Black Ottawa Scene was at the June 7 fund-raising walk-a-thon organised by the Black Canadian Scholarship Fund. to capture the event on camera and have a short interview with President Ted Guillaume.
What can you tell me about this walk?
This walk-a-thon has been in existence for eight years, we organize them in order to raise funds for the scholarships that we offer to students going to university.
What are the conditions for eligibility for the scholarships? If a young man wants to apply, how does he or she go about it?
We are always happy to help. if he or she is in high school and is admitted or is admissible to university, we look at their marks, their community involvement, and the state of the family finances.
So if he or she is from a low income family and they have good academic marks, they would be eligible to apply?
We usually have 20 -30 applicants and we have a selection committee and we make a short list of six and we send them to the interview committee, which selects 3 or 4 for the scholarships.
Can you confirm that these scholarships are only available to black students? And how do you define “black”?
First, the student has to be a Canadian, born here here or naturalized here
So he or she can’t be a permanent resident or landed immigrant?
No, only Canadians students from black parents can apply. I don’t know the details, I’ve never been asked this question before, that’s a good question.
How many scholarships have you awarded so far?
This fund was created by Dr. Horace Alexis in 1996. We started awarding the scholarships in 1998 and we have awarded 36 scholarships to date at $5000 each and we just raised it to $6000 last year.
If a young person gets this scholarship, are they required to maintain a particular academic standard during the course of their studies?
No it is not a requirement. But we know our students have gone on to become doctors, engineers, dentists and all kinds of professions. And some of them do get in touch with us and they are all doing very well.
If a person gets the scholarship, is there any arrangement for them to come and give back, such as giving testimonials about what BCSF has done for them?
We have had students come back all the time to tell us and they have gone back to help and we’d like to see more of these students more often.
Apart from the charity walk, are there other initiatives you have to raise funds?
We have five or six activities in the course of the year. Our biggest activity is in December, we invite all our supporters to come to a dinner; we also have a golf tournament in about two months and that’s been going on for years; we also have a Black History Month brunch where we invite friends to come and support . Something that is important is that the funds that we collect, we do not keep, we invest them with the Ottawa Community Foundation and they invest it on the market and it is the dividends that produce the scholarships.
If someone wants to contribute to the fund, do you give them a tax receipt?
Yes they get a tax receipt. To contribute they can go to our website www.bcsf.ca to contribute or they can do so by calling or writing to us.
If someone wants to join BCSF how do they go about it?
We welcome everybody who wants to join. We conduct an interview to see the level of their commitment and how much they can really volunteer, because this is a time-consuming opportunity, but people can contribute their time.
Is membership open only to black people?
Membership is open to anyone but only black students can get the scholarships.
Have you done anything to reach out to the corporate world?
As the chair, I’ve been trying very hard and this is our third year of having support from the corporate people. Today we have 3 banks, the National Bank , Bank of Nova Scotia and the Caisse Populaire, that are participating and we have some other businesses that are providing financial support.
How do you promote your events, do you advertise in the papers?
From time to time we have radio interviews, there used to be a black newspaper the Spectrum which is now closed, from time to time we would approach the Citizen or Le Droit to advertise for us. The CBC did a very good number last year at the time of the scholarship award . That was a very nice interview.
Talking about the promotion, do you have like a champion, someone who is very well known in the community, who you can say represents what BCSF stands for, so he or she becomes the flag bearer for BCSF?
The person who comes to mind is the founder Dr. Horace Alexis is very well known in the community although he is been retired for years but he was the one who founded this thing and he still here among us this morning. and we are happy. There are many of us professionals, helping all the time and some students too. we have some Ph.D students, from Montreal, she received her first scholarship from us 10-12 years ago and from time to time she visits with us to give speeches.
One of the things we have noticed ion the black community is there seems to be a division between Anglophone and francophone community. do you notice that in BCSF in your activities and programs and what do do to correct that?
We don’t have this problem. In fact some years we only have francophone students receipting the scholarship, from Africa or from Haiti. We advertise and we give the award o whoever is the deserving students, we don’t make any discrimination on the basis of language . Our fund is a bilingual organisation.
I just noticed that in looking round and even in attending some of your events that, it seems most of your support from the Caribbean community and not from the African diaspora, the people from continental Africa. Is this perception correct and how can you address it?
That’s a very interesting observation. Yes it’s true, maybe the founder and the members are mostly from the Caribbean but you’re right, we would like for the African community to actually come out because they have been bebeficiaries from that scholarship so we want to have more of the African community.
And what do you plan to do about it?
We are going to try to approach several of the African Canadian organisations in this area and see what they can do to help us.
Finally do you have any message for readers of Black Ottawa Scene?
We would like for the whole black community to find out about the Black Canadian Scholarship Fund and find out how they can support us. We’ve been in existence for over 16 years but a lot of people still do not know about our existence. We need people, black community in particular to come out, go on the website find out and talk about the fund. so we can have more financial support, more volunteer support and so the fund will continue to expand.