“When I see the faces of our friends at St. Joseph’s light up during a visit, I am so happy to know that I’ve spent some time connecting with others in my community,” said Kara Ruicci, a fourth year BMSc student.
Since her first year at Western University, Ruicci understood the importance of giving back to the London community. Her enthusiasm for volunteering led her to connect with St. Joseph’s Regional Mental Health Care London.
For the past three years she has been a volunteer in their pet therapy program with her family dog, Becca. The program’s goal is to offer companionship to patients with mental health challenges, and to create a happy and relaxing environment.
The program also allows patients to interact with the volunteers and their animal, and establish a strong bond of friendship.
“Soon after we began visiting clients at St. Joseph’s, I found myself amazed by the connections and feelings of friendship and support reciprocated between the individuals we visited, Becca, and myself” said Ruicci.
Since volunteering with St. Joseph’s, Ruicci has a better understanding of the complex dynamics of mental health. The strong bonds she has formed with patients, encourage her to continue developing an authentic, people-oriented perspective regarding these illnesses.
Ruicci’s most fulfilling moments are the times when she enters a room, and she sees the faces of her friends at St. Joseph’s light up.
“Our visits have enabled me to witness the joy and healing power that both a pet and a friend truly provide. The warm acceptance and eagerness with which our visits are met has truly been a remarkable experience for me,” described Ruicci.
As a student, Ruicci’s life can be busy and stressful, but she finds time to give back to her local community. She explains that her experience with volunteering has taught her the importance of human connection that seems to be, at times, lost.