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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

CAMH in the community

First Impressions team fosters relationships between CAMH and its neighbours

Toronto, August 24, 2016 - ​A smiling face, an outstretched hand, a warm greeting – these are just some of the things you can expect from the Community Ambassadors and Information Officers who make up CAMH’s First Impressions team.

First Impressions’ job is to provide a positive, welcoming and informative experience for visitors to our Queen Street and College/Russell Street sites,” says Janet Mawhinney, Director of Community Engagement at CAMH. “Whether it’s by way of a formal tour or a casual conversation on the grounds, our team’s goal is to make everyone feel welcome.”

Community Ambassadors are easily identifiable in their purple attire.  As part of their role, they canvass the grounds, direct visitors and help us all uphold CAMH’s Tobacco Free Policy. Whenever you’re at either CAMH site, please feel free to give them a wave or approach them with any questions you might have.

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First Impressions (L to R): Brooke Padanyi, Paul Marzec, Ann McDowell, Dorian Clarke, Sandra Luccisano, Nadia Ramadhin and Mark Wajda.
Missing from photo: Alex Patterson, Arthur McCudden, Colin Bashford, Reesa Mandel, Silvia Bautis and Stephanie Powers.​

Two initiatives that go above and beyond to create an engaged and connected ​environment at CAMH and in the surrounding communities are CAMH Tours and Community Use of Space.

Engaging local communities through CAMH Tours

Throughout the year, First Impressions conducts more than 70 tours, introducing a wide variety of groups and individuals to CAMH’s rich history and vision for the future of mental health care.

Students from Toronto’s Trinity Theatre, a peer mentorship organization with a mandate of empowering youth and building community, frequent the CAMH Tours initiative.

We see CAMH as integral to the community,” says Pallavi Gupta, Program Coordinator at Trinity Theatre. “Engaging youth mentors creates awareness and dismantles stigma as students take their skills back to their schools and communities.”

Most recently, students toured CAMH as part of Trinity’s one-month long Leadership Lab. “Each week has a different theme,” explains Sindi Pinari, a Teaching Assistant from the University of Toronto. “Then we choose an organization that embodies that theme and plan a visit with high-school students from across the city.

The theme this week is ‘sense of community.’”​

IMG_8204.JPGSindi (top left) and high-school students from Trinity Theatre pose for a photo next to the ‘You’ve Changed’ wall in Paul E. Garfinkel Park.

“Our tours have touched not only the local community but international audiences as well,” says Bharati Singh, Manager of First Impressions. “Tour participants have ranged from new CAMH staff recruits to high school students and from community partner agencies to international professionals.”

Anyone interested in taking a tour of CAMH can contact Bharati directly.

Community integration through shared space

First Impressions also leads the Community Use of Space initiative, finding creative ways to share CAMH space with artists and community groups throughout the year. 

This includes large cultural events such as Nuit Blanche, Queen West Art Crawl and Doors Open Toronto, and smaller events such as the Toronto Flower Market or local performances,” adds Janet. “We see this as a great opportunity to enliven the grounds, engage different communities and encourage street-level interaction with the local community.”

DoorsOpen_6243_93120.jpgThe biggest tour of all. More than 250 people popped by CAMH’s Queen Street site on May 28 as part of Doors Open Toronto, 2016. This is the second year in a row CAMH has taken part in Doors Open, which provides the public with a unique opportunity to take a behind-the-scene look at some of Toronto’s greatest spaces.​

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Tour guides Ann McDowell (L) and Janet Mawhinney (R) conduct a tour in Shaw Park during Doors Open Toronto. 

From May to October, CAMH’s Shaw Park is home to the Toronto Flower Market. One Saturday per month, people from around the city come on to CAMH grounds for a look at the season’s finest flowers.

Natasa Kajganic, Marketing Manager of the Toronto Flower Market says, “All of the vendors and guests I’ve spoken to agree that Shaw Park is the best location we’ve had.

I feel very proud; CAMH and the Toronto Flower Market are working together to affect a space and build community.” 

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Shaw Park most recently hosted Toronto’s SummerWorks Performance Festival. As part of the event, community members were invited to experience Trophy, an interactive performance about transformation. 


As part of Trophy, each tent featured a different person who tells a story of a turning point in their life.​

STO Union – the production company behind the performance – was thrilled to have CAMH’s Shaw Park as its main stage.

“The CAMH grounds were the perfect place to present Trophy,” says Sarah Conn, Artistic Producer at STO Union. “A welcoming host and generous partner, CAMH provided a space that allowed us to integrate our show directly into the fabric of Toronto. 

An urban oasis right in the heart of the city, we had all the resources we needed to bring our creative vision to fruition, and the support necessary to link our work to the surrounding community."

CAMH is fortunate to operate among some of Toronto’s most vibrant, culturally diverse and artistic neighbourhoods. Whether it’s a smiling face and warm greeting, a tour of the CAMH grounds or a special event that invites outside organizations in, the First Impressions team plays a leading role in finding ways to foster relationships between CAMH and its neighbours.

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