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Acting with Purpose: Helping Ontario Victim Services

February 12, 2020 | Giving and sponsorships

In September 2018, David Abesdris, Senior Advisor, Inclusion, was notified that BMO’s corporate phones were being updated from BlackBerrys to iPhones. He remembered that Tanya Thung, Branch Manager at Yonge and St. Clair, had mentioned the Phone It Forward campaign from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), a program through which CNIB repurposes technology to be used by members of the blind and low-vision community. He asked if there was an opportunity for BMO to donate its used phones to CNIB to help with this campaign.

Unfortunately, the BlackBerrys were not compatible for Phone It Forward, but Chris Bradley, Associate General Counsel, sought out another use. He brought Ontario Victim Services (OVS), a not-for-profit supporting the victims–mostly women–of domestic abuse and human trafficking, to David’s attention. OVS needed phones for victims whose access to the outside world is being prevented or controlled by their abusers. They provide a secret means to contact someone or to dial 911 in emergency situations.

Here was a way that BMO could do real, tangible good in the community and help those in need.

However, a challenge remained: all BMO devices must be fully wiped for security reasons before disposal – but only BlackBerry could do this. Raju Uppalapati, Director, Project Management, Technology and Operations, and his team stepped forward and established a process. There was also the issue of the costs involved, but Steven Bonin, Managing Director, P&C Financial Performance Management, recognised the importance of the cause and found a way to fund it.

In January 2020, BMO donated 2,200 BlackBerrys to OVS, which will be distributed to women’s shelters throughout Ontario.

Thanks to the exemplary efforts of Tanya, Raju, Steve, David, and many others, BMO is making a difference in our community.


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