Improve communities | Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics

Improve communities

Alumna Jaya James is using the power of community to battle poverty and hunger in the Guelph-Wellington region.

Jaya James, BComm alumnus and of Hope House

There is a common thread running throughout Jaya James’ career – community impact. The management economics and finance grad has worked in a variety of roles, including a policy advisor for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), where she researched food access opportunities and distribution models across the province. After the international outcry of the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015, James put her career plans at OMAFRA on hold, taking six months off to help mobilize approximately 800 local volunteers who had signed up to offer aid. 

“Poverty is a complex issue and will not be fixed overnight, but I truly believe that by working together much can be accomplished."

Realizing that there was a much larger need in her community to help battle poverty, James refocused her passion and joined the Lakeside HOPE House as Executive Director in late 2016, helping provide compassionate assistance to those in need in the Guelph community. Wearing many hats, her role includes strategic planning, finance and budget management and maintenance of the 18,000 sq/ft facility in downtown Guelph. As hectic as her day-to-day work life may be, James is able to live out her values of dignity, encouragement and compassion.


“At HOPE House we believe in the power of community to help people achieve their dreams for a better, brighter and more secure future."



Giving Back

  • Organized a community forum to create an open dialogue regarding the private sponsorship of Syrian refugees.

  • Was inspired by volunteering with Danby CEO and philanthropist (and U of G honorary doctorate recipient) Jim Estill to pursue a career at Lakeside HOPE House.

  • Over 10,000 visits were made by community members to HOPE House in 2017.

U of G Connection

  • Grew up in Guelph, Ontario.

  • Graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree with a specialization in management economics and finance.

  • Co-op positions included Agricorp and RBC.

  • Named to the Dean’s Honour List from 1997 to 2001, and dean’s scholarship from 1998 to 1999.

  • Most important skill learned at U of G was the ability to work collaboratively and build a team.

Values & Recognition

  • Worked for nearly 15 years in the agricultural sector, both for private (RBC) and public sector (OMAFRA).

  • Recipient of the 2018 Guelph Y Women of Distinction Award.

  • Received the Mayor’s Award and the Muslim Society of Guelph Award for her volunteer work in assisting refugees resettling to the Guelph area.

  • Lakeside HOPE House core values include dignity, compassion, and encouragement.