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Simcoe Chamber of Commerce honours businesses, individuals for making a difference

Jacob Robinson

By Jacob Robinson, Simcoe Reformer

The Simcoe and District Chamber of Commerce held its Annual Awards Dinner Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017  in Port Dover. Tracey McIntyre, right, of Fanshawe College, presents the Educational Achievement Award to Fanshawe student Dayla Samkoo. JACOB ROBINSON/Simcoe Reformer

The Simcoe and District Chamber of Commerce held its Annual Awards Dinner Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017 in Port Dover. Tracey McIntyre, right, of Fanshawe College, presents the Educational Achievement Award to Fanshawe student Dayla Samkoo. JACOB ROBINSON/Simcoe Reformer

PORT DOVER - 

You'll never find Dayla Samkoo complaining about cramming for exams or early morning classes. The Fanshawe College student simply feels lucky to be residing in Norfolk County.

A young refugee from Iraq, Samkoo has found a safe haven in Simcoe as she attends the James N. Allan campus as part of the early childhood education program.

“I've overcome so many challenges, especially coming from a country that has war and refugees all over the place,” said Samkoo, who arrived in Canada 10 months ago

On Wednesday, Samkoo was presented with the Educational Achievement Award as part of the Simcoe and District Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Dinner at the Lion's Community Centre in Port Dover.

Upon her arrival in Canada, Samkoo was faced with a number of significant adjustments, namely getting used to a new culture thousands of miles from home and having to learn the English language from scratch. Despite her efforts, Samkoo's voice was filled with surprise about receiving the award during a video that chronicled her journey.

That hadn't changed on Wednesday either.

“I just couldn't believe that they nominated me,” said Samkoo. “I was just so surprised because I didn't know much English at the beginning, there was a language barrier and then I learned and (overcame) this so I was so happy.”

The 2017 Citizen of the Year award will come as no surprise to most residents of Simcoe. It was presented to the head organizer for the CIBC Run for the Cure, Rotary Club of Norfolk Sunrise president and member of the Cancer Support and Resource Program of Norfolk and Venture Norfolk.

“It's a thrill, certainly,” said recipient Gail Catherwood. “It was very nice to be recognized. There's a lot of great people in the community and for someone to think to put your name forward, you've done something right.”

The award comes at a significant time as Run for the Cure will be held Sunday in Simcoe. With Catherwood at the helm, the event has donated $2.5 million to the Canadian Cancer Society, given the cause invaluable awareness and provided hope to patients across Norfolk.

“(The award) does make you reflect on exactly what you have done,” she added. “It makes me get up in the morning and try to help, get things happening and make a difference.”

Chamber president Ian Swinton praised all award winners for going out on a limb for the betterment of the community. Those honoured, “have all achieved success by vigorously embracing change,” he said.

“As we all know, change can be daunting and tempting to avoid,” he told the crowd. “The great comic Billy Crystal said, 'Change is such hard work', but again, you'll all agree it's the hard work that brought our award winners into the spotlight tonight.”

Embracing a major change in her life is something Samkoo would do again 100 times over. She advised others struggling to make things work in Canada to continue striving forward.

“They should never give up,” she said. “Canada has many opportunities and chances to offer so they have to never give up. They can find themselves here and work miracles.”

Other award winners were as follows:

Outstanding Business Achievement – Roulston's Pharmacy

Outstanding Business Achievement – Norfolk Cherry Company

Outstanding Community Service – Abel Enterprises

Entrepreneur – Lily VanDenHurk-Cooke

Inclusive Community Employer – Sobey's Simcoe

jrobinson@postmedia.com