Find a role that is well suited for you

Janique Fillion behind her Zip Zap Circus merchandise booth.

Janique Fillion became interested in volunteering when she started high school. She began dedicating her time to student politics, serving as president in Grade 12. Her engagement with student politics energized and inspired her to give more by joining provincial youth leadership committees.

Currently a fourth year student in the Honours Bachelor of Arts with Major in Psychology and Minor in Social Sciences of Health, Janique has continued volunteering. For the past three years, she has been a volunteer with the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre, Aphasia Centre of Ottawa, St. Francis of Assisi School and other organizations. “Community engagement means finding an organization that needs helping hands,” she says. “It means finding a role that is well suited for you, so that both the person and the organization can benefit from the relationship and the time put into it.”

Last year, Janique heard about a unique opportunity through a friend, and, this summer, she has decided to step out of her comfort zone. She’s in Cape Town, South Africa, to volunteer with Zip Zap Circus, a social circus whose mission is to help kids develop skills through the circus arts, to become leaders and good citizens. For the 12 weeks she’s spending in Cape Town, Janique’s role is to teach hip hop classes and help in the office with marketing and social outreach. “I have been a competitive dancer most of my life and that is why I am teaching sessions. I’m also learning how to create dance combinations and teach them to different aged children. In the office, I’m learning how a non-government organization works and remains sustainable,” she says.

Her experience with Zip Zap Circus has helped her to take the initiative. “Most of my projects are self-motivated. I get to create and teach, which is not something that I am used to, and it is a great learning experience. I learn how to work with people from different areas of the world and adapt quickly to a different environment,” says Janique.

Janique was a 2014 Rebanks Loran Scholar. The distinction is unique in that it takes into consideration a young person’s character and potential high impact  path. She’s now looking into a future in the health sector, but after this summer spent in Cape Town, she would also like to explore careers in human resources.

As for new students hesitating about volunteering, Janique recommends that they do their own research and talk to their peers: “Find an organization that really sounds interesting to you, not just anything. You need to enjoy what you’re doing!”

If you know a current student who wishes to go abroad, the MJCGCE offers scholarships and pre-departure training to make the adventure possible. Through donated Aeroplan Miles, we’re able to help cover air travel expenses for eligible uOttawa students undertaking community engagement activities where air travel is required. As well, if you know a student who is graduating and would like to take on a project locally or abroad, the OceanPath Fellowship provides community-focused experiential learning opportunities for graduating students to become change-makers, bringing new ideas to foster sustainable social change in Canada and around the world.

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