We are a small, tight-knit work family with a big heart. We are storytellers, visionaries and entrepreneurs. Some of us grew up in the neighbourhood and some of us live there now. What we all have in common is a desire to bring positive change, hope and equality to Jane and Finch.

ICO staff team

Melissa Walks

Executive Director
melissa@innercityoutreach.ca

Read Melissa's interview

When did you join ICO? I first joined ICO back in 2018 and was here for 2 years. I left for a few years but I have come back in January 2022 and am so happy to be back.

What is your educational background? BA Psychology

Why do you love Jane and Finch? I love Jane and Finch because of the community and people around it.

A lot of people know each other and there is always a comfort to me when I come and bump into someone I haven’t seen in a while.

Share a memorable ICO moment. One of my favourite memories was going snowboarding with some of the youth in our program. It was such an encouraging time to see them get up again and again even when it was really challenging. They showed real courage and perseverance.

What is one thing you wished people knew about ICO? I wish that people knew how precious the kids are here. While some may come across as if they don’t care they really do. And they have so much to offer.

DC or Marvel? *

MARVEL!!!!

Karissa Rondon

Program Facilitator, Fundraising Events
karissa@innercityoutreach.ca

Read Karissa's interview

What is your connection to ICO? I learned about ICO through my church, Christian Centre, where ICO is based. I’ve always admired the work they do in the community, so I was excited to be given an opportunity to join the team.

What is your educational background? BA Psychology from York

What is your favorite program at ICO?

Currently, my favourite program at ICO is the Homework Club. I love the Homework Club because it allows me to connect with so many kids and families in the neighbourhood. I really enjoy helping kids grow intellectually, socially and emotionally. It is so exciting to see a child get better at reading, learn how to express their emotions, or build friendships through the Homework Club.

Why do you love Jane and Finch? I have lived in Jane and Finch for most of my life and I have loved growing up here. All of my friends, family and community are right here in this neighbourhood. I love the cultural diversity of Jane and Finch. In spite of its reputation at times, Jane and Finch is truly such a wonderful community with amazing, hard-working people and families. There is so much beauty in the different people who make up this community. Jane and Finch is my home and I hope to raise my own family here as well! 

Share a memorable ICO moment. One of my favourite memories at ICO so far is when we did a life lesson on Self-Esteem at the Homework Club. We spoke to the children about what self-esteem is, and why it is important to have confidence and love yourself.  Every child drew their own self-portrait. Then, to combat bullying, every child wrote a compliment on each other’s self-portraits. Our Homework Club leaders participated as well. It was so uplifting and beautiful to see the kids build each other up with kind words, and receive each other’s compliments. They were all so excited to see what their friends & leaders had written about them, and it has created a great foundation for helping them to remember to use kind words with each other.

Eric “Nana” Dankwah

Program Facilitator
info@innercityoutreach.ca

Read Nana's interview

When did you join ICO? I have always been a part of ICO for a long time, but I officially joined ICO September 2021. 

What is your educational background? I graduated from Dante Alighieri High school in 2016. I’m about to finish my Journalism program at Seneca College.

Why do you love Jane and Finch? I love Jane & Finch for many reasons, first off I was born and raised here. So this place holds a very special place in my heart. I see so much beauty in Jane & Finch. All the negative stigmas this community gets is the total opposite from what I see. I see hardworking, trustworthy, great people that are all trying to figure out just like everyone else. There is so much youth in this community that need to be served, because if we don’t do our job by being there, I could only imagine what they would get themselves into. I thank God for placing me in this community, I wouldn’t change the way I grew up for anything! 

Share a memorable ICO moment. One of my favourite memories was my first summer camp here when I found out that my co-worker Bernice was scared of spiders. So one day Bernice told me to kill a spider and after I killed it on a tissue. I then pretended like I was going to make her touch the spider. Her back was on the wall and she started yelling and laughing and then she started to tear up because she was so scared. As the tears started to flow down I figured that I should stop before things got worse. Everybody was laughing and it was a memory that will never be forgotten. 

What is one thing you wished people knew about ICO? I wished people knew that the kids and youth that we’re serving in our program are the future and I pray and hope they can understand why we go so hard for these children in our community. They are children and youth that are at risk; every time they go out they are at risk.

Cats or Dogs? Dogs! I feel like cats do nothing, I can’t be taking care of a free loading animal. LOL

Bernice Orowale

Program Facilitator, Corporate Sponsorship
bernice@innercityoutreach.ca

Read Bernice's interview

What is your connection to ICO? I know about ICO through Christian Centre Church, which is my home church that I have been attending for over 20 years.

What is your educational background? BA Psychology from York University

What is your favorite program at ICO? I love all the programs here at ICO but the two that really have my heart are the After School Program and Summer Camp. The reason why I love these programs is because of the diverse youth that come and the relationships I get to build with them. Seeing them grow over the period of time spent together is so beautiful to see. Watching them apply what we have taught them in their daily lives is so encouraging and makes me even more motivated to continue doing what I am doing.

Why do you love Jane and Finch? I love Jane and Finch because of its multicultural community. When you come here there is a place for you. You have so many cultures coming together from Nigeria to Iranian to Chinese to Canadian, yet each one stands on its own. The uniqueness of this community is beautiful despite the bad representation it receives in the media, there is always something beautiful that rises out of this community. There is so much resilience in this community, never scared to keep going, and striving to be better.

Share a memorable ICO moment. One of my favourite memories here at ICO was when Nana got chosen to get water poured on him. Instead of just getting the water poured on him, we decided to add flour to it. He did not see it coming at all. One of the funniest and most memorable moments here at ICO.

What is one thing you wished people knew about ICO? One thing I wish people knew about ICO is the deep desire to help empower youth not only to excel in academics but to excel in their daily lives by providing them with resources, skills, life lessons to carry with them in their life journey.

What do you like to do on your spare time? I like to sing and play guitar. I also like to watch tv shows on Netflix specifically baking, cooking and documentaries.

Racheal Mulongo

Donations Manager, Administrator
racheal@innercityoutreach.ca

Read Racheal's interview

What is your connection to ICO? I volunteered with ICO when I was in University and I just fell in love with what ICO is doing in the
community. Being able to build into children and youth and empower them is something that I am
passionate about.

What is your educational background? Bachelors in Global Health and Biology

Share a memorable ICO moment. I would say when we went to the museum during March Break and seeing the kids interacting with each other outside of program. I love seeing new friendships between the kids blossom. I also just love watching them get excited about different things and pushing past their initial fear to try new things.

What is one thing you wished people knew about ICO? I wish people knew the impact that ICO is making in the Jane and Finch community so that they would be
more willing to support us especially financially. There is so much more that ICO could do and so many more people that we want to reach.

Audrey Mahimwala

Financial Administrator
audrey@innercityoutreach.ca

Read Audrey's interview

What is your connection to ICO? I started volunteering as a university student in 2006 and have been hooked ever since!

What is your educational background? BA Fine Arts, Design from York University

Why do you love Jane and Finch? I’ve met the most incredible human beings here, honestly. I grew up in Vancouver, and went to a predominantly Asian, fairly affluent school. Coming to Toronto and getting acquainted with the Jane and Finch neighbourhood has greatly influenced my life and career.

Share a memorable ICO moment. Hands down, seeing students who’ve attended our programs grow up to become leaders and thriving as individuals. Home grown heroes are the best.

What is one thing you wished people knew about ICO? Two financial things: 1.) One-time donations are great, but regular monthly donations (of any amount) really help a non-profit like ours budget for the future. 2.) Giving to our programs really means investing in our personnel salaries, who are the faces behind all the hard work. Programs don’t fundamentally change people; people change people.

Cats or Dogs? I have a cat, so I have to say cat. Although I love dogs too and have a particularly soft spot for beagles.

I wish people could see the value of the work we are doing here, and the impact it is having on children and their families. I have never seen so many children, all the way from age 6 to 13, so excited to come to an after-school Homework Club. They truly love coming here and being part of the ICO family. It is a privilege to get to invest in children & youth in this community because it is making a visible difference in their lives.

– Karissa Rondon, Shoreham Site Facilitator