OASW Honours Three Outstanding Social Workers at our 2024 Annual General Meeting

OASW is honoured to have recognized the following individuals at our Annual General Meeting on May 22, 2024:

2024 OASW Lifetime Achievement Award | J. Dale Munro

OASW’s Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes a social worker whose values, accomplishments and career reflect a passion, commitment and distinguished contribution to the profession, and who have demonstrated outstanding achievements and made contributions of lasting impact to social work in Ontario. 

Over a career in social work spanning more than 50 years, J. Dale Munro has been a leader in supporting neurodiverse individuals and those with developmental challenges, elevating the profile of the profession in relation to disability services.

In his roles at the Oxford Regional Centre, Regional Support Associates, the Redpath Centre and as a private practitioner, Dale has worked tirelessly to serve the needs of persons with disabilities, their families, and the frontline workers who support them. As an early adopter of the strengths-based approach and perspective, Dale advocated for the rights and independence of those with intellectual disabilities in both micro and macro settings.

Dale’s contributions to this important field of social work include mentorship and capacity building, as he worked to share his knowledge with social work professionals, always with the goal of improving services for clients and addressing barriers for those who support them. Dale has also made significant contributions to social work’s body of knowledge around disability services, both as an author of extensive evidence-based publications and as a sought-after speaker and presenter.

2024 OASW Inspirational Leader Award | Rebekah Churchyard and Dr. Vinita Puri

The OASW Inspirational Leader Award is presented to social workers whose current contribution to the profession inspires others and whose professional conduct serves as a role model for those working in the field of social work. This year, OASW is pleased to recognize two outstanding social workers with this award.

Rebekah Churchyard is a Registered Social Worker, Care Coordinator of Specialized Geriatric Services for Home and Community Care Support Services Waterloo Wellington, and Founder and CEO of Green Care Farms Inc., the first nature-based program in Canada on an operational farm for people with dementia.

Rebekah and her family struggled to find meaningful and engaging programs for her grandfather Ron, a Christmas tree farmer, after he was diagnosed with dementia at age 63. This experience inspired Rebekah to leverage her more than 10 years’ experience as a social worker in health care and policy to spearhead a creative solution to dementia care beyond what was available in the public sector, relocating back to Kitchener-Waterloo to start Green Care Farms in 2020.

Green Care Farms provides people with dementia with responsibility, purpose, and belonging, while receiving the benefits of being physically active in nature, as well as providing their caregivers with much-needed respite.

The social enterprise model of Green Care Farms seeks to maximize positive social impact for the community, focusing on sustainable agricultural practices, innovative care models, and local food security.

Dr. Vinita Puri is a Registered Social Worker, Accredited Mediator, Advocate, Coach, Speaker and Consultant, as well as Clinical Director for Resilience Counseling and Coaching Services.

Dr. Puri is a motivational speaker who embodies the mission and values of the social work profession. Her work and advocacy have served to reduce barriers for persons with disabilities, women of marginalized backgrounds and newcomers to Canada who face social insecurity. As a second-generation South Asian woman of colour with disabilities, she has inspired others through her ability to overcome barriers to reach great heights.

A passionate social justice advocate, she actively participates on the Human Rights and Social Justice Committee for the Canadian Psychological Association and the Diversity Advisory Committee (DAC) of the Psi Chi International Honorary Society in Psychology.

Dr. Puri has been recognized as the International Ambassador for Pink Thursday, a COVID Hero by the City of Mississauga, an Eminent Ambassador for Human Rights and Peace by the International Human Rights Advisory Council and a Peace Ambassador for the United Nations Diplomatic Mission on Human Rights.

OASW congratulates J. Dale Munro, Rebekah Churchyard, and Dr. Vinita Puri on receiving these important recognitions for their outstanding leadership and contributions to the field.

About OASW
OASW is the voice of the social work profession in Ontario. It is a voluntary, bilingual, non-profit association representing 9,000+ social workers. All members have a university degree in social work at the bachelor, master or doctoral level. OASW works to actively speak on behalf of social workers on issues of interest to the profession and advocates for the improvement of social policies and programs directly affecting social work practice and client groups served.