I wish for my family to be here

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Syrian refugee, Rasha, photographed in Dundonald Park.

Rasha was forced to flee her hometown of Damascus, Syria over two years ago. The safe life she once knew, her job as a flight attendant for Air Syria and her loving surroundings changed dramatically when her family came under threat. After her two brothers were murdered, her own life under imminent danger, she fled and arrived in Beirut, Lebanon. She had left behind her elderly mother, sister and young nieces.

Rasha’s only wish was to reach safety and help her remaining family members leave Syria. She went directly to the UNHCR office in Beirut to seek help and, while awaiting the results of the commission about her future, she worked endlessly under very difficult circumstances. It was an unwelcoming and scary environment for her. After an eighteen month wait, she was told Canada would welcome her. Rasha initially went to Edmonton. There she faced a few obstacles but eventually, wanting to come to the capital, made her way to Ottawa.

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

With many challenges behind her, Rasha has come a very long way. Thanks to our friends at the United Way, we met up and chatted with her. We are reminded of the importance of stopping our busy lives and taking the time to look around to help others.

Rasha has a beautiful, yet sad look to her. In her mid-twenties, she looks older and more worldly than most young women her age. She is soft-spoken yet strong, speaks with conviction but in an at-times broken voice, is determined yet fragile. Her English has been learned quickly, out of the need to survive, to be understood. She pulls out images of her family and nieces and whispers, “I will die if something happens to my mother or sister.” Through the help of a kind-hearted Ottawan, she has found an apartment and a job. She is taking French classes in her free time, on a daily basis. She wants to do many things. Her dream is to become a police officer. In our city, “I feel safe, finally. I love Ottawa. People are so nice, so friendly.”

Although many questions were exchanged in our encounter, the one that we got an immediate answer to pertained to her family.

Now that you are safe, what is your biggest wish, Rasha?
“Please, I need my family. This is my biggest wish.”

Happy Thanksgiving, Rasha. We so admire your courage and strength. May you be reunited with your family very soon.

For more information about how you can help refugees like Rasha, please contact the United Way Centraide: or call (613) 228-6700. For information about Ottawa’s relationship with the refugee crisis please, contact Refugee613:

a city to love for 2017

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Guy Laflamme photographed at the Ottawa Canal Underpass.

We had the opportunity to photograph Guy Laflamme a few months back for an editorial shoot. We were anxious to meet the author of the City of Ottawa’s 2017 celebrations but knew that his very tight schedule would only allow for a short amount of time. We were pleased to be introduced to the most charismatic, passionate, respectful and extremely photogenic man!

Laflamme embodies what we love about our city: kindness and generosity. He rewarded us with his time, was enthusiastic to hear about our project and very patiently waited while we set up our loveOttawa canvas. We are so proud to include Monsieur Laflamme in our project and look forward to a very exciting 150th year in our city!

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

Being the voice behind the 2017 celebrations, what would you like to highlight about Ottawa to the world?

“O2017 will allow people to experience Ottawa like never before and celebrate Canada’s 150th like nowhere else. We are inviting the world to come and enjoy our unique quality of life and be inspired by the unique experiences we can offer.”

How can Ottawans participate actively in making the 2017 celebrations a special event?

“We have and will offer, every citizen, business and organization of our city‎, numerous opportunities to contribute and to participate to Ottawa 2017. Collectively we will transform our city and open new horizons for our future.”

In your free time, how do you enjoy our beautiful city?

“I have cycled, jogged or walked every kilometre of our recreational pathways.  We are blessed by the abundance of our natural surroundings and I love to embrace the variety of our seasons. You can see and experience our city from many different perspectives.”

What message would you like to convey throughout the year leading up to 2017?

“Be ready to experience an exhilarating new Ottawa! Let’s collectively transform our city and give more vibrancy to its ‎heart and soul.”

Thank you very much Guy for sharing your time and your love for Ottawa! For more information about Ottawa 2017:


fitness from the inside out – spirit, mind and body

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Marshall Page photographed in Hintonburg Park.

Marshall Page is the owner of Marshall’s Integrated Fitness, an Ottawa gym that focuses as much on the body as it does on the spirit and the mind. Marshall, a body building champion, martial arts trainer, sports nutrition expert and life coach has been in the health, wellness and fitness fields for over thirty years, helping people gain a better quality of life through physical and personal development programs. His approach to personal improvement is truly all encompassing and his motto simple: “Believe. Persist. Achieve.” loveOttawa caught up with Marshall in the summer as he was busy preparing some clients for the Parapan Am Games.

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

How does your positive philosophy of using mind and heart to help the body benefit your clients?

“So many view fitness as a physical thing when in truth the physical is the end result of what first takes place in the heart and mind. Everything we do in life is at first a thought that we infuse with emotion, giving it meaning for us. Total fitness encompasses spirit, mind and body. The proper order of anything we wish to accomplish is from states to conditions. We must create coherence between these components to realize all we can be. Without this coherence we are off balance. Perhaps we could call it fitness from the inside out.”

What do you most love about Ottawa?

“I think Ottawa is one of the most beautiful cities to be in during the summer time. I also love the fact that within 15 minutes from anywhere in the city you can be in the country, where there is so much to explore. I also love the parks, the fact you are able to bicycle anywhere thanks to the extensive bike paths. As well, the fact there is always something happening somewhere – whether it be a concert, supporting one of our sports teams, or any number of activities to enjoy.”

Your gym is in Hintonburg. What is it about this Ottawa community that you love?

“The people of Hintonburg are awesome. They are so supportive of small business and local events. It is definitely one of the friendliest communities in Ottawa.”

What is it about the people in Ottawa that you most enjoy?

“I love the way Ottawans, as a community, pull together in support of many worthy causes, assisting those who may have experienced substantial loss or could be facing a major life challenge.
For the most part I find the people of Ottawa to be friendly, courteous, and easy to talk to.”

Are there any cafes and/or restaurants that support and are there any that share your passion for health and positivity?

“I am not one to go out very often, however Bridgehead, of course – at least one visit per day! One of my favorite places to visit is Sanguiccio on Preston Street. They have real homemade Italian food from scratch – the best sandwiches in town, and that is not just my opinion.”

Thanks so much Marshall for taking the time to share some of your life and fitness philosophies, as well as what you love about Ottawa!

To get more information about Marshall’s Integrated Fitness:

in love with canada’s capital and its diversity

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Christiane Millet-Alexis photographed downtown on Sparks Street Mall.

Christiane Millet-Alexis is an Ottawa businesswoman who, with her contagious and positive energy, spreads enthusiasm to anyone she comes across. Christiane is the founder and director of Interlangues, one of Ottawa’s oldest language schools.

Interlangues has been providing official and foreign language training to thousands of government, federal and city employees, as well as private clients, for almost four decades. The school also offers a wide range of French and English language programs for foreigners, bringing in students of all ages and nationalities year-round. We caught up with Christiane, who is French-born, a few weeks back on Sparks Street Mall, juggling her always very busy travel schedule, and sharing how passionate she is about Ottawa!

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

When did you arrive in Ottawa and why did you choose to live here?

“I arrived in Ottawa on September 12th, 1974. I had just accepted a sessional lecturer position at Carleton University. I loved Carleton, my students, all of the infrastructure that was presented to me as an educator and the richness of character of my new co-workers, whom I fondly remember (Alvina, Jean-Jacques, Pat and, of course, Steffi!). My daughter, Barbara, was two years old, and we were so well received. Having come from a small Southern French town, I instantly fell in love with Canada’s capital and its diversity. I felt I had the world at my fingertips!”

How has it changed since you arrived?

“Ottawa has lost some of its green spaces downtown but it is now more vibrant: “terrasses” on the sidewalks, nice restaurants and clubs, festivals, shopping centers. It is no longer the quiet capital where I arrived 40 years ago! And I love it!”

Do you feel Ottawa is a good place to do business in? Is it more than just a government town in your industry?

“Yes, Ottawa is more than a government town and there is a dynamic business community‎. There are vibrant, renowned universities, associations, sports events, and you can work and have fun in both our official languages! It is a great place for language schools like Interlangues to welcome international students, who thrive in Ottawa for many reasons: the quality of the academic community, the great variety of activities the city offers year round, the fun places to visit, the social life and the numerous opportunities to volunteer and to be a part of the community. It’s a fantastic place to practice your language skills. And, of course, the relatively small number of international students in the city guarantees a faster integration and a real immersion in both languages.”

What do you like the most about Ottawa? What are your favourite restaurants, places to go?

“Being a theatre and music lover, of course I will put the National Arts Center as my number one choice, followed by Blues Fest, the Jazz Festival and the Ottawa Little Theater. And since I love seafood, “terrasses” and “ambiance”, Le Métropolitain is my favorite restaurant! If I want a great sushi, Kiko Sushi Bar is my place!”

Thanks so much Christiane for sharing what you love about Ottawa! For more information about Interlangues and the great work that Christiane and her team are doing, please take a look at their site:

a cool entrepreneurial city that I can help move forward

Shared by Anita Ruivo + Dwayne Brown

Yang Li photographed in Hintonburg in front of The Ministry of Coffee.

We photograph such a wide variety of people for loveOttawa, all with different backgrounds and unique stories. Art Director, Yang Li, has a very cool story and perspective. As a new immigrant, he moved to Canada from Bejing, China when he was 18. He attended art school in New Brunswick, then landed his first job as a graphic designer in Ottawa. He quickly fell in love with the city. Yang really enjoys the friendliness, the freedoms that living here offers and he loves how Ottawa is progressing as an entrepreneurial city.

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

You moved to Canada from Beijing when you were 18 to go to school. You could have moved and lived anywhere after school – why did you choose Ottawa, and why did you stay?

“Serendipity brought me to Ottawa. Little did I know, I’d end up falling in love with the city! In the past 10 years, our city has been going through gentrifications, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, and it’s happening at a steady pace. I’m really starting to see a more progressive city and people really do care about supporting local businesses and entrepreneurs. I think this is very important, because they shape the commercial landscape and make Ottawa unique.

As a creative person, I love visiting big cities like New York City, Paris and Helsinki…but I always think to myself, “If everybody moves to the ‘cool’ cities, who will be building and adding to the coolness of our own town?”. Most importantly, in Ottawa I have met so many great friends over the years whom I see as my family.”

Are there any specific things about Ottawa that you love the most?

“I love going to art exhibits at the National Gallery of Canada or watching an old movie surrounded by Mayfair Theatre’s old world charm. The Rockcliffe Parkway is my favourite drive in the city. I also love how close I am to nature, the Rideau Canal, the Ottawa River, city wide trails and paths and Gatineau Park. I adore Lansdowne Park because I believe public spaces play a vital role in creating a sense of community and promote human interaction. We need more urban parks.”

As a creative person, what are your favourite places to spend time? Do you have any favourite restaurants, bars or cafés?
Ministry of Coffee in Hintonburg is my favourite place to have a morning coffee and kick start my day, but I also like Bridgehead as it’s conveniently located in my building. I like Dosa, Streetside Curry, Flapjack’s and Urban Cowboy food trucks for lunch. I love El Camino on Elgin when I get my taco cravings and I go to Local at Lansdowne if a game is on. The newly opened Belmont in Old Ottawa South has a cool menu for food and drinks. For special occasions, I go to Taylor’s Genuine Food and Wine Bar. They source fresh local ingredients and prepare them with heart.”

As a relatively new resident of Ottawa, are there any hidden gems that you love, that you’d share with someone new to our city or even just visiting?

“Water Plaza, located at the southeast corner of the Great Lawn at Lansdowne Park, is a nice place to hang out with friends or just to read a book. In future, it will be a reflecting pool with the soothing sounds of cascading water from the “uplift” monument. I was there while it was still under construction, so I can say that I got first dibs on those cool multi-tiered continuous benches.”

You like to get around on your long board. Do you use it to commute or is it more for leisure? Where do you love to take it?

“I do the occasional commute to work on my longboard, but I use it mostly for pleasure, a weekend or evening ride along the canal.”

Thanks Yang for sharing what you love about Ottawa! If you’d like to follow Yang Li on social media, you can find him on twitter at: @hyperdirector and on Instagram at: @hyperdirector