KITCHENER -- Among the 120 people from across the country to receive the Order of Canada, a Waterloo man is being recognized for his work that has helped lift thousands of out of poverty.

"In no small way, it's kind of saying thank you," said Paul Born, Order of Canada recipient.

Born runs a Waterloo-based non-profit organization called the Tamarack Institute, which has been a contributing force in reducing poverty to the lowest rate Canada has ever seen.

"We're at about 9.5 percent," explained Born. "It doesn't mean that there aren't many people that are poor, it just means that in a very long time we've been making real progress."

The institute develops and supports strategies that engage citizens and institutions to solve major issues across North America, including ending poverty and youth disengagement.

"It's really about us coming to understand what the issue is and how does one work differently around that issue," he said.

So far, it's helped more than 400 communities in Canada and the United States to create positive change, including here in Waterloo region.

"He was a social entrepreneur before I think that phrase was even coined," said Karen Redman, Waterloo Regional Chair. "He's been making a huge difference in our community."

The Order of Canada not only honours his work, but his personal history. 

"My parents were both refugees and most of my childhood was growing up moving out of poverty," said Born.

Born says his experiences as a child also motivated him to work to create change as he got older. 

"I'm thankful to this country that I would be recognized as have given something to make the country better, it makes it pretty special," he said.

He is one of four residents of Waterloo to receive the top honours in the country.

The other three inductees are Donna Strickland, Anne Dagg, and Stuart McGill.

The order ceremonies will be held at Rideau Hall in Ottawa at a later date.