“What you do in the community can help on the job and what you do on the job can help you build community.”
Kevin Kwateng is a 28-year-old civil engineer with a high-powered managerial job at one of Quebec’s biggest transportation companies, and there’re a lot of things competing for his time and attention.
Nevertheless, almost everyday he’s able to take a little time to do a little something in his capacity as vice-chairperson at the West Island Black Community Association (WIBCA).
A task that he holds on to with enthusiasm and excitement.
“Volunteering at WIBCA has been extremely beneficial to me. I’ve received as much as much as I’ve given,” he told the CONTACT at a recent sit-down at our offices.
He said during his job-hunting days many prospective employers were impressed with the work he’s done at the association for free: “It’s been a definite plus for me.”
“Then again, WIBCA is a special organization,” he says. “You can tell by the amount of time and money that many people are ready to donate to help keep it going.”
On his part, Kwateng says he stumbled on the little building at the corner of 4th Street in Roxboro while waiting on his train to go school one day about seven and a half years ago.
He had been living in the West Island for about 15 years, spending much of his time studying, playing football and hanging out; he had no idea the association existed.
So he jumped on his computer and Googled them and fired off an Email.
He says they immediately recognized his capacity in Math and before long he was tutoring students at Riverdale High School and at the association’s building during the week and on weekends.
“A remarkable experience for me, because it gave me a ground level view how much work that was needed to be done in the community, especially to help our students.”
It also opened the door on the many things that had to be done at the association for youth and led to him organizing or becoming part of workshops on mentoring, leadership and self-development.
By the time he graduated from McGill University in 2013, Kwateng said he realized that the time invested in volunteering at the association was just as valuable as his newly minted Civil Engineering degree and went on the job market brimming with self-assurance.
“Truth is, I was interviewing many of my (prospective) employers to see which one I’d allow to hire me.”
Such is confidence.
He settled for a position at Delmar Transport, a leader in the industry across Canada. In four years he rose meteorically through the ranks, first as a project manager, now the operations manager, very close to being the top man in a department where most of his peers are old enough to be his father.
He says education was the key that opened the doors but his volunteering efforts carried him through.
As such he says he continues to be passionate about community work and committed to WIBCA.
As vice-chairperson of the association, he recognizes that one of the more urgent tasks of the new executive is to try to bring in the new generation of members to build on the spectacular work done by stalwarts who are now easing their way into their golden years.
“It’s very important for us to make that transition in membership as easy as possible.”
Going on almost a decade of involvement as a community advocate and worker, Kwateng has seen enough to know where we are lagging in our path to development.
“Financial awareness is the key to personal wealth and community development. We need to build wealth,” he says. “To get there, we have to stop irrational spending and learn about strategic investment.”
“Also, education is important. But we also have to be strategic in what type of education we go after.”
He pointed to what he describes as the STEMM model, urging parents to encourage their children to consider options in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.
“But we also have to recognize that many students might not find those areas to be appropriate for them. So it’s good to remember that some of the highest paid jobs are in the trades and in construction.”
Looking forward Kwateng advices young people to find the link between their lives dream and their community.
“What you do in the community can helps on the job and what you do on the job can help you build your community.”