Meet Student Researcher: Felipe Rodriguez-Fonseca

Felipe Rodriguez-Fonseca is doing all he can to contribute to the improvement of communities in Toronto. A student in the Centennial College Community Development Work program, Felipe is able to use his knowledge from his studies to achieve key actionable goals as a WIMTACH Student Researcher for a development initiative in partnership with the City of Toronto. Currently, he is involved with the development plan to improve the emergency management framework for vulnerable populations in metropolitan communities of Toronto. This initiative would be instrumental in improving the system to help vulnerable populations with emergencies and in providing guidelines to people who may not have access to resources. Felipe was particularly eager to join WIMTACH and the Social Innovation program when he heard about this project, and he is pleased to be able to assist with the development of a meaningful community advancement plan. “This was the perfect project and the perfect way in which I can not only develop my professional status, but also my professional background. Also, and it’s so important to me, to get introduced to the Canadian level market,” he said. “I feel really amazed to be part of it.”

His primary role in the project is to assist the WIMTACH Social Innovation team in preparing the research needed to develop the proposal for the project. Through his involvement with this project, Felipe has improved his critical thinking skills as well as heightened his knowledge of the Canadian context for social development. He has also been able to gain a better understanding of how to identify vulnerable populations within the GTA. “I have been developing a feeling of empathy according to the vulnerable population that I live in right now, how to identify them, and how to understand the context and this system in which so many populations would all have special needs,” he said. This research project has enabled him to gain a wider perspective on the issues faced in each community and how to provide tailored care to effectively support a community.

“The most awesome thing that has happened to me in this project is that we have been meeting with people from the City of Toronto, we have been face-to-face with them,” he said. Fundamentally, Felipe feels that he has been enabled to play a major role in community growth and it has enhanced his network with professionals he hopes to work with in the future. “They can know me and know my work,” he said. More, Felipe is empowered through his involvement in this project and he is excited to continue exploring his involvement in social innovation projects. “This is a very interesting place and opportunity that I really appreciate to have,” he said.

In five years, he hopes to be researching to understand the changing social climate of communities in Toronto and develop solutions to strengthen communities in Canada and back home in Colombia. “I can see myself helping immigrants, helping refugees, helping vulnerable populations that may need some kind of information or help and doing some research to help those vulnerable populations,” he said. In the near future, Felipe is excited to continue working on the project if the project is extended. He explained that the experience and recognition he has gained from his contributions at WIMTACH has been very valuable, stressing how instrumental it was in helping him to secure another job opportunity in the community development field. “This work allowed me to have my first real experience here in Canada and my first real experience related to my background with my studies here,” he said. “I feel really fortunate. I really appreciate having this opportunity here at Centennial College.

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