Two Edmontonians, with two very different backgrounds were recognized Monday for their work to help immigrant youth in Edmonton.

Issa Kamara was born in Sierra Leone, and is the founder of the Sinkunia Community Development Organization.

The organization addresses poverty, malnutrition and illiteracy in Sierra Leone, and promotes successful integration of African immigrant families in Edmonton.

Amson Saintime emigrated from Haiti, and is the Executive Director of the Arbre de Vie Fine-Arts World Fellowship.

The Arbre De Vie fellowship started in 2005, and through several arts-based programs works to help youth avoid engaging in high-risk lifestyles, such as violence, and gang activity.

Saintime's work comes from a very personal place; he admits his youth included being part of a gang in his home country.

Those experiences lead him to work on keeping children and teens away from the same lifestyle.

"In the heart they are crying: S.O.S," Saintime said.

"Positive youth now, will be [a] positive society tomorrow."

Issa Kamara felt called to the Edmonton area, to help the growing immigrant population.

"I knew that there was a lot of immigrant population here," Kamara said of his move to the city. "I wanted to make my contribution to the Edmonton community."

Kamara and his family have lived in Alberta's capital city for six years; much of that time has been spent developing his community development organization.

"I call the Sinkunia Community Development Organization because I wanted to help my people back in Sinkunia and Sierra Leone, and immigrants in the community here," Kamara said of the inspiration to start his organization.

The non-profit organization runs after school programs and day camps for children in the city, but also reaches abroad by helping pay tuition for five high school students in Sierra Leone, supporting local hospitals and installing wells.

"I want to touch the lives of so many youth, I want to help so many struggling families," Kamara said. "As an immigrant myself, I know what I went through."

"If I have the opportunity, I want to make it easier on families."

Both were recognized Monday with the inaugural CTV Citizen of the Year Award, to distinguish people who work to promote awareness, understanding and appreciation for cultural diversity.

The award was presented at the citizenship ceremony at the Heritage Amphitheatre.

With files from Dez Melenka