Every year, Leadership Victoria honours one of the graduates of the Community Leadership Development Program with an Outstanding Leadership Award. At the end of each program, students are asked to nominate a peer for the award. Carissa Ropponen is our winner for 2020.
2020 VCLA Winner in the category of Outstanding Leadership Award – Carissa Ropponen
Since her childhood, Carissa became aware of the inequalities of our society and learnt to be aware of the injustices in the world. Born to first generation Finnish-Canadian immigrants in Ontario, Carissa learned early about the importance of helping family members and other community members in need. Looking for the opportunity to give back was a regular part of her growing up years and exposed her to a culture of always helping.
As she grew older, some of her easy answers grew more complex. She questioned her role in changing society for the better. Carissa began to see systemic issues of injustice at work, even in the systems that had formed her. During this journey she explored new ways to help and started volunteering at a crisis line helping survivors of sexual violence. This made her acutely aware of the kind of sexual and gender-based violence that is prevalent in the society and how little awareness this has among people.
Carissa holds a passion for removing barriers for people. Her work as the Manager of Resource Development and Communication at the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre builds the build resources that help survivors. She reflects on the ways that all of us can help people around us – by tapping into our passions and not being restricted by what we think is traditionally ‘helping’.
“I don’t sing or write plays about change, I make spreadsheets and fundraise
Working in an emotionally charged environment can be challenging and frustrating at times. Like many young women, she acknowledges suffering through “imposter syndrome” and trying to be perfect in everything she does. Her conversations with other compatriots in her feminist community made her realize that much of those thoughts and feelings are created by gendered socialization and is not always up to the individual. It made her accept that it is better to try and be imperfect than not to try at all. That reminds Carissa to see the joy in everyday life.
Carissa believes that the way we rise to meet challenges is key to strong leadership and the power of tenacity is the key to solving difficult problems.
Carissa participated in the Leadership Victoria program to connect more with the local community and credits the program with making her understand that you don’t need to have a formalized leadership position to be a leader - community leadership is a change that comes from the ground up and helps to make the community better.
Connect with Victoria Sexual Assault Centre to learn more about their programs, reach out for help, or to donate at www.vsac.ca
By Chandrima Mazumdar, I write on topics related to leadership, diversity, media and gender equality.
We extend our appreciation to the Victoria Foundation for sponsoring this VCLA award