Esther Carenza is the heart and soul of low-income communities throughout the country. Her organization, “Children’s Holiday Get Together and Other Events,” is a beacon of hope in otherwise hard times for young families by offering events, talks and programs. Their focus is on Canadian and International children and human rights.
During an hour phone call with Esther in late August, every minute was filled with her passion and list of achievements. Esther is a highly educated woman with two Bachelor’s degrees in Sociology and Commerce. She’s written for the Law Times; currently writes for the Lawyer Daily, Nafens and Le Metropolitan (in French). Esther Carenza has contributed to numerous research projects on Special Needs, Oncology, Nutrition, and more. She has an impressive history of speaking internationally to federal representatives about inclusivity, human rights and gender disparities. Honestly, Esther’s list of accomplishments deserves its own Wikipedia page.
Esther grew up in a family of philanthropists. Her mother gave whatever money she could to help people in her community and internationally; go out of her way to ensure unhoused people were fed. Esther remembers volunteering in her community as early as primary school – long before she was required to by her high school transcript.
In grade 9, she began volunteering at Sick Kids hospital in the Oncology unit. Eventually, when she worked part-time at Loblaws, Esther spent paychecks on gifts for the children. The experience was illuminating, particularly one moment: “I walked into [the room and I] could see [the] cancer on his chest, […] then I realized his mother was there crying with him. So, I just, sort of, stopped, and I thought about them and [then] tried to console the mother and son – talk to them about other things; try to take their minds away from the tears, and we managed to do that. But when I left the room, it was one of those moments [where] you realize and say these kids are going to go. So, it’s one of those things that I [am] grateful to [have done] to brighten the kids up.” The boy died the next day.
Esther has continued this work throughout the decades; in 2004, Esther raised $20,000 for children in Onitsha, Nigeria, seeking medical treatment. She found even more motivation there because seeing people suffer from ailments easily treated in Canada humbled her further. Esther bought toys, rounded up doctors to sing carols, and even sat by a baby’s side, nursing it to health, risking her life to keep him alive and hydrated. She says there is gratification in seeing the joy and spirits lift in people; Esther keeps doing what she does because seeing others happy is the greatest reward for her hard work, passion, and dedication.
In 2018, she was awarded for Community Activism at the Waterfront Awards and nominated again in 2019. Heritage Beyond Borders awarded her Outstanding Accomplishments in 2019
What are Children’s Holiday Get Together and Other Events?
What started as Esther using wages to buy sick kids toys for Christmas gradually evolved into the events she hosts every year, a party that began in 2017, where kids come with their parents, get presents, dance to music, watch a play and have fun.
One event evolved into what Children’s Holiday Get Together and Other Events is today, where Team Canada Dancer Jessica Mannara gives programs and scholarships for dance; Dr Amy Botta, a post-doctorate in Biology, presents experiments; Chris Makris, an engineering student, talks about life on Mars; Dr. Laurence Harris, a distinguished professor from York University and the Canadian Space Agency, also lectures on outer space.
Children’s Holiday Get Together, and Other Events organize every get-together to celebrate Jewish, Christian, Sikh, Eid, Hindu, and Chinese New Year simultaneously and advocate for primary, secondary, college, and university students. They have helped with Indigenous affairs around Toronto and the First Nations in Georgian Bay and contribute to cultural institutions like the Nigerian Canadian Muslim Association.
What Events Are Next On The Agenda?
Children’s Holiday Get Together and Other Events will be at the Ukrainian Festival in Montreal: organizing activities for children, getting gifts for those displaced and affected by the War in Ukraine and helping displaced women find full-time employment. Esther is also planning a similar event in Manitoba. Alina Kazakova, an art teacher, decorator, and architect from Ukraine, will soon offer an art workshop. And, of course, they are planning their annual Holiday Get-Together.