For Christine Koustrup, Milani Sivapragasm and Melanie Kok, helping to improve the lives of others is a significant part of their everyday experiences. All three women give back to local and national communities through volunteer efforts aimed at health and wellness.
Melanie Kok, a PhD candidate in neuroscience, works with Olympians Canada as the Vice President, Ontario Chapter. In this leadership role, she brings together Canada’s Olympic athletes and connects them with the general public to celebrate achievements in sport.
Kok is a former Olympian and won a bronze medal in Women’s Lightweight Double Sculls at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. She is using her athletic success to contribute positively to the lives of Canadians.
“As a former Olympian, I feel a sense of social responsibility to give back to the communities that supported me,” she explained. “I think Olympians can serve as great role models for all Canadians.”
Kok hopes to encourage others with Olympic spirit and values. “I strongly believe in promoting a healthy and active lifestyle,” she said.
For Christine Koustrup, a CaRTT program coordinator with the Department of Oncology, giving back means serving the less fortunate members of London’s community. She volunteers with the weekly Hospitality Meal program at First-St. Andrew’s United Church, preparing and serving food and cleaning up after the meal.
“I am honoured to serve individuals in our community through the Hospitality Meal program and appreciate the gratitude that they express every week,” Koustrup said.
Milani Sivapragasm, a fourth year BMSc student at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, volunteers with the London Regional AIDS hospice at the John Gordon Home, providing support for people living with HIV, AIDS and HVC.
“I engage residents though companionship, preparing meals and personal projects to play a small but meaningful role in helping them realize positive health and wellness outcomes,” she explained.
Sivapragasm received the Ontario Volunteer Service Youth Award in recognition of her three year commitment to the hospice. Volunteering with the organization is her way of addressing the needs of others. “I feel I have something to give to improve the life of someone else,” she said.
Sivapragasm also recognizes the impact volunteering has had on her own life. “The hospice helped me find a sense of belonging in the same way it does for its residents,” Sivapragasm said. “For me there is such joy in knowing that I can make a difference.”