Congratulations Don Kossick!
In December 2022, Don Kossick was appointed to the Order of Canada — one of Canada’s highest honours. It recognizes people across all sectors of society who have made extraordinary and sustained contributions to our society. Don received the award “for his promotion of human rights and social justice, and for his leadership in international development.”
Don Kossick has been a team member of the Mozambique-Canada Maternal Health Project from the beginning and, before that, was part of its forerunner, the Training for Health Renewal Project (THRP). His history with Mozambique extends to 1981 when he first came as a CUSO cooperant. Don has been an important colleague, mentor, friend, and – in every aspect of his life – an inspiration, to our project team and to many others.
Don has made outstanding contributions to Canadian society through a lifetime of social commitment and incredibly hard work that has made a valuable impact in the world. His unwavering focus on social change through international solidarity rests on learning about and enriching our lives collectively, community to community. This commitment has taken many forms: community development, with especial focus on youth engagement; gender equality; human rights; workers’ rights; climate justice; racial justice; Indigenous rights and transforming Indigenous-settler relations, always with a focus on righting wrongs. Don has continuously promoted good health and well-being within a social determinants context, at both local community and international levels, through strong solidarity.
As a young person in Canada, Don was very involved in the student movement and worked as the editor of a student newspaper before becoming involved in organizing with the National Farmers Union. His human rights and justice orientation drew him and his partner, Denise Kouri, to support international efforts to build a strong, newly independent Mozambique. Don and his family first engaged in Mozambique as CUSO cooperants early post-Independence, in the 1980s, when Don worked on promoting water and sanitation initiatives (latrinas melhoradas) with municipal and community groups and organizing productions co-operatives. His social justice commitments in Mozambique, based on collaborative initiatives between Canadians and Mozambicans, have remained active in all the years since.
Subsequent workplace health and safety work in Mozambique resulted from Don continuously building solidarity links between Canadian and Mozambican labour unions, and lead to him becoming a key contributor to health worker training in Mozambique through a series of University of Saskatchewan-Mozambique Ministry of Health projects (Training for Health Renewal Program, 1999-2014). Throughout, Don was instrumental in advocating for the project in Canada and raising funds through Canadian organizations to build a training centre in Massinga, Inhambane Province. This centre has now grown into a health training institute that plays a key role in Mozambique’s national health training system.
During THRP, Don was a key project team member leading and mentoring colleagues on community health engagement and the importance of microprojects for strengthening community development and well-being – addressing good health from an “upstream” or health determinants perspective by engaging communities as a whole – and always linking learning back to Canadian contexts. During the same period, Don was very supportive of the Saskatoon CHEP Good Food program and Quint Development Corporation in the building of the Station 20 West Community Development centre in Saskatoon and made continual efforts to integrate this community organizing work in Canada with parallel, though different, community organizing in Mozambique.
This international partnership has continued into the present as the Mozambique-Canada Maternal Health Project, in which Don remains a core team member. Don is instrumental in all project communications and, in collaboration with other team members, has developed much of the content that appears on the project website. Don uses media to engage communities in Canada with communities in Mozambique and to raise awareness in Canada about what is happening elsewhere, always with an eye on mutual learning and respect. This includes being a major supporter of community radio both Mozambique and in Canada. In Mozambique, he helped build and create the community radio station in Massinga – Rádio Kusinga – and in Saskatoon, Don has run the weekly community radio program Making the Links on CFCR 90.5 FM for over twenty years, covering a wide range of urgent social justice issues.
Don’s community organizing in Saskatoon and elsewhere in Canada reaches beyond the examples above to include forestry preservation and environmental protection in the north of Saskatchewan, advocacy and organizing for support to refugees and new Canadians arriving in Saskatoon, and critically engaging with Indigenous-settler reconciliation efforts through both organizing and art. His desire and ability to mobilize voices and resources to help make the world a better place is truly prolific, and humbling. Don is a person of the people in the deepest sense.