Toronto’s yearly benefit gala instrumental to educational empowerment of island nations

The UWI Toronto Benefit Gala is the largest fundraiser for student scholarships in at The University of the West Indies. Its inaugural Black Tie event was staged at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto in 2010, under the patronage of Jamaican born, Canadian, the late, Dr. the Honourable G. Raymond Chang, O.J.,O.C., a highly respected business leader and philanthropist. Together with his wife Dr. Donette Chin-Loy Chang, Elizabeth Buchanan-Hind, Executive Director of Advancement and a team of several volunteers from 4 countries, the Gala has become a hugely successful venture and one of the top social events in Toronto’s springtime calendar.

As a new decade of Gala planning began, the world was hit by an unprecedented, unexpected and unpredictable pandemic. In March, with the counsel of one of Canada’s leading infectious diseases physician, Dr. Upton Allen, the Vice Chancellor of UWI, Sir Hilary Beckles, made the decision to cancel the 2020 UWI Toronto Gala. Totally undaunted Ms. Buchanan-Hind and her team set about planning the first online Zoom Gala presentation. On June 13, 2020 over 100 guests came together to celebrate 6 extraordinary individuals - Dr. David T. Suzuki, C.C., O.B.C. (Luminary Award); The Honourable Margaret Norrie McCain, C.C., O.N.B. (G. Raymond Chang Award); Sagicor Financial Corporation Ltd. (Chancellor’s Award); the late Mr. Harold Brathwaite, OOnt; Dr. Gervan Fearon and Ms. Shastri Ramnath (Vice Chancellor’s Award). These honourees continue to inspire and give light to aspiring students throughout the Caribbean and globally. In addition, we were joined by 2 students – Mr. Mouyton May from Jamaica and Mr. Lheyintz Vincent from the Bahamas,
whose remarkable stories of survival determination and true grit, gives us pause and hope that the future is in good hands.

Vice Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles said: West Indies, ‘hope is on the agenda for a better world, and the pandemic has exposed the inequities for students in need, but in difficult times, we have your backs.” In praising the work of the University in the areas of science and medicine, he stated that the UWI has been working with the Caribbean heads of governments in these areas and beyond.

For the 11 th year, the Lead Chair, Scotiabank has partnered with the UWI Toronto Benefit Gala, increasing its financial commitment to enable the awarding of more scholarships for students in dire need. Mr. Brendan King, Senior Vice President, International Banking, praised the resiliency of the Caribbean people stating: “We are proud of our expanded partnership with UWI to provide equal access to education through our Scotiabank scholarship holders to help break down barriers for our next generation of leaders.”

Chancellor Robert Bermudez added his voice acknowledging the plight of students and changes made in a short time: “The pandemic is driving change at the University at a pace not thought possible, as one example, students will now be receiving tuition via the internet, it had been discussed for many years, and in a matter of a few months it has become a reality.” Further he acknowledged that the UWI Toronto Benefit Gala is the most significant fundraising efforts for the University and has helped numerous young West Indians to get a
world class education.

Over 600 scholarships have been awarded from the UWI Toronto Benefit Gala to young outstanding students in dire financial needs.

On behalf of the Co-Patrons, Mrs. Brigette Chang Addorisio, and Mr. Andrew Chang, and Dr. Wesley J. Hall, Dr. Donette Chin-Loy Chang congratulated the honourees and recognized the students saying:– “at this moment we are compelled to ponder your toiling and inspired by your passion…our mettle is being tested, we are all being called to be present, be open and be ready to learn and change…bringing together our collective wisdom, to be architects of a new and more equitable future.” She implored the students to harness that
wisdom – “you are no longer future leaders you now lead.”

The UWI Toronto Gala stands firm in its commitment to students and empowering the Caribbean leaders of tomorrow. We encourage you to join us in our vision through the SHINE YOUR LIGHT Campaign by visiting our website at, signing up for our newsletter at and following us on social media:
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