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Helpers: Long-time volunteer’s advice: Step out of your comfort zone

Her parents inspired Shannon Katary’s love of volunteering
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Shannon Katary, pictured here with her father Narasim, says the support and mentorship of her parents during her childhood is what sparked her curiosity to travel, volunteer and explore the world. (Supplied)

For Shannon Katary, an inherent sense of adventure, compassion and joie de vivre fuel her passion for making a positive difference in her community and the world around us.

An only child, Katary was fortunate to be exposed to arts and culture, music, literacy, sports and a strong sense of civic duty at an early age by her worldly, generous and humble parents. 

“Coming from different ethnic and religious backgrounds themselves, my parents instilled in me a desire to learn about world politics and history and the importance of having a well-rounded, balanced perspective,” said Katary. “With their support, this sparked my curiosity to travel, volunteer and explore the world.”

Katary, who is the director of marketing and communications at Maestro Digital Mine, is an active community and industry volunteer. She developed her communication skills at a young age. 

“My parents insisted I write for a half an hour every day during summer vacation. Who would have known this early exposure would align with my chosen career path.”

Katary’s parents have been her biggest influence and inspiration. They encouraged her to try new things, whether it was mountain biking, basketball, cross-country skiing, rowing, music lessons, student council, model UN or other volunteer activities at high school and university. They also instilled in her an understanding of the importance of helping others and giving back. 

Her late mother, Sally, a world-renowned Egyptologist and professor at Thorneloe University, inspired her daughter to be compassionate and kind. 

“Through the ‘Friends of the Library’, my mom made time to deliver books to seniors’ residences because she knew they had limited access to the public library. She was an avid reader who would read books to me as a child and made them come alive. She brought Middle Earth to life for me in the Lord of the Rings. She was dedicated to her students and on her own time offered classes on Egypt not available through the university. Even after graduation, many of them kept in touch and continued to keep her updated on their lives and passions.”

Katary’s father Narasim, a retired member of the Ontario Municipal Board and retired long-range planner with the City of Greater Sudbury, is well-known for his involvement in Sudbury 2001, a visionary group dedicated to the diversification of Sudbury’s local economy after the significant mine lay-offs of the late 1970s. 

He designed a sustainable development strategy for this mining town, the first plan of its kind for any North American city. 

“It’s incredible to see my dad work so hard, even in retirement. His longstanding dedication to Canadia, a major initiative he founded, continues to help improve the lives of the people of Kandavara in southern India by giving them access to free health care at his clinic. I’ve learned from my dad that patient determination is what gets things done. At 79, I only hope to have his energy and conviction when I am his age. He is my ‘George Bailey’!”

Growing up, Katary was encouraged to be open to possibilities. “My parents motivated me to step out of my comfort zone with self-confidence in order to discover my life’s passions and achieve my goals.”

Katary can always count on the support of her life partner of eight years, Jason Dominick, who is her personal cheerleader and best friend.

While attending the University of Toronto, she sat on the Student Council at Victoria College and in her final year took on the role of orientation chair, leading a committee of leaders in hosting Frosh Week for a campus full of first-year students. 

“Living in student residence, you connect strongly with your classmates. You become a support network, a family away from family. Campus living opens the door to many volunteer opportunities within the university environment. It gave me confidence in what I could accomplish by putting in the effort and doing the work. I was fortunate to be surrounded by so many inspiring peers and friends.”

Soon after she graduated with Honours B.A. degrees in International Relations and Political Science, Katary launched a new adventure—a seven-month commitment to run a school in Mysore, southern India, as their dean of students. Not only did she help establish and operate the school, she worked with dedicated staff who humbled her in their abilities to persevere and see the good despite the poverty surrounding them. 

Katary also took the opportunity to explore her own heritage and Indian culture. “It was natural for me to follow in my parents’ footsteps by getting involved in community service. They didn’t expect me to pursue a volunteer placement in India, but understood and supported my aspirations for in-the-field experience. I came home with a new appreciation for life in Canada.”

As a volunteer and mentor in her professional life, Katary serves as vice-chair on the Modern Mining & Technology Sudbury (MMTS) executive committee. The mandate of MMTS is to educate students about mining and enlighten them about the exciting careers that mining and related fields have to offer. 

“Many people don’t know that state-of-the-art advancements and global innovations have been developed right here in Greater Sudbury by world-renowned industry experts. We endeavour to inspire the next generation to pursue careers in mining, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

Katary is also a longstanding member of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Engineering (CIM) and a mentor in the CIM Mentorship Program. 

“It has been a privilege to volunteer with CIM national and in the past with their Mining for Society (M4S) program. Being a total science nerd myself, I see how initiatives like MMTS, CIM’s educational programs, MECA (Mining Engagement Conference for Advancement), Dynamic Earth’s Go Deeper and Sudbury Regional Science Fairs are valuable opportunities for students to be engaged in educational activities and enlightened about future careers and new innovations. Being involved in these organizations keeps me inspired.” 

In 2019, Katary was recognized with a prestigious CIM Bedford Canadian Young Leaders in Mining Award.

Her personal life involves volunteering with local sports organizations such as the Walden Mountain Bike Club. Having served on the board for six years, the club is close to her heart. Katary was the first FedNor intern for the Rainbow Routes Associations that created the first non-motorized trail map for Greater Sudbury. “Sudbury has some of the finest, most challenging mountain bike trails in Canada and they were built by local mountain bikers for mountain bikers! Our trails connect this community and help to preserve our environment and wildlife.”

Katary’s advice to other young people is straightforward:  Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and volunteer. It just might kick-start your preparation for a career because it gives you the chance to see what you’re capable of and get constructive feedback and coaching. Get involved with events and organizations alongside possible future employers. They’ll witness you doing something that reflects your enthusiasm, potential and willingness to learn. What better way to get some hands-on ‘work’ experience and present yourself in a professional manner.

Shannon Katary’s Volunteer Words of Wisdom

Our lives are dynamic and complicated with many obligations and responsibilities already, so why add volunteering? I have met some of the most extraordinary people through volunteering over the years. People who inspired me; displayed great generosity, leadership, and mentorship. People who have helped me view the world from many different perspectives. 

Volunteering starts with the smallest acts of kindness and, from there, the possibilities are endless. My home goes beyond my house: it is the community in which I live and beyond. The ripple effects of volunteering can generate opportunities for dream careers, new adventures, stronger bonds with loved ones and new connections. 

In the Lord of the Rings, Gandalf told Frodo, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” Why not make a positive impact on the world with the time that is given to you?

Marlene Holkko Moore is a local communications professional and occasional contributor to Sudbury.com.




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