the food service business. She pivoted strategy amid a pandemic and opened a second bakeshop and Canada’s first cake jar vending machine. She entered the commercial space with five Fresh St. Market stores selling her cake jars as well as 13 wholesale partners. A South Asian woman in a competitive industry, she is aware of intersectional challenges faced by entrepreneurs and women. She provides her staff with fair wages and benefits and provides business coaching to budding entrepreneurs with her podcast, RavThinks. She advocates for social causes, and has worked with the Surrey RCMP’s Project Lavender for at-risk teen girls. Her acumen and talent won her Food Network’s The Big Bake.

Jillian Glennie (Non-Profit category)

Jillian is Associate Director of Development of UNITI, a partnership of societies that provide a range of services to support people with disabilities. Jillian created the Community Development Committee, which supports women with disabilities to become leaders in the community. She also created a new model for the organization’s self-advocacy group and has developed and maintained relationships with partner organizations to offer leadership opportunities, mental health services and educational skills to people with disabilities and other community groups, such as seniors. She developed ‘Equally Empowered’, a presentation led by people with disabilities that is delivered to schools. Jillian educates, partners with and mentors the community to see people with disabilities as valued, essential members of society and to ensure they have a seat at the table.

Hebah Hussaina (Young Woman of Distinction category)

Hebah is passionate about supporting STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) education for youth. Through her role as Surrey Program Coordinator for Science World’s Future Science Leaders, Hebah brings together diverse experts and educators to develop and facilitate lesson plans and to introduce students to career paths within STEAM. She was a panel speaker during Youth Innovation Day at the 2019 BC Tech Summit. Hebah is Founder and President of Youth for CARE, which fundraises and raises awareness for Surrey Memorial Hospital, while fostering connections between youth and the hospital. She helped pilot an initiative to 3D-print assistive devices to members of the local hospital and health care community. In 2019, Hebah gave a TEDx Talk, “How Volunteering Grows Healthy Communities,” focusing on how volunteering impacts her journey.

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