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Hwang says his passion is to build strong communities with a sense of purpose

Leejoo Hwang, 22

Co-founder + director of business development, MeaningfulWork

Life Story: LeeJoo Hwang is either lying or being overly humble when says he was “just a normal kid growing up” in Surrey’s Fraser Heights neighbourhood. In Grade 9, Hwang became super invested in the PC video game League of Legends, starting up a 20,000-follower Facebook fan page well before the esports boom.

“That gave me the confidence to do other things,” says Hwang, who started venturing to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside with a pen and a notebook to ask its residents questions. “How did you get here, where did you come from, stuff like that,” he recalls. “I guess it was insensitive, to be quite honest, and pretty naive. But people were very open to talk to me about some of their family issues, drug abuse, financial issues they’d gone through, mental health problems, and I got to learn in-depth about the issues around homelessness in Vancouver and poverty.”

That led Hwang to do community work in his own Surrey neighbourhood. Enlisted to help the city plan its Canada 150 celebrations, he got invited to Ottawa for the occasion. “It’s my passion to build strong communities with a sense of purpose,” he says. In the pandemic, that manifested itself in the form of MeaningfulWork, which he describes as “LinkedIn for people looking to volunteer.”

Bottom Line: MeaningfulWork is based out of SFU’s venture program, where Hwang graduated in 2020 with a double major in business administration and environmental sciences. The company has 16 employees, and its online platform has supported more than 100 nonprofits. Hwang hopes to start fundraising soon.