Meet CJSW’s new Volunteer Coordinator Ophira Horwitz

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CJSW is excited to welcome Ophira Horwitz to the team as our next Volunteer Coordinator! Ophira has a wealth of experience in the campus and community radio sector, most recently working with CFUZ – Peach City Radio in Penticton B.C. She’s also the current Board President at the National Campus and Community Radio Association.

Ophira will officially start September 1. Make sure to say hello and welcome her to the station and the city when you see her! In the meantime, check out our welcome interview with Ophira below. Interview by Melanie Woods. 

First of all, what are you most excited about?

I’m taking it a day at a time. One of my best friends moved to Japan a couple of years ago and I told her “you must be so excited about this and planning all these great things.” And she said “actually no, I’m going in with no expectations because if you go in with expectations and something doesn’t line up the way you want it to, it might not end up how you want it to.”

So I’m just coming in here and letting it hit me in waves. In terms of what I’m most excited about, my cop-out answer is that I’m trying to go in with no expectations and just take it a day at a time.

Why did you apply for the position? 

That is a very good question. I’ve been involved on the national radio scene, so I’ve known bout CJSW from the outside. I’m on the national radio board and I served with [former CJSW Program Director] Genevieve and I currently serve with [CJSW board member] Olivia. So I’ve gotten to know the people from the station here. And on the national scene, CJSW is known as like the “Google” of community radio. It’s the innovation centre. I went in hoping that personalities like mine would be rewarded. It seems like a place where we want people who take initiative and try new things and do creative things. And I think it’s a place where I can do some really cool magic with the people here.

You’ve bounced around to a few different station across the country. What kind of experiences do you bring to CJSW?

Marta, our Program Director, calls me the “Mary Poppins” of community radio, because for the past few years I’ve been travelling from community to community and helping them build up the radio stations however they need. I most recently worked at a place called Peach City Radio, with the call sign CFUZ, because peaches are fuzzy. They’re a fairly new community radio station in Penticton in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. So they’re licensed, but they don’t yet broadcast on the air, they’re still building their volunteer capacity. So I came in and helped them build up their volunteer infrastructure and have a standardized intake process so that everyone has access to the same opportunities and the same trainings. So I worked on some instructional videos, I made a training program — we called it a “Sandbox Show” training program there. So I worked on a little bit of everything to help them get on better footing to build up their volunteer capacity to the point where they feel comfortable going on the air.

Prior to that I’ve lived in a couple of indigenous communities. I actually managed a radio station in Bella Coola on the coast of B.C. called Nuxalk Radio and that one’s really cool, because in this little community there’s less than a dozen elders who still speak the language fluently, so the mandate of this radio station is to help the people in the community learn the Nuxalk language and to broadcast in that language as much as possible. So that was a real challenge for me because I don’t speak the language, but I worked with a linguist to develop different initiatives to sneak the language into there. So even if there was someone on air who didn’t speak the language, they could do a simple introduction or a “hello” in Nuxalk on the air and get the language into people’s minds.

Prior to that I worked in another indigenous community called Sandy Lake First Nation in Northern Ontario. That was a sly-in community, and there I worked for a non-governmental organization called Journalists For Human Rights and I worked as a community journalism teacher there. And the idea there was I gave people in the community who wanted to the tools to tell their own stories. And the idea is that they do that both locally on the community radio station there, as well as to external media outlets. So instead of having a CBC reporter come in for an afternoon, get some light sense of the story and piece their own ideas together, maybe it’s having someone actually living and experiencing these stories telling them to the rest of the world.

What is it about community radio that has you so hooked?

For me it’s the sense of community. For me the radio part as almost been incidental to my experience. It’s the people there. My origin station was CHUO at Ottawa University, I did a science radio show there for four years, and even after my show ended I kept hanging out there for the coffee. I came there because it was my safe space. It was where I felt like I could just be myself around other people. I could just relax, I didn’t have to put on a face. And I really appreciated that. I hadn’t had that in my life up until that point. And it excites me so much to go from community to community, just seeing how each station has formed around its individual community and I really enjoy helping strengthen those bonds.

Fantastic. Finally — and I’ve heard you’ve prepared for this question —what’s your favourite sandwich?

Smoked salmon sandwiches on a bagel with cream cheese. You gotta have the fennel in there, the capers, some dill, some tomatoes. A proper bagel and lox.