Mayor Jim Watson and Osgoode Ward Councillor George Darouze presented the Mayor’s City Builder Award to Mitch Kurylowicz today in recognition of his volunteer work with Free the Children, the world’s largest organization of kids helping kids, and his four years to date of fundraising to build a boys’ secondary school in rural Kenya.
Mitch, who is 17, has been doing volunteer work to benefit children in developing countries for 10 years through Free the Children. Inspired by Canadian philanthropists Craig and Marc Kielburger, who founded youth-targeted charities Free the Children and Me to We, Mitch has travelled to Kenya, India and China to work on community development projects.
Since 2011, he has been raising funds through Project Jenga, a charity he founded to help Free the Children build an all-boys secondary school in the rural Narok south district of Kenya, which will complement the all-girls Kisaruni school that opened four years ago. Jenga is a Swahili word meaning “to build”.
Free the Children has raised $1.8 million of the $2 million needed to build, furnish and start up the school, and Project Jenga is the biggest single contributor with more than $500,000 raised. The main fundraising event that Mitch organizes is an annual gala dinner; three have been held to date, and the 2015 gala held on March 31 raised $117,000. Mitch travelled to Kenya last August to break ground for the school; it is scheduled to open at the end of 2016.
As the current Head Boy at Ashbury College, Mitch also works to organize collections for the Ottawa Food Bank and raise funds for Christie Lake Kids. Last year, he founded the Ashbury College Community Service Club. Also in 2014, he was awarded the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award for community leadership.
The Mayor’s City Builder Award is a civic honour created to recognize an individual, group or organization that has, through outstanding volunteerism or exemplary action, demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to making our city a better place today and for the future. This may include lifelong service, outstanding acts of kindness, inspiring charitable work, community building or other exemplary achievements. Individuals, groups or organizations may be nominated by members of City Council or the public. The award is presented at the beginning of each City Council meeting.