Rita Houkayem

21 | Height: 5’9″
Hometown: Scarborough, ON

A graduating student from the University of Toronto, Rita Houkayem is double majoring in International Development Studies and French and minoring in Political Sciences. Her main field of study has exposed her to the harsh realities of the world and has become constantly driven to make a difference.

Her dream is to work with children in developing countries, focusing on education and empowering young girls. She intends to complete her Master`s Degree in International Development and Global Affairs and acquire a career in that field. She is fluent in English, French and Arabic and is in the process of learning Spanish.

Even since she was little, as young as ten years old, Rita has been a strong believer in volunteerism and has spent most of her time helping her community, her school and her church.

She has volunteered in many elementary and high schools and daycares, has spent time with the elderly at a retirement centre on a weekly basis, currently tutors and mentors young girls and has spent the last three summers as a camp executive for her church.

She has been awarded the Mayor’s Medal in 2009 for her leadership acts. She is currently working with Oasis, a Toronto-based women’s center, to create an event for the International Day of the Girl that will take place in October, a day that focuses on promoting the equal treatment and opportunities for all girls around the world. She believes that being a proactive member of society is the simplest but most effective way to see it flourish.

Recently, she has been able to successfully open her own small business. She plans on spending her life learning new things, overcoming all sorts of challenges and becoming a very well-rounded person. Rita’s interests are dancing, singing, reading, world issues, yoga, fitness, crafts, food and spending time with her family and friends. She also has a strong desire to travel, meet new people and experience the beauty of their culture. She recently had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica for an international development project for children, an experience that was truly inspiring and unforgettable.

Rita’s self-respect, positive attitude and ambitious personality will hopefully allow her to become the influential role model that she strives to be for all the youth in her country and around the world. As a Miss Universe Canada Ambassador, she aspires to offer the Canadian opportunistic lifestyle to the youth in less developed countries. This has been a passion of hers for a long time; the Miss Universe Canada pageant will simply allow her to achieve it at a much faster pace.

“The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.”

Sponsored by: Maatouk Factories SAL, L.A. Fitness Scarborough, Quintessence Events, Personal Trainer Babyche Khiye, Oasis Tanning Spa, Constantine Law Office, Classic Auto Collision Ltd., Andraos Media Producer of Omniyat TV, Raed Farah Photography, Pickering Optical, Haute Couture Renee Hakim, Family and Friends.

Languages spoken fluently (please include your native language if English is not your native language). 

I can speak, read and write fluently in English, French and Arabic.  I am also working on becoming fluent in Spanish within the next few years.

What are your interests and what do you enjoy doing the most?

I have many interests which include dancing, singing, travelling and exploring new cultures, reading, keeping up with current events, horoscopes, quotes, crafts, camping, hot yoga, fitness and philanthropy. I enjoy watching plays and movies, dining out, trying new experiences and most importantly, spending time with my family and friends.

List any special training you have had (music, art, drama, dance, etc.)

- First Aid & CPR training
- Zumba instructor
- Leadership workshops
- High School clarinetist

In what sports, if any, have you participated?

I have participated in a few sports which include rhythmic and artistic gymnastics, basketball, badminton, cheerleading, rock-climbing, kickboxing, skiing, go karting, bungee jumping and running.

Name one person, other than your parents, who has had the most influence on your life. Why? 

Other than my mother being the most influential person in my life, I would say my cousin. Ever since I was a little girl, I have looked up to her ambitious and energetic personality and her determination to pursue a very difficult career path. Today, she is a successful international figure who followed her dreams and overcame every form of obstacle. She has inspired me to use my positive attitude and my ambitious and passionate personality to pursue my dreams.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

What is your proudest personal accomplishment (other than participating in this pageant)?

In my younger years, I would say my proudest accomplishment would be having the honor to represent my graduating class as their valedictorian and being awarded the Mayor’s medal for my leadership acts all throughout high school. It totally paid off being the class geek.

More recently, I have managed to open up my own driveway sealing business and until now, it has proven to be a successful investment. Although I do not have a background in business or in landscaping, I wanted to prove to myself that I can reach any goal I have. Once I have an idea in my head, no matter how far-fetched it may seem, I will not stop at anything until I turn into a reality.

“Build your dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.”

What is the most interesting or unique thing that has ever happened to you and/or what is the most interesting thing about you?

I am a person who loves to smile and make everyone around me smile. I strive to be an eternal optimist.

Also, it may be because of my animated personality or my tall figure but I use to be a very clumsy person. I would constantly trip over my own two feet and have others end up being victims of my clumsiness. Making people smile with a trait like that was never an issue. Luckily, the pageant has helped me reach a higher level of poise and reduce the number of casualties.

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

What is your career ambition and what are you doing or plan to do to accomplish that goal?

My career ambition is to work with children and offer them a wide range of possibilities to achieve their full potential; I want to focus on the development of strong educational institutions and the creation of empowerment centers for young girls and women in developing countries. With every opportunity Canada has given me, I feel responsible to share them with the rest of the world. By completing my Master’s in International Development and Global Affairs within the next few years, I will have gained the necessary knowledge and the travel experience to reach that career path.

“Even the smallest act of caring for another person is like a drop of water –it will make ripples throughout the entire pond.”

What would be your “dream job” in life?

My “dream job” would be to create a non-profitable organization that will work towards advancing children and women’s rights from the developing and developed world. I want to work with people in need, inspire them and have them inspire me.  I truly want to make a positive impact on people’s lives. In the end, my “dream job” consists of a job that will make me happy and I’ve just described what that job is.

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Are you currently a student?


If yes, where?
Area of study:

Double major in International Development Students and French and minor in Political Science at the University of Toronto.

Are you currently employed?

If yes, what is your occupation?

- Part-time Bilingual Customer Service Representative at Capital One.
- Owner at Elita Asphalt Maintenance Services.
- Traditional folk performer for weddings and other events.
- French tutor for elementary and high school students.

Describe where you were raised and what your childhood was like.

My childhood was filled with nothing but love and support from my parents and my younger brother. Coming from a war-torn country at the time, they did their very best to expose us to a peaceful opportunistic lifestyle. They raised us to be happy kids, to be respectful and kind individuals and to appreciate everything life has to offer. They made every event, whether it was our birthday, Christmas or Easter, very special and exposed us to new places and people which made our lives more exciting. Growing up in an immigrant family and a multicultural country, I also had the chance to fully practice and appreciate my foreign culture, food, traditions and lifestyle and was able to instill them into my everyday life. I currently suffer from nostalgia for my childhood but I couldn’t be happier with my life today. I hope I can offer my future children a happy childhood too.

“One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is, I think, to have a happy childhood.”

List any interesting or unusual jobs you may have had. 

- I currently have the job of performing at big events as a traditional folk dancer.

- When I opened my company last year, I had also sealed asphalt driveways and worked in interlocking.

List any volunteering you have done.

- President of my high school student council
- Youth organizer for many church-organized functions such as summer youth camps
- Daycare and retirement centers in the GTA
- Children’s center for disadvantaged children in Costa Rica
- Event planner for the International Day of the Girl in collaboration with Oasis (a Toronto-based women’s center)
- Mentor for the Youth Assisting Youth program

What is your most unusual talent?

- I have an exceptional and vivid memory of dates and events in terms of history or my personal life. I have even managed to learn all the capitals of the world.

- I am also an unbelievably fast skier only because I am able to go down the slope in a straight line, even on a black diamond, without falling.

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”

Where is the most interesting place you have been to?

The most interesting place I have ever been is Costa Rica. My purpose for this trip was to participate in an international development project and I had the opportunity to spend my days with severely disadvantaged children who were literally the happiest and most energetic kids I have ever met. I realized that the Costa Rican people, poor or rich, practiced a pura vida lifestyle which is basically the philosophy of hakuna matata“it means no worries”. They are constantly smiling with a carefree state of mind, a very different but refreshing lifestyle from what we are usually used to. They have a clear understanding that happiness comes from within. Not only is it recognized as the happiest country in the world by certain standards, it is also the greenest. I was able to witness the serene beauty of its nature, from mountains and volcanoes, to gorgeous beaches and rivers, to the diverse fauna and wildlife. It is truly a peaceful place in so many ways, so peaceful that it does not even have a military!

“The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.”

What do you hope to be doing in ten years? 

I hope to become a loving mother and a wife with many children and to have a successful career which focuses on the advancement of human and child development. I want to have travelled the world and live life to the fullest instead of just existing in it. In the end, I only hope to live a happy healthy life with all my loved ones.

“At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.”