David Veshkini may be shy, but boy is he a man who is dedicated to his community! He works for vsttawa Victim Services & in partnership with the Victim Crisis Unit at the Ottawa Police Services. Where he supports crime victims in particular females impacted by gender-based violence. His passion for working & helping drives his efforts in positively impacting those around him. It should come as no surprise that he is extremely involved in volunteering where he supports METRAC (violence prevention non-for-profit) & OCTEVAW’s Manifest Change program, which speaks to men about toxic masculinity, sexual violence, and bystander intervention. He has been fortunate enough to help shape conversation at conferences/panels around how all men have a part to play in the prevention of violence against women. In spite of this, David felt there was more he could do and most recently started a solidarity movement called WeCanBeBetter. He believes the movement has potential to empower & educate men to not only stand against gender-based violence but also begin to think about how they can impact their communities positively to address gender issues impacting women. David gets real vulnerable in our interview and we are honoured to have him as our newest Man Of The Week. Read on and check out the incredible work he is doing, you will definitely walk away feeling inspired!
Age – 27
What do you do? (Work)
Currently, I’m the Case Manager at Ottawa Victim Services: a community-based organization that provides emotional/practical intervention to victims of crime. Our organization is fortunate to be in partnership with the Ottawa Police Victim Crisis Unit to make sure all victims in our community receive the proper support they need & deserve. I get to work with some incredible women day-in and day-out.
More recently, I started a campaign called WeCanBeBetter. An Ottawa-based solidarity movement for achieving gender equality. Its goal is to empower and encourage men/boys to become agents of change for ending violence against women and gender-based violence.
Why do you do it?
I truly love working within a field centered upon a duty-to-care & helping others. My work with OVS puts me in an extremely privileged position where I’m trusted with entering people’s lives when they’ve fallen on hard times. It’s special speaking to so many people from different walks of life, as well as being witness to their resiliency. It reminds me to continuously reflect on my own life and privilege.
The WeCanBeBetter campaign is a more upstream/preventative approach to what I do. Unfortunately, almost every day in my personal/professional life I read, hear, and talk to predominantly women who have experienced some form of gendered-based sexual, physical, or emotional violence. The campaign allows me to not only see what I can do to help survivors, but also play a role in creating awareness and preventing VAW & GBV.
How do you make a difference in the world? (Work, business, life, family, self)
Work allows me to make an impact on people’s lives in the aftermath of a tragic and unexpected incidence. I also enjoy doing community-based work, engagement, and outreach. I’ve been fortunate enough to aid in campaigns, projects, research, and committees that address and raise awareness about important issues like Gender Equality on Campus, Racism, Police/LBGTQ relations, Violence Prevention, and Homelessness.
Equally, I think the WeCanBeBetter Campaign may one day reach a place where it impacts lives in my community. WCBB is grounded in the idea that the longer men remain apathetic to the issue, the longer we comprise the gendered futures of our society, institutions, and relationships. I’m not sure when, how, and where the campaign will go or what it might become, but I’m not scared of it failing. Instead, I’d be more disappointed if I never tried.
What are 3 defining moments in your life?
– At thirteen, I was diagnosed with Gillian-Barrie Syndrome. A rapid-onset of muscle weakness that damages your nervous system causing paralysis from the waist-down. Following treatment, the recovery took months: learning how to stand, walk, and run again was an incredibly humbling experience. However, it allowed me to expand the definition of myself and my ability to persevere through life’s challenges.
– At twenty-one, my long-term girlfriend and I split up. It was my fault. I realized I had to change. I promised I’d become less stubborn, grow emotionally, & continuously reflect on how to be the best partner I could be.
– Last year, my father passed. He played a limited role throughout my life, which made me think about what type of father I’d want to be if I ever got the chance. I vowed I’d do better than him & unconditionally support, care and continuously reassure my own children that I’d always be there for them.
What is your life purpose?
Deciding to do research, work, and volunteer within the field of prevention and awareness of violence against women is ultimately centered upon lending my gender-privilege. That means using my voice & actions to speak to other men about how important it is to stand up to sexism, misogyny, and violence as well as reframe VAW as more than a women’s issue.
How did you tap into it?
At first, accessing predominantly female-centered spaces and organizations seemed difficult. I remember thinking: “what if I say the wrong thing” or “I don’t know how to help.” So I began by listening. Listening to the challenges women face socially, politically, and vocationally by virtue of their gender. Eventually, I knew that silence and inaction was the real problem. I knew this was a human rights issue and wanted to dedicate my life to helping this cause.
Who is your Role Model or Mentor?
Growing up role models were hard to come by. Later in life, my brothers (Ali & Bobby) became who I looked up to. I hope one day I can become half the men they’re!
Do you have any daily habits? If so, what are they?
I love eating candy & drinking coffee! And Wine!
When do you know your work/life balance is off?
Sometimes, when your job and passion overlap, it becomes difficult to maintain a good work/life balance. I think I can start to tell that my work/life balance is off when I’m not calling my mom!
Vulnerability is a challenge for most men – share a vulnerable moment from your life with us.
I didn’t come from a family or culture where vulnerability was particularly tolerated or understood. To be honest, until this day I continue to struggle with vulnerability in my personal life. It’s ironic given the work I do. Sometimes in my personal life, I pretend to be vulnerable, so my family or friends believe I’m open because if I were to be totally truthful, I’m worried how they would react. I know I need to grow in my ability to be all in, risk heartbreak, ask for help, and be unapologetic about failure. So let’s just say I’m working on it!
What did you learn from it?
Every time I’m vulnerable, as men I learn that it’s okay to be hurt & those who love me unconditionally will be there for me.
If you are or were going to be a mentor for another man, what is one piece of advice you would give him?
Don’t get caught up trying to impress anyone with your wealth, power, or success. Great men are known for their heart & what they’ve done for others.
Do you support any charities or Not-for-profits? (which one(s) and why?)
For a few years now, I’ve been volunteering for METRAC, a non-for-profit violence prevention organization which does work on reducing campus sexual violence. More recently, I’ve been a part of OCTEVAW’s MANifest Change. A program that talks to men/boys about masculinity, sexual violence myths, and bystander intervention in schools/detention centers.
Where do you see yourself in 3 years?
Hopefully grow WeCanBeBetter into something that makes a difference. I’d love to get a community of men to stand together to create a bold and viable presence in Ottawa for achieving gender equality.
What legacy do you want to leave for future generations?
I hope I’m seen absent of any titles or positions I might hold in the future. Instead, I hope I’m remembered for what I was able to accomplish while helping others. Saying I’ve done something meaningful, that’s what matters to me. I’d too love to know I contributed, however small, to a world where my baby niece grows up feeling safe & comfortable doing whatever she chooses, unhindered by gender norms.
What One book would you recommend for any Man?
‘Infidel’ by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
If you know a Man that is making a positive impact on the world, we would love to hear from you! Contact us at [email protected]