Reverend Dr. John Joseph – A dedicated steward of Fife House and many other AIDS service organizations. Currently, he serves on the Fife House Development Committee and previously sat on the Board of Directors. He was recognized by the Rotary Club of Toronto in 2022 with the Community Leader Award for his pioneering volunteer work, outstanding leadership and ability to give hope to others.
“As people are searching for meaning in their lives, I feel it is critical to look for it in helping others as a way to add value to yourself and community, give back to the universe, and provide karmic balance. One way to achieve this is to volunteer one’s time, talents, or treasures. Fife House is certainly a profound place to do just that.”
Due to the significant financial hardships that so many have encountered as a result of the pandemic, Reverend Dr. Joseph believes that the Fife House mission is more important than ever.
“We have been very good at stepping up and turning up the volume for COVID-19, and we are getting better, but the pandemic has left a huge gap in health care needs, which is even greater for those living with HIV/AIDS.”
Despite the world’s turmoil, Dr. Joseph says he focuses his health and well-being in order to remain motivated, focused and involved.
“My husband makes fun of me because I am a Merry Poppins since I wake up at 3 a.m. and run 15 kilometres five days a week, I am always on the GO. It’s all about balance, when you’re giving back you can be present for others but it’s also important to restore your inner core or spiritual core or whatever that self-care may look like for you. How do I maintain my motivation? Every day, I pray for people. But when there is a need, I don’t say I’m too busy; instead, I ask, “How can we make this happen?”
Reverend Dr. Joseph has been officiating 2SLGBTQIA+ marriage ceremonies for a number of years. He will be directing Pride Interfaith on June 18th, a movement that began on the side of Queen Street in 2014, during Toronto’s first World Pride. He says it came to mind when talking with others about the various ways to be Queer positive, when faith is somewhat tossed out the window. Some may attribute this to how people were ostracized and excommunicated regardless of whether they were Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or Buddhist, and so on.
“It is important to understand that you can have faith while being gay, lesbian, transgender, Bi, or non-binary. That is a critical component that is sometimes left out of the conversation when coming out of the closet; you are expected to abandon your faith.”
He says that this year’s Interfaith will be a renewal of that sentiment, with a space to hold discussions about being present and listening, connecting with the community, and providing a “bridge” — he explains, “quite often we use the term intersectionality, so people are aware that we are Queer and yes, we also have faith, and we continue to want to be welcomed and included.”
Looking back on his volunteer contributions, his proudest memory is when Fife House purchased the 9 Huntley property. “Why? Because of the building’s history; it had been an institution for HIV patient care and wellbeing, Lady Diana had been there, and it had been a safe haven for those living with HIV for decades. There was the possibility that if Fife House had not purchased the site, it would have become yet another downtown condo, which would have been a tragedy for the legacy and memory of those who have worked, died, and continue to thrive in the HIV/AIDS community.”
Looking ahead, Reverend Dr. Joseph hopes that Fife House can expand the number of beds needed. The ultimate goal is to eliminate the necessity for HIV beds. But, for the time being, he explains, we need people on the ground because long-term solutions means allowing people to regain dignity and have a good of quality life, direct access to food to healthy environments.
We asked what qualities make a good volunteer, and what it meant to be a faithful 2SLGBTQIA+ ally, he tells us, good allies are the groundbreakers who make a difference in the here and now. Their influence extends beyond polls and panels. They are prepared to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.
With pride celebrations around the corner Reverend Dr. Joseph is excited to see people on the ground contributing to the causes that are so important at the grassroots of all levels.
“For the first time in 1992, I marched with the community at Pride and wept because being in the midst of tens of thousands of people being ‘out’ reminded me that as much as there is ‘outness,’ There are so many groups that still can’t be themselves.
When we talk about diversity, we need to make that happen, and Pride is one of many settings where people can, perhaps for the first time in their lives, be affirmed for who they are, right now.”
We are grateful for Reverend Dr. John Joseph’s talents, lived experience, and unwavering commitment to the cause of achieving food security and ending homelessness for those living with HIV/AIDS. Our crucial work would not be possible without dedicated volunteers like Reverend Dr. JJ.