President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Canada Julia DeansPresident and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Canada Julia Deans will join in conversation with UWindsor chancellor Mary Jo Haddad on Thursday, March 21.

Habitat for Humanity Canada president to talk building community and building futures

While some say opportunity knocks, Julia Deans says sometimes you need to find the doors, do the knocking, and turn the handle.

President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Canada, Deans will be speaking with University of Windsor chancellor Mary Jo Haddad on Thursday, March 21. The event is the latest in the Chancellor’s Leadership Series and will focus on the topic of building community.

“Community is creating a place where everyone can live, work, play safely and in comfort, and know they build their future and invest in the future of their families and of that community,” Deans said.

“I think that’s one of the things that really drives us at Habitat. We are interested in people owning their own homes because we know that when you own your own home, you have that sense of safety, security, and stability.”

Deans started her career in law. She practised in Toronto and Hong Kong and built a business in Singapore before making her way back to Canada, where she has worked in non-profit leadership, becoming CEO of CivicAction, Futurpreneur Canada, and the Canada Children’s Literacy Foundation before taking on the role at Habitat for Humanity.

“My real interest is connecting people to opportunity,” she explained. “Anything I can do to connect people to opportunity excites me. I’m not a housing person. I’m not a literacy person. I’m not an entrepreneur person. I like anything that will help people do more with their lives and achieve their potential.”

That excitement is what drove Deans to Habitat for Humanity, to have a platform with many people to work with and address the need for housing while influencing others to help tackle the issue, she said.

Habitat for Humanity makes its mark on communities by addressing a myriad of issues, from home building to improving community spaces and gardens.

“I think of Habitat Windsor-Essex as a great example because it’s an organization that is deeply integrated into every facet of the community. It is working with the University, it’s working with education and with builders and developers,” she said. “In each case, we’re trying to leverage whatever that group has in order to improve the housing situation for people in Windsor-Essex.”

During the discussion, Deans hopes to offer advice to students embarking on their careers. One of those points will include how to be confident enough to open your own doors of opportunity.

“Rather than wait for people to open the doors and pull you in, go in and knock on the doors and turn the handle. I know that that’s easier for somebody like me, who was born and raised in Canada, and for others that may not be a natural thing, and there may be hesitation,” she said. “But I want to encourage people to be courageous and to let them know there are a lot of people who want to help them.”

During the conversation, Deans and the chancellor will also discuss how people can make a difference when it comes to housing, unconventional avenues for those pursuing a law degree, and building a future that incorporates their passions.

Register online for Building Community: In Dialogue with Julia Deans on Thursday, March 21, from 11 a.m. to noon in the Hatch Studio Theatre, Jackman Dramatic Art Centre.