Isabelle Boileau, going the distance
By Julien Procuta
Today, Isabelle Boileau seems to have seamlessly incorporated volunteering into her life, but this wasn’t always the case. “I never would have thought that I could have taken part in so many volunteer placements. It’s really thanks to the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement that I caught the bug.”
Isabelle Boileau is a fourth-year University of Ottawa health sciences student who has completed over 200 hours of volunteer work in over 15 different placements.
One of Isabelle’s volunteer placements was with the Native Women’s Association of Canada. There she put her research experience to good use to fine-tune public health tools and techniques in order to strengthen cooperation between the Association and Aboriginal communities.
This year, Isabelle won one of five Aeroplan Charitable Pooling Program awards , which allowed her to spend a month assisting elderly women at a healthcare centre in Bogota, Colombia. The Aeroplan Charitable Pooling Program, operated by the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement, helped make this community service activity possible by covering the cost of airfare, a financial burden that often prevents students from participating in volunteer projects overseas. In Colombia, Isabelle helped prepare and serve meals, and administered medication. She also taught yoga classes adapted to the needs of elderly people, who affectionately nicknamed her “Madame Yoga.”
Isabelle says that she learned a great deal through this experience, and that what she learned went well beyond what she was taught in class. “Volunteering helps teach empathy, a skill that is much harder to gain when you’re confined to a classroom.” She believes that volunteering helps people develop their social, cultural, emotional and humanitarian intelligence.
The lessons she has learned by volunteering are universal. “Both in Colombia and in Canada, people only want love from their neighbours,” she said.
The fact that she enjoys working with elderly people sets her apart from her peers. She feels that by volunteering, she can dispel some of the prejudices that elderly and vulnerable patients face. Once she completes her undergraduate studies, she would like to go on to medical school.
Isabelle is very proud of having studied health sciences, and she is especially proud of having done so in French. She intends to continue volunteering long after she completes her bachelor’s degree. “Volunteering is part of who I am. I can’t imagine not volunteering” she said.
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